Millennium’s special report on Hans-Erik Wennerström took up all of forty-six pages of the magazine and exploded like a time bomb the last week of November. The main story appeared under the joint byline of
Mikael Blomkvist and Erika Berger. For the first few hours the media did not know how to handle the scoop. A similar story just a year earlier had resulted in Blomkvist being convicted of libel, and it had
also apparently resulted in his being dismissed from Millennium. For that reason his credibility was regarded as rather low. Now the same magazine was back with a story by the same journalist containing
much more serious allegations than the article for which he had run into so much trouble. Some parts of
the report were so absurd that they defied common sense. The Swedish media sat and waited, filled with
But that evening She on TV4 led off with an eleven-minute summary of the highlights in Blomkvist’s accusations. Berger had lunched with the host several days earlier and given her an advance exclusive.
TV4’s brutal profile scooped the state-run news channels, which did not clamber on to the bandwagon
until the 9:00 news. By then the TT wire service had also sent out its first wire with the cautious headline: CONVICTED JOURNALIST ACCUSES FINANCIER OF SERIOUS CRIME. The text was a rewrite of the TV story, but the fact that TT addressed the subject at all unleashed feverish activity at the Conservative morning newspaper and at a dozen of the larger regional papers as they reset their front pages before the presses started rolling. Up until then, the papers had more or less decided to ignore the Millennium allegations.
The Liberal morning newspaper commented on Millennium’s scoop in the form of an editorial, written personally by the editor in chief, earlier in the afternoon. The editor in chief then went to a dinner party as TV4 started broadcasting its news programme. He dismissed his secretary’s frantic calls that there “might
be something” to Blomkvist’s claims with these later famous words: “Nonsense—if there were, our financial reporters would have found out about it long ago.” Consequently, the Liberal editor in chief’s editorial was the only media voice in the country that butchered Millennium’s claims. The editorial contained phrases such as: personal vendetta, criminally sloppy journalism, and demands that measures be taken against indictable allegations regarding decent citizens. But that was the only contribution the editor in chief made during the debate.
That night the Millennium editorial offices were fully staffed. According to their plans, only Berger and the new managing editor, Malin Eriksson, were due to be there to handle any calls. But by 10:00 p.m.
the entire staff was still there, and they had also been joined by no fewer than four former staff members and half a dozen regular freelancers. At midnight Malm opened a bottle of champagne. That was when an
old acquaintance sent over an advance copy from one of the evening papers, which devoted sixteen pages
to the Wennerström affair under the headline THE FINANCIAL MAFIA. When the evening papers came out the next day, a media frenzy erupted, the likes of which had seldom been seen before.
Eriksson concluded that she was going to enjoy working at Millennium.
During the following week, the Swedish Stock Exchange trembled as the securities fraud police began investigating, prosecutors were called in, and a panicky selling spree set in. Two days after the publication the Minister of Commerce made a statement on “the Wennerström affair.”
The frenzy did not mean, however, that the media swallowed Millennium’s claims without criticism—
the revelations were far too serious for that. But unlike the first Wennerström affair, this time Millennium could present a convincing burden of proof: Wennerström’s own emails and copies of the contents of his
computer, which contained balance sheets from secret bank assets in the Cayman Islands and two dozen
other countries, secret agreements, and other blunders that a more cautious racketeer would never in his
life have left on his hard drive. It soon became clear that if Millennium’s claims held up in a court of appeals—and everyone agreed that the case would end up there sooner or later—then it was by far the
biggest bubble to burst in the Swedish financial world since the Kreuger crash of 1932. The Wennerström
affair made all the Gotabank imbroglios and Trustor frauds pale in comparison. This was fraud on such a
grand scale that no-one even dared to speculate on how many laws had been broken.
For the first time in Swedish financial reporting, the terms “organised crime,” “Mafia,” and “gangster
empire” were used. Wennerström and his young stockbrokers, partners, and Armani-clad lawyers
emerged like a band of hoodlums.
During the first days of the media frenzy, Blomkvist was invisible. He did not answer his emails and could not be reached by telephone. All editorial comments on behalf of Millennium were made by Berger, who purred like a cat as she was interviewed by the Swedish national media and important regional newspapers, and eventually also by a growing number of overseas media. Each time she was asked how Millennium had come into possession of all those private and internal documents, she replied simply that she was unable to reveal the magazine’s source.
