"I like having sex with you."



"Sex has nothing to do with friendship. Sure, friends can have sex, but if I had to choose between sex and friendship when it comes to you, there's no doubt which I would pick."


"I don't get it. Do you want to have sex with me or not?"


"You shouldn't have sex with people you're working with," he muttered. "It just leads to trouble."


"Did I miss something here, or isn't it true that you and Erika Berger fuck every time you get the chance? And she's married."


"Erika and I... have a history that started long before we started working together. The fact that she's married is none of your business."


"Oh, I see, all of a sudden you're the one who doesn't want to talk about yourself. And there I was, learning that friendship is a matter of trust."


"What I mean is that I don't discuss a friend behind her back. I'd be breaking her trust. I wouldn't discuss you with Erika behind your back either."


Salander thought about that. This had become an awkward conversation. She did not like awkward conversations.


"I do like having sex with you," she said.


"I like it too... but I'm still old enough to be your father."


"I don't give a shit about your age."


"No, you can't ignore our age difference. It's no sort of basis for a lasting relationship."


"Who said anything about lasting?" Salander said. "We just finished up a case in which men with fucked-up sexuality played a prominent role. If I had to decide, men like that would be exterminated, every last one of them."


"Well, at least you don't compromise."


"No," she said, giving him her crooked non-smile. "But at least you're not like them." She got up. "Now I'm going in to take a shower, and then I think I'll get into your bed naked. If you think you're too old, you'll have to go and sleep on the camp bed."


Whatever hang-ups Salander had, modesty certainly was not one of them. He managed to lose every argument with her. After a while he washed up the coffee things and went into the bedroom.


They got up at 10:00, took a shower together, and ate breakfast out in the garden. At 11:00 Dirch Frode called and said that the funeral would take place at 2:00 in the afternoon, and he asked if they were planning to attend.


"I shouldn't think so," said Mikael.


Frode asked if he could come over around 6:00 for a talk. Mikael said that would be fine.


He spent a few hours sorting the papers into the packing crates and carrying them over to Henrik's office. Finally he was left with only his own notebooks and the two binders about the Hans-Erik Wennerstrom affair that he hadn't opened in six months. He sighed and stuffed them into his bag.


Frode rang to say he was running late and did not reach the cottage until 8:00. He was still in his funeral suit and looked harried when he sat down on the kitchen bench and gratefully accepted the cup of coffee that Salander offered him. She sat at the side table with her computer while Blomkvist asked how Harriet's reappearance had been received by the family as a whole.


"You might say that it has overshadowed Martin's demise. Now the media have found out about her too."


"And how are you explaining the situation?"


"Harriet talked with a reporter from the Courier. Her story is that she ran away from home because she didn't get along with her family, but that she obviously has done well in the world since she's the head of a very substantial enterprise."


Blomkvist whistled.


"I discovered that there was money in Australian sheep, but I didn't know the station was doing that well."


"Her sheep station is going superbly, but that isn't her only source of income. The Cochran Corporation is in mining, opals, manufacturing, transport, electronics, and a lot of other things too."


"Wow! So what's going to happen now?"


"Honestly, I don't know. People have been turning up all day, and the family has been together for the first time in years. They're here from both Fredrik and Johan Vanger's sides, and quite a few from the younger generation too - the ones in their twenties and up. There are probably around forty Vangers in Hedestad this evening. Half of them are at the hospital wearing out Henrik; the other half are at the Grand Hotel talking to Harriet."


"Harriet must be the big sensation. How many of them know about Martin?"


"So far it's just me, Henrik, and Harriet. We had a long talk together. Martin and... your uncovering of his unspeakable life, it's overshadowing just about everything for us at the moment. It has brought an enormous crisis for the company to a head."


"I can understand that."


"There is no natural heir, but Harriet is staying in Hedestad for a while. The family will work out who owns what, how the inheritance is to be divided and so on. She actually has a share of it that would have been quite large if she had been here the whole time. It's a nightmare."


Mikael laughed. Frode was not laughing at all.


"Isabella had a collapse at the funeral. She's in the hospital now. Henrik says he won't visit her."


"Good for Henrik."


"However, Anita is coming over from London. I am to call a family meeting for next week. It will be the first time in twenty-five years that she's participated."


"Who will be the new CEO?"


"Birger is after the job, but he's out of the question. What's going to happen is that Henrik will step in as CEO pro tem from his sickbed until we hire either someone from outside or someone from within the family..."


Blomkvist raised his eyebrows.


"Harriet? You can't be serious."


"Why not? We're talking about an exceptionally competent and respected businesswoman."


"She has a company in Australia to look after."


"True, but her son Jeff Cochran is minding the store in her absence."


"He's the studs manager on a sheep ranch. If I understood the matter correctly, he sees to it that the correct sheep mate with each other."


"He also has a degree in economics from Oxford and a law degree from Melbourne."


Blomkvist thought about the sweaty, muscular man with his shirt off who had driven him into and through the ravine; he tried to imagine him in a pinstripe suit. Why not?


"All of this will take time to work out," Frode said. "But she would be a perfect CEO. With the right support team she could represent a whole new deal for the company."


"She doesn't have the experience..."


"That's true. She can't just pop up out of more or less nowhere and start micro-managing the company. But the Vanger Corporation is international, and we could certainly have an American CEO who doesn't speak a word of Swedish... it's only business, when all's said and done."


"Sooner or later you're going to have to face up to the problem of Martin's basement."


