"You too. That's why I kept coming back."



"Not for love?" Mimmi said, pretending to be hurt.


Salander shook her head.


"Are you seeing somebody?"


Mimmi hesitated a moment before she nodded.


"Maybe. In a way. Possibly. It's a little complicated."


"I'm not snooping."


"I know, but I don't mind telling you. It's someone at the university who's a little older than me. She's been married twenty years, but her husband travels a lot, so we get together when he's not around. Suburbs, villa, all that. She's a closet dyke. It's been going on since last autumn and it's getting a bit boring. But she's really luscious. And then I hang out with the usual gang, of course."


"I was just wondering whether I could come and see you again."


"I'd really like to hear from you."


"Even if I disappear for another six months?"


"Just keep in touch. I'd like to know if you're dead or alive. And in any case I'll remember your birthday."


"No strings?"


Mimmi sighed and smiled.


"You know, you're a dyke I could imagine living with. You'd leave me alone when I wanted to be left alone."


Salander said nothing.


"Apart from the fact that you're not really a dyke. You're probably bisexual. But most of all you're sexual - you like sex and you don't care about what gender. You're an entropic chaos factor."


"I don't know what I am," Salander said. "But I'm in Stockholm now and pretty bad at relationships. In fact, I don't know one single person here. You're the first person I've talked to since I got home."


Mimmi studied her with a serious expression.


"Do you really want to know people? You're the most secretive and unapproachable person I know. But your breasts really are luscious." She put her fingers under one nipple and stretched the skin. "They fit you. Not too big and not too small."


Salander sighed with relief that the reviews were satisfactory.


"And they feel real."


She squeezed the breast so hard that Salander gasped. They looked at each other. Then Mimmi bent and gave Salander a deep kiss. Salander responded and threw her arms around Mimmi. The coffee was left to get cold.


CHAPTER 7


Saturday, January 29 - Sunday, February 13


At around 11:00 on Saturday morning, a car drove into Svavelsjo between Jarna and Vagnharad - the community consisted of no more than fifteen buildings - and stopped in front of the last building, about 500 feet outside the village proper. It was a tumbledown industrial structure that had once been a printing factory but now had a sign over the main door identifying it as Svavelsjo Motorcycle Club. There was no other car in sight. Nevertheless the driver looked around carefully before he got out of his car. He was huge and blond. The air was cold. He put on brown leather gloves and took a black sports bag from the trunk.


He was not worried about being observed. It would be impossible to park close to the old printing factory without being seen. If any police or government unit wanted to keep the building under surveillance, they would have to equip their people with camouflage and telescopes and dig them in at the far end of a field. Inevitably that would be talked about by the villagers, and three of the houses were owned by Svavelsjo MC members.


On the other hand, he did not want to go inside the building. The police had raided the clubhouse on several occasions, and no-one could be sure whether or not bugging equipment had been hidden there. This meant that conversation inside was pretty much about cars, girls, and beer, and sometimes about which stocks were good to invest in.


So the man waited until Carl-Magnus Lundin came out to the yard. Magge Lundin was club president. He was tall with a slim build, but over time he had acquired a hefty beer belly. He was only thirty-six. He had dark blond hair in a ponytail and wore black jeans, boots, and a heavy winter jacket. He had five counts on his police record. Two of them were for minor drug offences, one for receiving stolen goods, and one for stealing a car and drunk driving. The fifth charge, the most serious, had sent him to prison for a year: it was for grievous bodily harm when, several years ago, he had gone berserk in a bar in Stockholm.


Lundin and his huge visitor shook hands and walked slowly along the fence around the yard.


"It's been a few months," Lundin said.


The man said: "We've got a deal going down. 3,060 grams of methamphetamine."


"Same terms as last time?"


"Fifty-fifty."


Lundin pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket. He liked doing business with the giant. Meth brought a street price of between 160 and 230 kronor per gram, depending on availability. So 3,060 grams would yield a cut value of about 600,000 kronor. Svavelsjo MC would distribute the three kilos in batches of about 250 grams each to known dealers. At that stage the price would drop to somewhere between 120 and 130 kronor per gram.


It was an exceptionally attractive deal for Svavelsjo MC. Unlike deals with other suppliers, there was never any crap about advance payment or fixed prices. The blond giant supplied the goods and demanded 50 percent, an entirely reasonable share of the revenue. They knew more or less what a kilo of meth would bring in. The exact amount depended on to what extent Lundin could get away with cutting the stuff. It could vary by a few thousand one way or the other, but when the deal was done the giant would collect around 190,000 kronor.