When she was asked why the previous year’s exposé of Wennerström had been such a fiasco, she was
even more delphic. She never lied, but she may not always have told the whole truth. Off the record, when
she did not have a microphone under her nose, she would utter a few mysterious catch phrases, which, if
pieced together, led to some rather rash conclusions. That is how a rumour was born that soon assumed
legendary proportions, claiming that Mikael Blomkvist had not presented any sort of defence at his trial
and had voluntarily submitted to the prison sentence and heavy fines because otherwise his documentation
would have led inevitably to the identification of his source. He was compared to role models in the American media who had accepted gaol rather than reveal their sources, and Blomkvist was described as
a hero in such ludicrously flattering terms that he was quite embarrassed. But this was no time to deny the misunderstanding.
There was one thing that everyone agreed on: the person who had delivered the documentation had to
be someone within Wennerström’s most trusted circle. This led to a debate about who the “Deep Throat”
was: colleagues with reason to be dissatisfied, lawyers, even Wennerström’s cocaine-addicted daughter
and other family members were put up as possible candidates. Neither Blomkvist nor Berger commented
on the subject.
Berger smiled happily, knowing that they had won when an evening paper on the third day of the frenzy
ran the headline MILLENNIUM’S REVENGE. The article was an ingratiating portrait of the magazine and its staff, including illustrations with a particularly favourable portrait of Berger. She was named the “queen of investigative journalism.” That sort of thing won points in the rankings of the entertainment pages, and there was talk of the Big Journalism Prize.
Five days after Millennium fired the first salvo, Blomkvist’s book The Mafia Banker appeared in bookshops. The book had been written during those feverish days at Sandhamn in September and October,
and in great haste and under the utmost secrecy it was printed by Hallvigs Reklam in Morgongåva. It was
the first book to be published under Millennium’s own logo. It was eccentrically dedicated: To Sally, who showed me the benefits of the sport of golf.
It was a brick of a book, 608 pages in paperback. The first edition of 2,000 copies was virtually guaranteed to be a losing proposition, but the print run actually sold out in a couple of days, and Berger ordered 10,000 more copies.
The reviewers concluded that this time, at any rate, Mikael Blomkvist had no intention of holding back
since it was a matter of publishing extensive source references. In this regard they were right. Two-thirds of the book consisted of appendices that were actual copies of the documentation from Wennerström’s computer. At the same time as the book was published, Millennium put the texts from Wennerström’s computer as source material in downloadable PDF files on their website.
Blomkvist’s extraordinary absence was part of the media strategy that he and Berger had put together.
Every newspaper in the country was looking for him. Not until the book was launched did he give an exclusive interview to She on TV4, once again scooping the state-run stations. But the questions were anything but sycophantic.
Blomkvist was especially pleased with one exchange when he watched a video of his appearance. The
interview was broadcast live at the very moment when the Stockholm Stock Exchange found itself in freefall and a handful of financial yuppies were threatening to throw themselves out of windows. He was
asked what was Millennium’s responsibility with regard to the fact that Sweden’s economy was now headed for a crash.
“The idea that Sweden’s economy is headed for a crash is nonsense,” Blomkvist said.
The host of She on TV4 looked perplexed. His reply did not follow the pattern she had expected, and she was forced to improvise. Blomkvist got the follow-up question he was hoping for. “We’re
experiencing the largest single drop in the history of the Swedish stock exchange—and you think that’s nonsense?”
“You have to distinguish between two things—the Swedish economy and the Swedish stock market.
The Swedish economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day.
There are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan, and shipments from Kiruna to
Skövde. That’s the Swedish economy, and it’s just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago.”
He paused for effect and took a sip of water.
“The Stock Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods and
services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn’t have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy.”
“So you’re saying that it doesn’t matter if the Stock Exchange drops like a rock?”
“No, it doesn’t matter at all,” Blomkvist said in a voice so weary and resigned that he sounded like some sort of oracle. His words would be quoted many times over the following year. Then he went on.
