Blomkvist didn't give a damn about flowered coffee cups and instead cast an appraising eye on the plate with the cheesecake. He pondered letting his belt out a notch. Berger apparently shared his feelings.
"Good God, I should have said no to dessert too," she said, glancing ruefully at Eriksson before taking up her spoon with a firm grip.
It was supposed to be a simple working dinner, in part to cement the cooperation they had agreed on and in part to continue to discuss plans for the themed issue. Svensson had suggested that they meet at his place for a bite to eat, and Johansson had served the best sweet-and-sour chicken Blomkvist had ever tasted. Over dinner they put away two bottles of robust Spanish red, and Svensson asked if anyone would like a glass of Tullamore Dew with their dessert. Only Berger was foolish enough to decline, and Svensson got out the glasses.
It was a one-bedroom apartment in Enskede. Svensson and Johansson had been going out for a few years, but had taken the plunge and moved in together a year ago.
The group gathered at around 6:00 p.m., and by the time dessert was served at 8:30 not a word had been said about the ostensible reason for the dinner. But Blomkvist did discover that he liked his hosts and enjoyed their company.
It was Berger who finally steered the conversation to the topic they had all come to discuss. Johansson produced a printout of her thesis and placed it on the table in front of Berger. It had a surprisingly ironic title - "From Russia with Love" - an homage, of course, to Ian Fleming's classic novel. The subtitle was "Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Society's Response."
"You have to recognize the difference between my thesis and the book Dag is writing," she said. "Dag's book is a polemic aimed at the people who are making money from trafficking. My thesis is statistics, field studies, law texts, and a study of how society and the courts treat the victims."
"The girls, you mean."
"Young girls, usually fifteen to twenty years old, working class, poorly educated. They often have unstable home lives, and many of them are subjected to some form of abuse even in childhood. One reason they come to Sweden is that they have been fed a pack of lies."
"By the sex traders."
"In this sense there is a sort of gender perspective to my thesis. It's not often that a researcher can establish roles along gender lines so clearly. Girls - victims; boys - perpetrators. Apart from a handful of women working on their own who profit from the sex trade, there is no other form of criminality in which the sex roles themselves are a precondition for the crime. Nor is there any other form of criminality in which social acceptance is so great, or which society does so little to prevent."
"And yet Sweden does have tough laws against trafficking and the sex trade," Berger said. "Is that not the case?"
"Don't make me laugh. Several hundred girls - there are no published statistics, obviously - are transported to Sweden every year to work as prostitutes, which in this case means making their bodies available for systematic rape. After the law against trafficking went into effect, it was tested in the courts a few times. The first time was in April 2003, the case against that crazy brothel madam who had a sex change. And she was acquitted, of course."
"I thought she was convicted."
"Of running a brothel, yes. But she was acquitted of trafficking charges. The thing was, the girls who were the victims were also the witnesses against her, and they vanished back to the Baltics. Interpol tried to track them down, but after months of searching it was decided that they were not going to be found."
"What had become of them?"
"Nothing. The TV show Insider did a follow-up and went over to Tallinn. It took the reporters exactly one afternoon to find two of the girls, who were living with their parents. The third girl had moved to Italy."
"The police in Tallinn, in other words, weren't very effective."
"Since then we have actually won a couple of convictions, but in each case they were men who had been arrested for other crimes, or who were so conspicuously stupid that they couldn't help but be caught. The law is pure window dressing. It isn't enforced. And the problem here," Svensson said, "is that the crime is aggravated rape, often in conjunction with abuse, aggravated abuse, and death threats, and in some instances illegal imprisonment as well. That's everyday life for many of the girls who are brought, wearing miniskirts and heavy makeup, to some villa in the suburbs. The thing is that a girl like that doesn't have any choice. Either she goes out and fucks dirty old men or she risks being abused and tortured by her pimp. The girls can't run away - they don't know the language, they don't know the law, and they don't know where they could turn. They can't go home because their passports have been taken away, and in the case of the brothel madam the girls were locked in an apartment."
