"So if someone has a passion for religion, it's not unthinkable that the Apocrypha will pop up on their reading list, or that someone like Pastor Falk would be upset by this."


"Exactly. Encountering the Apocrypha is almost unavoidable if you're studying the Bible or the Catholic faith, and it's equally probable that someone who is interested in esoterica in general might read them."


"You don't happen to have a copy of the Apocrypha, do you?"


She laughed again. A bright, friendly laugh.


"Of course I do. The Apocrypha were actually published as a state report from the Bible Commission in the eighties."


Armansky wondered what was going on when Salander asked to speak to him in private. He shut the door behind her and motioned her to the visitor's chair. She told him that her work for Mikael Blomkvist was done - the lawyer would be paying her before the end of the month - but that she had decided to keep on with this particular investigation. Blomkvist had offered her a considerably higher salary for a month.


"I am self-employed," Salander said. "Until now I've never taken a job that you haven't given me, in keeping with our agreement. What I want to know is what will happen to our relationship if I take a job on my own?"


Armansky shrugged.


"You're a freelancer, you can take any job you want and charge what you think it's worth. I'm just glad you're making your own money. It would, however, be disloyal of you to take on clients you find through us."


"I have no plans to do that. I've finished the job according to the contract we signed with Blomkvist. What this is about is that I want to stay on the case. I'd even do it for nothing."


"Don't ever do anything for nothing."


"You know what I mean. I want to know where this story is going. I've convinced Blomkvist to ask the lawyer to keep me on as a research assistant."


She passed the agreement over to Armansky, who read rapidly through it.


"With this salary you might as well be working for free. Lisbeth, you've got talent. You don't have to work for small change. You know you can make a hell of a lot more with me if you come on board full-time."


"I don't want to work full-time. But, Dragan, my loyalty is to you. You've been great to me since I started here. I want to know if a contract like this is OK with you, that there won't be any friction between us."


"I see." He thought for a moment. "It's 100 percent OK. Thanks for asking. If any more situations like this crop up in the future I'd appreciate it if you asked me so there won't be any misunderstandings."


Salander thought over whether she had anything to add. She fixed her gaze on Armansky, saying not a word. Instead she just nodded and then stood up and left, as usual with no farewell greeting.


She got the answer she wanted and instantly lost interest in Armansky. He smiled to himself. That she had even asked him for advice marked a new high point in her socialisation process.


He opened a folder with a report on security at a museum where a big exhibition of French Impressionists was opening soon. Then he put down the folder and looked at the door through which Salander had just gone. He thought about how she had laughed with Blomkvist in her office and wondered if she was finally growing up or whether it was Blomkvist who was the attraction. He also felt a strange uneasiness. He had never been able to shake off the feeling that Lisbeth Salander was a perfect victim. And here she was, hunting a madman out in the back of beyond.


On the way north again, Salander took on impulse a detour by way of appelviken Nursing Home to see her mother. Except for the visit on Midsummer Eve, she had not seen her mother since Christmas, and she felt bad for so seldom taking the time. A second visit within the course of a few weeks was quite unusual.


Her mother was in the day room. Salander stayed a good hour and took her mother for a walk down to the duck pond in the grounds of the hospital. Her mother was still muddling Lisbeth with her sister. As usual, she was hardly present, but she seemed troubled by the visit.


When Salander said goodbye, her mother did not want to let go of her hand. Salander promised to visit her again soon, but her mother gazed after her sadly and anxiously.


It was as if she had a premonition of some approaching disaster.


Blomkvist spent two hours in the garden behind his cabin going through the Apocrypha without gaining a single insight. But a thought had occurred to him. How religious had Harriet Vanger actually been? Her interest in Bible studies had started the last year before she vanished. She had linked a number of Bible quotes to a series of murders and then had methodically read not only her Bible but also the Apocrypha, and she had developed an interest in Catholicism.