“It only means that a bunch of heavy speculators are now moving their shareholdings from Swedish companies to German ones. So it’s the financial gnomes that some tough reporter should identify and expose as traitors. They’re the ones who are systematically and perhaps deliberately damaging the Swedish economy in order to satisfy the profit interests of their clients.”
Then She on TV4 made the mistake of asking exactly the question that Blomkvist had hoped for.
“And so you think that the media don’t have any responsibility?”
“Oh yes, the media do have an enormous responsibility. For at least twenty years many financial reporters have refrained from scrutinising Hans-Erik Wennerström. On the contrary, they have actually helped to build up his prestige by publishing brainless, idolatrous portraits. If they had been doing their work properly, we would not find ourselves in this situation today.”
Blomkvist’s appearance marked a turning point. In hindsight, Berger was convinced that it was only when
Blomkvist went on TV and calmly defended his claims that the Swedish media, in spite of the fact that Millennium had been all over the headlines for a week, recognised that the story really did hold up. His attitude set the course for the story.
After the interview the Wennerström affair imperceptibly slipped from the financial section over to the
desks of the crime reporters. In the past, ordinary crime reporters had seldom or never written about financial crime, except if it had to do with the Russian mob or Yugoslav cigarette smugglers. Crime reporters were not expected to investigate intricate dealings on the Stock Exchange. One evening paper
even took Blomkvist at his word and filled two spreads with portraits of several of the brokerage houses’
most important players, who were in the process of buying up German securities. The paper’s headline
read SELLING OUT THEIR COUNTRY. All the brokers were invited to comment on the allegations. Every one of them declined. But the trading of shares decreased significantly that day, and some brokers who wanted to look
like progressive patriots started going against the stream. Blomkvist burst out laughing.
The pressure got to be so great that sombre men in dark suits put on a concerned expression and broke
with the most important rule of the exclusive club that made up the innermost circles of Swedish finance
—they commented on a colleague. All of a sudden retired industrial leaders and bank presidents were appearing on TV and answering questions in an attempt at damage control. Everyone realised the seriousness of the situation, and it was a matter of distancing themselves as quickly as possible from the Wennerström Group and shedding any shares they might hold. Wennerström (they concluded almost with
one voice) was not, after all, a real industrialist, and he had never been truly accepted into “the club.”
Some pointed out that he was just a simple working-class boy from Norrland whose success may have gone to his head. Some described his actions as a personal tragedy. Others discovered that they had had their doubts about Wennerström for years—he was too boastful and he put on airs.
During the following weeks, as Millennium’s documentation was scrutinised, pulled apart, and pieced together again, the Wennerström empire of obscure companies was linked to the heart of the international
Mafia, including everything from illegal arms dealing and money laundering for South American drug cartels to prostitution in New York, and even indirectly to the child sex trade in Mexico. One Wennerström company registered in Cyprus caused a dramatic stir when it was revealed that it had attempted to buy enriched uranium on the black market in Ukraine. Wennerström’s apparently
inexhaustible supply of obscure post-office-box companies seemed to be cropping up everywhere, linked
to all manner of shady enterprises.
Berger thought that the book was the best thing Blomkvist had ever written. It was uneven stylistically,
and in places the writing was actually rather poor—there had been no time for any fine polishing—but the
book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice.
By chance Blomkvist ran into his old adversary, the former financial reporter William Borg, in front of
Kvarnen when Blomkvist, Berger, and Malm took the evening off to celebrate the Santa Lucia holiday along with the magazine’s other employees, going out to drink themselves senseless at the company’s expense. Borg’s companion was a very drunk girl about Salander’s age.
Blomkvist’s loathing for Borg was palpable. Berger interrupted the macho posturing by taking
Blomkvist by the arm and leading him into the bar.
Blomkvist decided that when the opportunity arose, he would ask Salander to do one of her personal
investigations of Borg. Just for form’s sake.
During the whole media storm the main character in the drama, the financier Wennerström, was for the most part invisible. On the day that Millennium published its article, the financier was forced to comment on the text at a press conference that had been called for a different purpose. He declared the allegations unfounded and said that the documentation referred to was fabricated. He reminded everyone that the same reporter had been convicted of libel only one year before.