"It sounds like slave labour camps. Do the girls make any money at all?"
"Oh yeah," Johansson said. "They usually work for several months before they're allowed to go back home. They're given between 20,000 and 30,000 kronor, which in Russian money is a small fortune. Unfortunately they've often picked up heavy alcohol or drug habits and a lifestyle that means the money will run out very quickly. This makes the system self-sustaining: after a while they're back again and return voluntarily, so to speak, to their torturers."
"How much money is this business turning over annually?" Blomkvist asked.
Mia glanced at Svensson and thought for a moment before she responded.
"It's very hard to give an accurate answer. We've calculated back and forth, but most of our figures are necessarily estimates."
"Give us a broad brush."
"OK, we know, for example, that the madam, the one convicted of procuring but acquitted of trafficking, brought thirty-five women from the East over a two-year period. They were all here for anything from a few weeks to several months. In the course of the trial it emerged that over those two years they took in two million kronor. I have worked out that a girl can bring in an estimated 60,000 kronor a month. Of this about 15,000, say, is costs - travel, clothing, full board, etc. It's no life of luxury; they may have to crash with a bunch of other girls in some apartment the gang provides for them. Of the remaining 45,000 kronor, the gang takes between 20,000 and 30,000. The gang leader stuffs half into his own pocket, say 15,000, and divides the rest among his employees - drivers, muscle, others. The girl gets to keep 10,000 to 12,000 kronor."
"And per month?"
"Suppose a gang has two or three girls grinding away for them, and they take in around 150,000 a month. A gang consists of two or three people, and that's their living. That's about how the finances of rape look."
"And how many of them are we talking about... if you extrapolate?"
"At any given time there are about a hundred active girls who are in some way victims of trafficking. That means the total income in Sweden each month would be around six million kronor, around seventy million per year. And that's only the girls who are victims of trafficking."
"That sounds like small change."
"It is small change. And to bring in these relatively modest sums, around a hundred girls have to be raped. It drives me mad."
"That sounds like an objective researcher! But how many creeps are living off these girls?"
"I reckon about three hundred."
"That doesn't sound like an insurmountable problem," Berger said.
"We pass laws and the media gets outraged, but hardly anyone has actually talked to one of these girls from the East or has any idea how they live."
"How does it work? I mean, in practice. It's probably fairly difficult to bring a sixteen-year-old over here from Tallinn without anyone noticing. How does it work once they arrive?" Blomkvist asked.
"When I started researching this, I thought we were talking about an incredibly well-run organization with some form of professional mafia spiriting girls unnoticed across the borders."
"But it's not?" Eriksson said.
"The business is organized, but I came to the conclusion that we're talking about many small and badly organized gangs. Forget the Armani suits and the sports cars - the average gang is half Russians or Balts and half Swedes. The gang leader is typically forty, has very little education, and has had problems all his life. His view of women is pure stone age. There's a clear pecking order in the gang and his associates are often afraid of him. He's violent, frequently high, and he beats the shit out of anyone who steps out of line."
Salander's furniture from IKEA was delivered at 9:30 in the morning three days later. Two extremely robust citizens shook hands with blond Irene Nesser, who spoke with a sprightly Norwegian accent. They began at once, shuttling the boxes up to the apartment in the undersized elevator, and spent the day assembling tables, cabinets, and beds. Irene Nesser went down to Soderhallarna market to buy Greek takeout for their lunch.
The men from IKEA were gone by midafternoon. Salander took off her wig and strolled around her apartment wondering how she was going to like living in her new home. The kitchen table looked too elegant to be true. The room next to the kitchen, with doors from both the hall and the kitchen, was her new living room, with modern sofas and armchairs around a coffee table by the window. She was pleased with the bedroom and sat down tentatively on the Hemnes bedstead to test the mattress.