"I know. But we can't say anything without destroying Harriet... I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make the decision about this."


"Damn it, Dirch, you won't be able to bury the fact that Martin was a serial killer."


"Mikael, I'm in a... very uncomfortable position."


"Tell me."


"I have a message from Henrik. He thanks you for the outstanding work you did and says that he considers the contract fulfilled. That means he is releasing you from any further obligations and that you no longer have to live or work here in Hedestad, etc. So, taking effect immediately, you can move back to Stockholm and devote yourself to your other pursuits."


"He wants me to vanish from the scene, is that the gist of it?"


"Absolutely not. He wants you to visit him for a conversation about the future. He says he hopes that his involvement on the board of Millennium can proceed without restrictions. But..."


Frode looked even more uncomfortable, if that was possible.


"Don't tell me, Dirch... he no longer wants me to write a history of the Vanger family."


Dirch Frode nodded. He picked up a notebook, opened it, and pushed it over to Mikael.


"He wrote you this letter."


Dear Mikael,


I have nothing but respect for your integrity, and I don't intend to insult you by trying to tell you what to write. You may write and publish whatever you like, and I won't exert any pressure on you whatsoever.


Our contract remains valid, if you want to continue. You have enough material to finish the chronicle of the Vanger family.


Mikael, I've never begged anyone for anything in my entire life. I've always thought that a person should follow his morals and his convictions. This time I have no choice.


I am, with this letter, begging you, both as a friend and as part owner of Millennium, to refrain from publishing the truth about Gottfried and Martin. I know that's wrong, but I see no way out of this darkness. I have to choose between two evils, and in this case there are no winners.


I beg you not to write anything that would further hurt Harriet. You know first-hand what it's like to be the subject of a media campaign. The campaign against you was of quite modest proportions. You can surely imagine what it would be like for Harriet if the truth were to come out. She has been tormented for forty years and shouldn't have to suffer any more for the deeds that her brother and her father committed. And I beg you to think through the consequences this story might have for the thousands of employees in the company. This could crush her and annihilate us.


Henrik


"Henrik also says that if you require compensation for financial losses that may arise from your refraining from publishing the story, he is entirely open to discussion. You can set any financial demands you think fit."


"Henrik Vanger is trying to shut me up. Tell him that I wish he had never given me this offer."


"The situation is just as troublesome for Henrik as it is for you. He likes you very much and considers you his friend."


"Henrik Vanger is a clever bastard," Blomkvist said. He was suddenly furious. "He wants to hush up the story. He's playing on my emotions and he knows I like him too. And what he's also saying is that I have a free hand to publish, and if I do so he would have to revise his attitude towards Millennium."


"Everything changed when Harriet stepped on to the stage."


"And now Henrik is feeling out what my price tag might be. I don't intend to hang Harriet out to dry, but somebody has to say something about the women who died in Martin's basement. Dirch, we don't even know how many women he tortured and slaughtered. Who is going to speak up on their behalf?"


Salander looked up from her computer. Her voice was almost inaudible as she said to Frode, "Isn't there anyone in your company who's going to try to shut me up?"


Frode looked astonished. Once again he had managed to ignore her existence.


"If Martin Vanger were alive at this moment, I would have hung him out to dry," she went on. "Whatever agreement Mikael made with you, I would have sent every detail about him to the nearest evening paper. And if I could, I would have stuck him down in his own torture hole and tied him to that table and stuck needles through his balls. Unfortunately he's dead."


She turned to Blomkvist.


"I'm satisfied with the solution. Nothing we do can repair the harm that Martin Vanger did to his victims. But an interesting situation has come up. You're in a position where you can continue to harm innocent women - especially that Harriet whom you so warmly defended in the car on the way up here. So my question to you is: which is worse - the fact that Martin Vanger raped her out in the cabin or that you're going to do it in print? You have a fine dilemma. Maybe the ethics committee of the Journalists Association can give you some guidance."


She paused. Blomkvist could not meet her gaze. He stared down at the table.


"But I'm not a journalist," she said at last.


"What do you want?" Dirch Frode asked.


"Martin videotaped his victims. I want you to do your damnedest to identify as many as you can and see to it that their families receive suitable compensation. And then I want the Vanger Corporation to donate 2 million kronor annually and in perpetuity to the National Organisation for Women's Crisis Centres and Girls' Crisis Centres in Sweden."


Frode weighed the price tag for a minute. Then he nodded.


"Can you live with that, Mikael?" Salander said.


Blomkvist felt only despair. His professional life he had devoted to uncovering things which other people had tried to hide, and he could not be party to the covering up of the appalling crimes committed in Martin Vanger's basement. He who had lambasted his colleagues for not publishing the truth, here he sat, discussing, negotiating even, the most macabre cover-up he had ever heard of.


He sat in silence for a long time. Then he nodded his assent.


"So be it," Frode said. "And with regard to Henrik's offer for financial compensation..."


"He can shove it up his backside, and Dirch, I want you to leave now. I understand your position, but right now I'm so furious with you and Henrik and Harriet that if you stay any longer we might not be friends any more."


Frode made no move to go.


"I can't leave yet. I'm not done. I have another message to deliver, and you're not going to like this one either. Henrik is insisting that I tell you tonight. You can go up to the hospital and flay him tomorrow morning if you wish."


Blomkvist looked up and stared at him.


Frode went on. "This has got to be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But I think that only complete candour with all the cards on the table can save the situation now."

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