After that only Wennerström’s lawyers would answer questions from the media. Two days after
Blomkvist’s book came out, a persistent rumour began circulating that Wennerström had left Sweden. The
evening papers used the word “fled.” During the second week, when the securities fraud police tried to
contact Wennerström, he was nowhere to be found. In mid-December the police confirmed that
Wennerström was formally sought, and on the day before New Year’s Eve, an all-points bulletin was sent
out via the international police organisations. The very same day one of Wennerström’s advisers was seized at Arlanda as he was boarding a plane for London.
Several weeks later a Swedish tourist reported that he had seen Wennerström get into a car in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. As proof of his claim, the tourist submitted a photograph, taken from quite a distance away, showing a white man wearing sunglasses, an open white shirt, and light-coloured
slacks. He could not be identified with certainty, but the evening papers contacted stringers who tried without success to track down the fugitive billionaire.
After six months the hunt was called off. Then Wennerström was found dead in an apartment in Marbella, Spain, where he had been living under the name of Victor Fleming. He had been shot three times in the head at close range. The Spanish police were working on the theory, their statement said, that he had surprised a burglar.
Wennerström’s death came as no surprise to Salander. She suspected, with good reason, that his demise
had to do with the fact that he no longer had access to the money in a certain bank in the Cayman Islands, which he may have needed to pay off certain debts in Colombia.
If anyone had asked for Salander’s help in tracking Wennerström, she could have told them almost on a
daily basis where he was. Via the Internet she had followed his flight through a dozen countries and remarked a growing desperation in his emails. Not even Blomkvist would have thought that the fugitive
ex-billionaire would be stupid enough to take along the computer that had been so thoroughly penetrated.
After six months Salander grew tired of tracking Wennerström. The question that remained to be answered was how far her own involvement should reach. Wennerström was without a doubt an Olympic-class creep, but he was not her personal enemy, and she had no interest in involving herself against him.
She could tip off Blomkvist, but he would probably just publish a story. She could tip off the police, but there was quite a chance that Wennerström would be forewarned and again disappear. Besides, on principle, she did not talk to the police.
But there were other debts that had to be paid. She thought about the once-pregnant waitress whose head had been shoved underwater in her own bath.
Four days before Wennerström’s body was found, she made up her mind. She switched on her mobile
and called a lawyer in Miami, who seemed to be one of the people Wennerström was making a big effort
to hide from. She talked to a secretary and asked her to pass on a cryptic message. The name Wennerström
and an address in Marbella. That was all.
She turned off the TV news halfway through a dramatic report about Wennerström’s demise. She put on
some coffee and fixed herself a liver pâté and cucumber sandwich.
Berger and Malm were taking care of the annual Christmas arrange-ments while Blomkvist sat in Erika’s
chair, drinking glögg and looking on. All the staff and many of the regular freelancers would receive a Christmas gift—this year a shoulder bag with the new Millennium publishing house logo. After wrapping the presents, they sat down to write and stamp about 200 cards to send to printing companies, photographers, and media colleagues.
Blomkvist tried for the longest time to withstand the temptation but finally he couldn’t resist. He picked up the very last card and wrote: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thanks for your splendid efforts
during the past year.
He signed his name and addressed the card to Janne Dahlman, c/o the editorial offices of Monopoly Financial Magazine.
When Blomkvist got home that evening there was a slip notifying him of a postal package. He went to
pick it up the next morning, opening it when he got to the office. The package contained a mosquito-repellent stick and a bottle of Reimersholms aquavit. The card read: If you don’t have other plans, I’ll be docked at Arholma on Midsummer Eve. It was signed Robert Lindberg.
Traditionally the Millennium offices were closed the week before Christmas and through the New Year’s holiday. This year it did not work out that way. The strain on the small staff had been enormous, and journalists were still calling from all over the world on a daily basis. It was the day before Christmas Eve when Blomkvist, almost by chance, happened to read an article in the Financial Times summing up the findings of the international banking commission that had been established in all haste to scrutinise the collapse of the Wennerström empire. The article said that the commission was working on the hypothesis
that Wennerström had probably been tipped off at the last minute about the impending disclosures.