She sat at the desk in her office, enjoying the view of Saltsjon. Yes, this is a good setup. I can work here.
What she was going to work on, though, she didn't know.
Salander spent the rest of the evening unpacking and arranging her belongings. She made the bed and put the towels, sheets, and pillowcases in the linen closet. She opened the bags of new clothes and hung them in the closets. In spite of all she had bought, it filled only a fraction of the space. She put the lamps in place and arranged the pots and pans, the crockery, and the cutlery in the kitchen cupboards and drawers.
She looked critically at the empty walls and realized that she was going to have to find some posters or pictures. A vase for flowers wouldn't hurt either.
Then she opened her cardboard boxes from Lundagatan and put away books, magazines, clippings, and old research papers that she probably should have thrown away. Without any regret, she discarded her old T-shirts and socks with holes in them. Suddenly she found a dildo, still in its original box. She smiled wryly. It had been one of those freaky birthday presents from Mimmi. She had entirely forgotten that she had it and had never even tried it. She decided to rectify that situation and set the dildo on her bedside table.
Then she became serious. Mimmi. She felt a pang of guilt. She had been with Mimmi fairly regularly for a year and then left her for Blomkvist without a word of explanation. She had not said goodbye or told her she was thinking of leaving the country. Nor had she said goodbye to Armansky or told the girls in Evil Fingers anything at all. They must think she was dead, or else they had simply forgotten about her - she had never been a central figure in the group.
She realized at that moment that she had not said goodbye to George Bland on Grenada either, and she wondered whether he was walking on the beach looking for her. She remembered what Blomkvist had told her about friendship being based on respect and trust. I keep squandering my friends. She wondered whether Mimmi was still around, whether she should try to get in touch with her.
She spent most of the evening and a good part of the night sorting papers in her office, installing her computers, and surfing the Net. She did a swift check of her investments and found that she was better off than she had been a year earlier.
She did a routine check of Bjurman's computer but found nothing in his correspondence that gave her reason to think that he was not toeing the line. He seemed to have scaled back his professional and private activities to a semi-vegetative state. He seldom used email, and when he surfed the Internet he mostly went on porn sites.
She did not log off until around 2:00 in the morning. She went into the bedroom and undressed, flinging her clothes over a chair. In the bathroom mirror she looked at herself for a long time, examining her angular, asymmetrical face, her new breasts. And the tattoo on her back - it was beautiful, a curving dragon in red, green, and black. During the year of her travels she had let her hair grow to shoulder length, but at the end of her stay on Grenada she had taken a pair of scissors to it. It still stuck out in all directions.
She felt that some fundamental change had taken place or was taking place in her life. Maybe it was having access to billions of kronor and not having to think about every krona she spent. Maybe it was the adult world which was belatedly pushing its way into her life. Maybe it was the realization that, with her mother's death, her childhood had come to an end.
During the operation on her breasts at the clinic in Genoa, a ring in her nipple had to be removed. Then she had done away with a ring from her lower lip, and on Grenada she had taken the ring out of her left labium - it had chafed, and she had no idea why she had let herself be pierced there in the first place.
She yawned and unscrewed the stud she had had through her tongue for seven years. She put it in a bowl on the shelf next to the sink. Her mouth felt empty. Apart from the rings in her earlobes, she had now only two piercings left: a ring in her left eyebrow and a jewel in her navel.
At last she crept under her new duvet. The bed she had bought was gigantic; she felt as if she were lying on the edge of a soccer field. She pulled the duvet around her and thought for a long time.
Sunday, January 23 - Saturday, January 29
Salander took the elevator from the garage to the third floor, the uppermost floor occupied by Milton Security in the office building near Slussen. She opened the elevator door with a card key that she had pirated several years earlier. She automatically glanced at her watch as she stepped into the unlit corridor. Sunday, 3:10 a.m. The night watchman would be sitting at the alarm station on the second floor, a long way from the elevator shaft, and she knew that she would almost certainly have this floor to herself.