Had she really done the same investigation that Blomkvist and Salander were doing thirty-seven years later? Was it the hunt for a murderer that had spurred her interest rather than religiosity? Pastor Falk had indicated that in his eyes she was more of a seeker, less a good Christian.


He was interrupted by Berger calling him on his mobile.


"I just wanted to tell you that Greger and I are leaving on holiday next week. I'll be gone for four weeks."


"Where are you going?"


"New York. Greger has an exhibition, and then we thought we'd go to the Caribbean. We have a chance to borrow a house on Antigua from a friend of Greger's and we're staying there two weeks."


"That sounds wonderful. Have a great time. And say hi to Greger."


"The new issue is finished and we've almost wrapped up the next one. I wish you could take over as editor, but Christer has said he will do it."


"He can call me if he needs any help. How's it going with Janne Dahlman?"


She hesitated.


"He's also going on holiday. I've pushed Henry into being the acting managing editor. He and Christer are minding the store."


"OK."


"I'll be back on August seventh."


In the early evening Blomkvist tried five times to telephone Cecilia Vanger. He sent her a text asking her to call him. But he received no answer.


He put away the Apocrypha and got into his tracksuit, locking the door before he set off.


He followed the narrow path along the shore and then turned into the woods. He ground his way through thickets and around uprooted trees as fast as he could go, emerging exhausted at the Fortress with his pulse racing. He stopped by one of the old artillery batteries and stretched for several minutes.


Suddenly he heard a sharp crack and the grey concrete wall next to his head exploded. Then he felt the pain as fragments of concrete and shrapnel tore a deep gash in his scalp.


For what seemed an eternity Blomkvist stood paralysed. Then he threw himself into the artillery trench, landing hard on his shoulder and knocking the wind out of himself. A second round came at the instant he dived. The bullet smacked into the concrete foundation.


He got to his feet and looked all around. He was in the middle of the Fortress. To the right and left narrow, overgrown passages a yard deep ran to the batteries that were spread along a line of 250 yards. In a crouch, he started running south through the labyrinth.


He suddenly heard an echo of Captain Adolfsson's inimitable voice from winter manoeuvres at the infantry school in Kiruna. Blomkvist, keep your fucking head down if you don't want to get your arse shot off. Years later he still remembered the extra practise drills that Captain Adolfsson used to devise.


He stopped to catch his breath, his heart pounding. He could hear nothing but his own breathing. The human eye perceives motion much quicker than shapes and figures. Move slowly when you're scouting. Blomkvist slowly peeked an inch over the top edge of the battery. The sun was straight ahead and made it impossible to make out details, but he could see no movement.


He pulled his head back down and ran on to the next battery. It doesn't matter how good the enemy's weapons are. If he can't see you, he can't hit you. Cover, cover, cover. Make sure you're never exposed.


He was 300 yards from the edge of ostergarden farm. Some 40 yards from where he knelt there was an almost impenetrable thicket of low brush. But to reach the thicket he would have to sprint down a grass slope from the artillery battery, and he would be completely exposed. It was the only way. At his back was the sea.


He was suddenly aware of pain in his temple and discovered that he was bleeding and that his T-shirt was drenched with blood. Scalp wounds never stop bleeding, he thought before he again concentrated on his position. One shot could just have been an accident, but two meant that somebody was trying to kill him. He had no way of knowing if the marksman was waiting for him to reappear.


He tried to be calm, think rationally. The choice was to wait or to get the hell out. If the marksman was still there, the latter alternative was assuredly not a good idea. If he waited where he was, the marksman would calmly walk up to the Fortress, find him, and shoot him at close range.


He (or she?) can't know if I've gone to the right or left. Rifle, maybe a moose rifle. Probably with telescopic sights. Which would mean that the marksman would have a limited field of vision if he was looking for Mikael through the sights.


If you're in a tight spot - take the initiative. Better than waiting. He watched and listened for sounds for two minutes; then he clambered out of the battery and raced down the slope as fast as he could.


