At 8:30 Isabella Vanger walked past and on to the bridge. She did not see them or at least pretended not to.

"How are you doing?" Blomkvist said.

"Oh, I'm fine." Salander looked at him, perplexed. OK, then. He expects me to be upset. "When I find the motherfucker who tortured an innocent cat to death just to send us a warning, I'm going to clobber him with a baseball bat."

"You think it's a warning?"

"Have you got a better explanation? It definitely means something."

"Whatever the truth is in this story, we've worried somebody enough for that person to do something really sick. But there's another problem too."

"I know. This is an animal sacrifice in the style of 1954 and 1960 and it doesn't seem credible that someone active fifty years ago would be putting tortured animal corpses on your doorstep today."

Blomkvist agreed.

"The only ones who could be suspected in that case are Harald Vanger and Isabella Vanger. There are a number of older relatives on Johan Vanger's side, but none of them live in the area."

Blomkvist sighed.

"Isabella is a repulsive bitch who could certainly kill a cat, but I doubt she was running around killing women in the fifties. Harald Vanger... I don't know, he seems so decrepit he can hardly walk, and I can't see him sneaking over here last night, catching a cat, and doing all this."

"Unless it was two people. One older, one younger."

Blomkvist heard a car go by and looked up and saw Cecilia driving away over the bridge. Harald and Cecilia, he thought, but they hardly spoke. Despite Martin Vanger's promise to talk to her, Cecilia had still not answered any of his telephone messages.

"It must be somebody who knows we're doing this work and that we're making progress," Salander said, getting up to go inside. When she came back out she had put on her leathers.

"I'm going to Stockholm. I'll be back tonight."

"What are you going to do?"

"Pick up some gadgets. If someone is crazy enough to kill a cat in that disgusting way, he or she could attack us next time. Or set the cottage on fire while we're asleep. I want you to go into Hedestad and buy two fire extinguishers and two smoke alarms today. One of the fire extinguishers has to be halon."

Without another word, she put on her helmet, kick-started the motorcycle, and roared off across the bridge.

Blomkvist hid the corpse and the head and guts in the rubbish bin beside the petrol station before he drove into Hedestad to do his errands. He drove to the hospital. He had made an appointment to meet Frode in the cafeteria, and he told him what had happened that morning. Frode blanched.

"Mikael, I never imagined that this story could take this turn."

"Why not? The job was to find a murderer, after all."

"But this is disgusting and inhuman. If there's a danger to your life or to Froken Salander's life, we are going to call it off. Let me talk to Henrik."

"No. Absolutely not. I don't want to risk his having another attack."

"He asks me all the time how things are going with you."

"Say hello from me, please, and tell him I'm moving forward."

"What is next, then?"

"I have a few questions. The first incident occurred just after Henrik had his heart attack and I was down in Stockholm for the day. Somebody went through my office. I had printed out the Bible verses, and the photographs from Jarnvagsgatan were on my desk. You knew and Henrik knew. Martin knew a part of it since he organised for me to get into the Courier offices. How many other people knew?"

"Well, I don't know who Martin talked to. But both Birger and Cecilia knew about it. They discussed your hunting in the pictures archive between themselves. Alexander knew about it too. And, by the way, Gunnar and Helena Nilsson did too. They were up to say hello to Henrik and got dragged into the conversation. And Anita Vanger."

"Anita? The one in London?"

"Cecilia's sister. She came back with Cecilia when Henrik had his heart attack but stayed at a hotel; as far as I know, she hasn't been out to the island. Like Cecilia, she doesn't want to see her father. But she flew back when Henrik came out of intensive care."

"Where's Cecilia living? I saw her this morning as she drove across the bridge, but her house is always dark."

"She's not capable of doing such a thing, is she?"

"No, I just wonder where she's staying."

"She's staying with her brother, Birger. It's within walking distance to visit Henrik."

"Do you know where she is right now?"