His account at Bank of Kroenenfeld in the Cayman Islands, containing $260 million—approximately 2.5 billion Swedish kronor—had been emptied the day before Millennium published its exposé.
The money had been spread over a number of accounts, and only Wennerström personally could make
withdrawals. He did not have to be present at the bank; it was enough for him to present a series of clearing codes in order to transfer the money to any bank in the world. The money had been transferred to
Switzerland, where a female associate had converted the funds into anonymous private bonds. All the clearing codes were in order.
Europol had launched a search for the woman who had used a stolen British passport in the name of
Monica Sholes and who was said to have lived a life of luxury at one of Zürich’s most expensive hotels.
A relatively clear picture, considering that it came from a surveillance camera, showed a short woman with a blonde page-boy, wide lips, and prominent breasts wearing fashionable designer clothes and gold
Blomkvist studied the picture, giving it first a quick glance and then looking at it with increasing suspicion. After several seconds he rummaged in his desk for a magnifying glass and tried to make out the
details of the facial features in the newspaper’s screened image.
At last he put down the paper and sat there, speechless, for several minutes. Then he started laughing so
hysterically that Malm stuck his head round the door to find out what was going on.
On the morning of Christmas Eve Blomkvist went out to Årsta to see his ex-wife and his daughter, Pernilla, and exchange gifts. Pernilla got the computer she wanted, which Blomkvist and Monica had bought together. Blomkvist got a tie from Monica and a detective novel by Åke Edwardson from his
daughter. Unlike the previous Christmas, they were in high spirits because of the media drama that had been playing out around Millennium.
They had lunch together. Blomkvist stole a sidelong glance at Pernilla. He had not seen his daughter since she turned up to visit him in Hedestad. He realised that he had failed to discuss her mania for that sect in Skellefteå with her mother. He could not tell them that it was his daughter’s obviously profound
knowledge of the Bible that had set him on the right track regarding Harriet Vanger’s disappearance. He
had not talked to his daughter since then.
He was not a good father.
He kissed his daughter goodbye after the lunch and met Salander at Slussen. They went out to Sandhamn. They had not seen much of each other since the Millennium bomb exploded. They arrived late on Christmas Eve and stayed for the holidays.
Blomkvist was entertaining company, as always, but Salander had an uneasy feeling that he was looking at
her with an especially odd expression when she paid back the loan with a cheque for 120,000 kronor.
They took a walk to Trovill and back (which Salander considered a waste of time), had Christmas dinner at the inn, and went back to the cabin where they lit a fire in the woodstove, put on an Elvis CD,
and devoted themselves to some plain old sex. When Salander from time to time came up for air, she tried
to analyse her feelings.
She had no problem with Blomkvist as a lover. There was obviously a physical attraction. And he never tried to tutor her.
Her problem was that she could not interpret her own feelings for him. Not since before reaching puberty had she lowered her guard to let another person get so close as she had with him. To be quite honest, he had a trying ability to penetrate her defences and to get her to talk about personal matters and private feelings. Even though she had enough sense to ignore most of his questions, she talked about herself in a way that she would never, even under threat of death, have imagined doing with any other person. It frightened her and made her feel naked and vulnerable to his will.
At the same time—when she looked down at his slumbering form and listened to him snoring—she felt
that she had never before in her life had such a trust in another human being. She knew with absolute certainty that Mikael would never use what he knew about her to hurt her. It was not in his nature.
The only thing they never discussed was their relationship to each other. She did not dare, and Blomkvist never broached the subject.
At some point on the morning of the second day she came to a terrifying realisation. She had no idea
how it had happened or how she was supposed to cope with it. She was in love for the first time in her
That he was almost twice her age did not bother her. Nor did the fact that at the moment he was one of
the most newsworthy people in Sweden, and his picture was even on the cover of Newsweek—that was
all just soap opera. But Blomkvist was no erotic fantasy or daydream. It would have to come to an end. It
could not possibly work out. What did he need her for? Maybe she was just a way to pass the time while
he waited for someone whose life was not a fucking rat hole.
What she had realised was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst.
When Blomkvist woke up late that morning, she had made coffee and been out to buy breakfast rolls.