He was halfway down the slope as a third shot was fired, but he only heard a vague smack behind him. He threw himself flat through the curtain of brush and rolled through a sea of stinging nettles. Then he was on his feet and moving away from the direction of the fire, crouching, running, stopping every fifty yards, listening. He heard a branch crack somewhere between him and the Fortress. He dropped to his stomach.


Crawl using your elbows was another of Captain Adolfsson's favourite expressions. Blomkvist covered the next 150 yards on his knees and toes and elbows through the undergrowth. He pushed aside twigs and branches. Twice he heard sudden cracks in the thicket behind him. The first seemed to be very close, maybe twenty paces to the right. He froze, lay perfectly still. After a while he cautiously raised his head and looked around, but he could see no-one. He lay still for a long time, his nerves on full alert, ready to flee or possibly make a desperate counterattack if the enemy came at him. The next crack was from farther away. Then silence.


He knows I'm here. Has he taken up a position somewhere, waiting for me to start moving, or has he retreated?


Blomkvist kept crawling through the undergrowth until he reached the ostergarden's fence.


This was the next critical moment. A path ran inside the fence. He lay stretched out on the ground, watching. The farmhouse was 400 yards down a gentle slope. To the right of the house he saw cows grazing. Why hadn't anyone heard the shots and come to investigate? Summer. Maybe nobody is at home right now.


There was no question of crossing the pasture - there he would have no cover at all. The straight path beside the fence was the place he himself would have picked for a clear field of fire. He retreated into the brush until he came out on the other side into a sparse pine wood.


***


He took the long way around ostergarden's fields and Soderberget to reach home. When he passed ostergarden he could see that their car was gone. At the top of Soderberget he stopped and looked down on Hedeby. In the old fishing cabins by the marina there were summer visitors; women in bathing suits were sitting talking on a dock. He smelled something cooking on an outdoor grill. Children were splashing in the water near the docks in the marina.


Just after 8:00. It was fifty minutes since the shots had been fired. Nilsson was watering his lawn, wearing shorts and no shirt. How long have you been there? Vanger's house was empty but for Anna. Harald Vanger's house looked deserted as always. Then he saw Isabella Vanger in her back garden. She was sitting there, obviously talking to someone. It took a second for Blomkvist to realise it was the sickly Gerda Vanger, born in 1922 and living with her son, Alexander, in one of the houses beyond Henrik's. He had never met her, but he had seen her a few times. Cecilia Vanger's house looked empty, but then Mikael saw a movement in her kitchen. She's home. Was the marksman a woman? He knew that Cecilia could handle a gun. He could see Martin Vanger's car in the drive in front of his house. How long have you been home?


Or was it someone else that he had not thought of yet? Frode? Alexander? Too many possibilities.


He climbed down from Soderberget and followed the road into the village; he got home without encountering anyone. The first thing he saw was that the door of the cottage was ajar. He went into a crouch almost instinctively. Then he smelled coffee and saw Salander through the kitchen window.


She heard him come in the front door and turned towards him. She stiffened. His face looked terrible, smeared with blood that had begun to congeal. The left side of his white T-shirt was crimson. He was holding a sodden red handkerchief to his head.


"It's bleeding like hell, but it's not dangerous," Blomkvist said before she could ask.


She turned and got the first-aid kit from the cupboard; it contained two packets of elastic bandages, a mosquito stick, and a little roll of surgical tape. He pulled off his clothes and dropped them on the floor; then he went to the bathroom.


The wound on his temple was a gash so deep that he could lift up a big flap of flesh. It was still bleeding and it needed stitches, but he thought it would probably heal if he taped it closed. He ran a towel under the cold tap and wiped his face.


He held the towel against his temple while he stood under the shower and closed his eyes. Then he slammed his fist against the tile so hard that he scraped his knuckles. Fuck you, whoever you are, he thought. I'm going to find you, and I will get you.


When Salander touched his arm he jumped as if he had had an electric shock and stared at her with such anger in his eyes that she took a step back. She handed him the soap and went back to the kitchen without a word.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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