"No. She's not visiting Henrik, at any rate."

"Thanks," Blomkvist said, getting up.

The Vanger family was hovering around Hedestad Hospital. In the reception Birger Vanger passed on his way to the lifts. Blomkvist waited until he was gone before he went out to the reception. Instead he ran into Martin Vanger at the entrance, at exactly the same spot where he had run into Cecilia on his previous visit. They said hello and shook hands.

"Have you been up to see Henrik?"

"No, I just happened to meet Dirch Frode."

Martin looked tired and hollow-eyed. It occurred to Mikael that he had aged appreciably during the six months since he had met him.

"How are things going with you, Mikael?" he said.

"More interesting with every day that passes. When Henrik is feeling better I hope to be able to satisfy his curiosity."

Birger Vanger's was a white-brick terrace house a five-minute walk from the hospital. He had a view of the sea and the Hedestad marina. No-one answered when Blomkvist rang the doorbell. He called Cecilia's mobile number but got no answer there either. He sat in the car for a while, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. Birger Vanger was the wild card in the deck; born in 1939 and so ten years old when Rebecka Jacobsson was murdered; twenty-seven when Harriet disappeared.

According to Henrik, Birger and Harriet hardly ever saw each other. He had grown up with his family in Uppsala and only moved to Hedestad to work for the firm. He jumped ship after a couple of years and devoted himself to politics. But he had been in Uppsala at the time Lena Andersson was murdered.

The incident with the cat gave him an ominous feeling, as if he were about to run out of time.

Otto Falk was thirty-six when Harriet vanished. He was now seventy-two, younger than Henrik Vanger but in a considerably worse mental state. Blomkvist sought him out at the Svalan convalescent home, a yellow-brick building a short distance from the Hede River at the other end of the town. Blomkvist introduced himself to the receptionist and asked to be allowed to speak with Pastor Falk. He knew, he explained, that the pastor suffered from Alzheimer's and enquired how lucid he was now. A nurse replied that Pastor Falk had first been diagnosed three years earlier and that alas the disease had taken an aggressive course. Falk could communicate, but he had a very feeble short-term memory, and did not recognise all of his relatives. He was on the whole slipping into the shadows. He was also prone to anxiety attacks if he was confronted with questions he could not answer.

Falk was sitting on a bench in the garden with three other patients and a male nurse. Blomkvist spent an hour trying to engage him in conversation.

He remembered Harriet Vanger quite well. His face lit up, and he described her as a charming girl. But Blomkvist was soon aware that the pastor had forgotten that she had been missing these last thirty-seven years. He talked about her as if he had seen her recently and asked Blomkvist to say hello to her and urge her to come and see him. Blomkvist promised to do so.

He obviously did not remember the accident on the bridge. It was not until the end of their conversation that he said something which made Blomkvist prick up his ears.

It was when Blomkvist steered the talk to Harriet's interest in religion that Falk suddenly seemed hesitant. It was as though a cloud passed over his face. Falk sat rocking back and forth for a while and then looked up at Blomkvist and asked who he was. Blomkvist introduced himself again and the old man thought for a while. At length he said: "She's still a seeker. She has to take care of herself and you have to warn her."

"What should I warn her about?"

Falk grew suddenly agitated. He shook his head with a frown.

"She has to read sola scriptura and understand sufficientia scripturae. That's the only way that she can maintain sola fide. Josef will certainly exclude them. They were never accepted into the canon."

Blomkvist understood nothing of this, but took assiduous notes. Then Pastor Falk leaned towards him and whispered, "I think she's a Catholic. She loves magic and has not yet found her God. She needs guidance."

The word "Catholic" obviously had a negative connotation for Pastor Falk.

"I thought she was interested in the Pentecostal movement?"

"No, no, no, not the Pentecostals. She's looking for the forbidden truth. She is not a good Christian."

Then Pastor Falk seemed to forget all about Blomkvist and started talking with the other patients.