He joined her at the table and noticed at once that something in her attitude had changed—she was a bit
more reserved. When he asked her if anything was wrong, she gave him a neutral, uncomprehending look.
On the first day between Christmas and New Year’s, Blomkvist took the train up to Hedestad. He was wearing his warmest clothes and his proper winter shoes when Frode met him at the station and quietly
congratulated him on the media success. It was the first time since August that he had visited Hedestad,
and it was almost exactly one year ago since he had visited it for the first time. They chatted politely, but there was also a great deal that had gone unsaid between them, and Blomkvist felt uncomfortable.
Everything had been prepared, and the business with Frode took only a few minutes. Frode offered to
deposit the money in a convenient foreign bank account, but Blomkvist insisted that it should be paid like a normal, legitimate fee to his company.
“I can’t afford any other type of payment,” he said curtly when Frode persisted.
The purpose of his visit was not solely financial. Blomkvist had left clothes, books, and a number of
his own things in the cottage when he and Salander had abandoned Hedeby in great haste.
Vanger was still frail after his illness, but he was at home. He was being looked after by a private nurse, who refused to allow him to take long walks, or walk up stairs, or discuss anything that might upset him. During the holidays he had also come down with a slight cold and was ordered to bed.
Blomkvist knew that the old man could afford any such expense—considering how many kronor he had
written off his taxes all his life. Vanger gave him a sullen look until he started laughing.
“What the hell, you were worth every krona. I knew you would be.”
“To tell you the truth, I never thought I’d solve it.”
“I have no intention of thanking you,” Vanger said.
“I didn’t expect you would. I’m just here to tell you that I consider the job done.”
Vanger curled his lips. “You haven’t finished the job,” he said.
“I know that.”
“You haven’t written the Vanger family chronicle, which was agreed.”
“I know that. I’m not going to write it. In fact, I can’t write it. I can’t write about the Vanger family and leave out the most central event of the past decades. How could I write a chapter about Martin’s period as CEO and pretend that I don’t know what’s in his basement? I also can’t write the story without destroying
Harriet’s life all over again.”
“I understand your dilemma, and I’m grateful for the decision that you’ve made.”
“Congratulations. You’ve managed to corrupt me. I’m going to destroy all my notes and the tape recordings I’ve made of our conversations.”
“I don’t think that you’ve been corrupted,” Vanger said.
“That’s what it feels like. And I think that’s what it is.”
“You had to choose between your role as a journalist and your role as a human being. I could never have bought your silence. And I’m quite certain that you would have exposed us if Harriet had turned out
in some way to have been implicated, or if you thought I was a cretin.”
Blomkvist did not reply.
“We’ve told Cecilia the whole story. Frode and I will soon be gone, and Harriet is going to need support from someone in the family. Cecilia will play an active role on the board. She and Harriet will be in charge of the firm from now on.”
“How did she take it?”
“She was very shaken. She went abroad for a while. I was even afraid she wouldn’t come back.”
“But she did.”
“Martin was one of the few people in our family that Cecilia always got along with. It was very hard
for her to find out the truth about him. She also knows now what you did for the family.”
“So thank you, Mikael,” Vanger said.
“Besides, I couldn’t write the story because I’ve had it up to here with the Vanger family. But tell me,
how does it feel to be CEO again?”
“It’s only temporary, but . . . I wish I were younger. I’m only working three hours a day. All the meetings are held in this room, and Dirch has stepped in again as my enforcer if anyone acts up.”
“The junior executives must be quaking in their boots. It took me a while to realise that Dirch wasn’t
just an old sweetie of a financial adviser but also someone who solves problems for you.”
“Exactly. But all decisions are made with Harriet, and she’s the one who’s doing the legwork in the office.”
“How are things going for her?”
“She inherited both her brother’s and her mother’s shares. She controls about 33 percent of the corporation.”
“Is that enough?”
“I don’t know. Birger is trying to trip her up. Alexander has seen that he has a chance to make an impact
and has allied himself with Birger. My brother Harald has cancer and won’t live much longer. He was the
only remaining person with large shareholdings of 7 percent, which his children will inherit. Cecilia and
Anita will be on Harriet’s side.”