He got back to Hedeby Island just after 2:00. He walked over to Cecilia Vanger's and knocked on the door, but without success. He tried her mobile number again but no answer.

He attached one smoke alarm to a wall in the kitchen and one next to the front door. He put one fire extinguisher next to the woodstove beside the bedroom door and another one beside the bathroom door. Then he made himself lunch, which consisted of coffee and open sandwiches, and sat in the garden, where he was typing up the notes of his conversation with Pastor Falk. When that was done, he raised his eyes to the church.

Hedeby's new parsonage was quite an ordinary modern dwelling a few minutes' walk from the church. Blomkvist knocked on the door at 4:00 and explained to Pastor Margareta Strandh that he had come to seek advice on a theological matter. Margareta Strandh was a dark-haired woman of about his own age, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. She was barefoot and had painted toenails. He had run into her before at Susanne's Bridge Cafe on a couple of occasions and talked to her about Pastor Falk. He was given a friendly reception and invited to come and sit in her courtyard.

Blomkvist told her that he had interviewed Otto Falk and what the old man had said. Pastor Strandh listened and then asked him to repeat it word for word.

"I was sent to serve here in Hedeby only three years ago, and I've never actually met Pastor Falk. He retired several years before that, but I believe that he was fairly high-church. What he said to you meant something on the lines of 'keep to Scripture alone' - sola scriptura - and that it is sufficientia scripturae. This latter is an expression that establishes the sufficiency of Scripture among literal believers. Sola fide means faith alone or the true faith."

"I see."

"All this is basic dogma, so to speak. In general it's the platform of the church and nothing unusual at all. He was saying quite simply: 'Read the Bible - it will provide sufficient knowledge and vouches for the true faith.'"

Mikael felt a bit embarrassed.

"Now I have to ask you in what connection this conversation occurred," she said.

"I was asking him about a person he had met many years ago, someone I'm writing about."

"A religious seeker?"

"Something along that line."

"OK. I think I understand the context. You told me that Pastor Falk said two other things - that 'Josef will certainly exclude them' and that' they were never accepted into the canon.' Is it possible that you misunderstood and that he said Josefus instead of Josef? It's actually the same name."

"That's possible," Blomkvist said. "I taped the conversation if you want to listen to it."

"No, I don't think that's necessary. These two sentences establish fairly unequivocally what he was alluding to. Josefus was a Jewish historian, and the sentence 'they were never accepted into the canon' may have meant that they were never in the Hebrew canon."

"And that means?"

She laughed.

"Pastor Falk was saying that this person was enthralled by esoteric sources, specifically the Apocrypha. The Greek word apokryphos means 'hidden,' and the Apocrypha are therefore the hidden books which some consider highly controversial and others think should be included in the Old Testament. They are Tobias, Judith, Esther, Baruch, Sirach, the books of the Maccabees, and some others."

"Forgive my ignorance. I've heard about the books of the Apocrypha but have never read them. What's special about them?"

"There's really nothing special about them at all, except that they came into existence somewhat later than the rest of the Old Testament. The Apocrypha were deleted from the Hebrew Bible - not because Jewish scholars mistrusted their content but simply because they were written after the time when God's revelatory work was concluded. On the other hand, the Apocrypha are included in the old Greek translation of the Bible. They're not considered controversial in, for example, the Roman Catholic Church."

"I see."

"However, they are controversial in the Protestant Church. During the Reformation, theologians looked to the old Hebrew Bible. Martin Luther deleted the Apocrypha from the Reformation's Bible and later Calvin declared that the Apocrypha absolutely must not serve as the basis for convictions in matters of faith. Thus their contents contradict or in some way conflict with claritas scripturae - the clarity of Scripture."

"In other words, censored books."

"Quite right. For example, the Apocrypha claim that magic can be practised and that lies in certain cases may be permissible, and such statements, of course, upset dogmatic interpreters of Scripture."