“Then together you’ll control, what, 45 percent.”
“That kind of voting cartel has never existed within the family before. Plenty of shareholders with one
and two percent will vote against us. Harriet is going to succeed me as CEO in February.”
“That won’t make her happy.”
“No, but it’s necessary. We have to take in some new partners and new blood. We also have the chance
to collaborate with her company in Australia. There are possibilities.”
“Where’s Harriet today?”
“You’re out of luck. She’s in London. But she would very much like to see you.”
“I’ll see her at our board meeting in January if she’s going to take your place.”
“I think that she realises that I will never discuss what happened in the sixties with anyone except for
Erika Berger, and I don’t see why Erika needs to know.”
“She does. You’re a person with morals, Mikael.”
“But also tell her that everything she does from now on could end up in the magazine. The Vanger Corporation won’t have a free pass from scrutiny.”
“I’ll warn her.”
Blomkvist left Vanger when he started to doze off. He packed his belongings into two suitcases. As he
closed the door to the cottage for the last time, he paused and then went over to Cecilia’s house and knocked. She was not home. He took out his pocket calendar, tore out a page, and wrote: I wish you all the best. Try to forgive me. Mikael. He put the note in her letter box. An electric Christmas candle shone in the kitchen window of Martin Vanger’s empty house.
He took the last train back to Stockholm.
During the holidays Salander tuned out the rest of the world. She did not answer her telephone and she did not turn on her computer. She spent two days washing laundry, scrubbing, and cleaning up her apartment.
Year-old pizza boxes and newspapers were bundled up and carried downstairs. She dragged out a total of
six black rubbish bags and twenty paper bags full of newspapers. She felt as if she had decided to start a new life. She thought about buying a new apartment—when she found something suitable—but for now her old place would be more dazzlingly clean than she could ever remember.
Then she sat as if paralysed, thinking. She had never in her life felt such a longing. She wanted Mikael
Blomkvist to ring the doorbell and . . . what then? Lift her off the ground, hold her in his arms?
Passionately take her into the bedroom and tear off her clothes? No, she really just wanted his company.
She wanted to hear him say that he liked her for who she was. That she was someone special in his world
and in his life. She wanted him to give her some gesture of love, not just of friendship and companionship.
I’m flipping out, she thought.
She had no faith in herself. Blomkvist lived in a world populated by people with respectable jobs, people with orderly lives and lots of grownup points. His friends did things, went on TV, and shaped the
headlines. What do you need me for? Salander’s greatest fear, which was so huge and so black that it was of phobic proportions, was that people would laugh at her feelings. And all of a sudden all her carefully
constructed selfconfidence seemed to crumble.
That’s when she made up her mind. It took her several hours to mobilise the necessary courage, but she
had to see him and tell him how she felt.
Anything else would be unbearable.
She needed some excuse to knock on his door. She had not given him any Christmas present, but she
knew what she was going to buy. In a junk shop she had seen a number of metal advertising signs from the
fifties, with embossed images. One of the signs showed Elvis Presley with a guitar on his hip and a cartoon balloon with the words HEARTBREAK HOTEL. She had no sense for interior design, but even she could tell that the sign would be perfect for the cabin in Sandhamn. It cost 780 kronor, and on principle she haggled and got the price knocked down to 700. She had it wrapped, put it under her arm, and headed over to his
place on Bellmansgatan.
At Hornsgatan she happened to glance towards Kaffebar and saw Blomkvist coming out with Berger in
tow. He said something, and she laughed, putting her arm around his waist and kissing his cheek. They turned down Brännkyrkagatan in the direction of Bellmansgatan. Their body language left no room for misinterpretations—it was obvious what they had in mind.
The pain was so immediate and so fierce that Lisbeth stopped in mid-stride, incapable of movement.
Part of her wanted to rush after them. She wanted to take the metal sign and use the sharp edge to cleave
Berger’s head in two. She did nothing as thoughts swirled through her mind. Analysis of consequences.
Finally she calmed down.
“What a pathetic fool you are, Salander,” she said out loud.
She turned on her heel and went home to her newly spotless apartment. As she passed Zinkensdamm, it
started to snow. She tossed Elvis into a dumpster.