They had done a lot of business together over the years, always using the same system. Lundin knew that the giant could have doubled his take by handling the distribution himself. He also knew why the man accepted a lower profit: he could stay in the background and let Svavelsjo MC have all the risk. He made a smaller but a safer income. And unlike with all other suppliers he had ever come across, it was a relationship that was based on sound business principles, credit, and goodwill. No hassle, no bullshit, and no threats.


The giant had also swallowed a loss of almost 100,000 kronor over a weapons delivery that went bust. Lundin knew no-one else in the business who could absorb a loss like that. He was terrified when he'd had to tell him. Lundin explained how the deal had gone sour and how a policeman at the Crime Prevention Centre might be about to make a big score off a member of the Aryan Brotherhood in Varmland. But the giant had not so much as raised an eyebrow. He was almost sympathetic. Shit happens. The whole delivery had to be written off.


Lundin was not without talents. He understood that a smaller, less risky profit was good business.


He had never once considered double-crossing the giant. That would be bad form. The giant and his associates settled for a lower profit so long as the accounting was honest. If he cheated the blond, he would come calling, and Lundin was convinced that he would not survive such a visit.


"When can you deliver?"


The giant dropped his sports bag to the ground.


"Delivery has been made."


Lundin did not feel like opening the bag to check the contents. Instead he reached out his hand as a sign that they had a deal and he intended to do his part.


"There's one more thing," the giant said.


"What's that?"


"We'd like to put a special job your way."


"Let's hear it."


He pulled an envelope out of his inside jacket pocket and gave it to Lundin, who opened it and took out a passport photograph and a sheet of A4 containing personal data. He raised his eyebrows inquiringly.


"Her name is Lisbeth Salander and she lives in Stockholm, on Lundagatan in Sodermalm."


"Right."


"She's probably out of the country at present, but she'll turn up sooner or later."


"OK."


"My employer would like to have a quiet talk with her. She has to be delivered alive. We suggest that warehouse near Yngern. And we need someone to clean up afterwards. She has to disappear without a trace."


"We should be able to handle that. How will we know when she's home?"


"I'll tell you."


"And the price?"


"What do you say to ten thousand for the whole job? It's pretty straightforward. Drive to Stockholm, pick her up, deliver her to me."


They shook hands again.


***


On her second visit to Lundagatan, Salander flopped down on the lumpy sofa to think. She had to make a number of decisions, and one of these was whether or not she should keep the apartment.


She lit a cigarette, blew smoke up towards the ceiling, and tapped the ash into an empty Coke can.


She had no reason to love this apartment. She had moved in with her mother and her sister when she was four. Her mother had slept in the living room, and she and Camilla shared the tiny bedroom. When she was twelve and "All The Evil" happened, she was moved to a children's clinic and then, when she was fifteen, to the first in a series of foster families. The apartment had been rented out by her trustee, Holger Palmgren, who had also seen to it that it was returned to her when she turned eighteen and needed a place to live.


The apartment had been a fixed point for almost all of her life. Although she no longer needed it, she did not like the idea of selling it. That would mean strangers in her space.


The logistical problem was that all her mail - insofar as she received any at all - came to Lundagatan. If she got rid of the apartment she would have to find another address to use. Salander did not want to be an official entry in all the databases. In this regard she was almost paranoid. She had no reason to trust the authorities, or anyone else for that matter.


She looked out at the firewall of the back courtyard, as she had done her whole life. She was suddenly glad of her decision to leave the apartment. She had never felt safe there. Every time she turned onto Lundagatan and approached the street door - sober or not - she had been acutely aware of her surroundings, of parked cars and passersby She felt sure that somewhere out there were people who wished her harm, and they would most probably attack her as she came or went from the apartment.


There had been no attack. But that did not mean that she could relax. The address on Lundagatan was on every public register and database, and in all those years she had never had the means to improve her security; she could only stay on her guard. Now the situation was different. She did not want anyone to know her new address in Mosebacke. Instinct warned her to remain as anonymous as possible.


But that did not solve the problem of what to do with the old apartment. She brooded about it for a while and then took out her mobile and called Mimmi.


"Hi, it's me."


"Hi, Lisbeth. So you make contact after only a week this time?"


"I'm at Lundagatan."


"OK."


"I was wondering if you'd like to take over the apartment."


"What do you mean?"


"You live in a shoebox."


"I like my shoebox. Are you moving?"


"It's empty here."


Mimmi seemed to hesitate at the other end of the line.


"Lisbeth, I can't afford it."


"It's a housing association apartment and it's all paid off. The rent is 1,480 a month, which must be less than you're paying for the shoebox. And the rent has been paid for a year."


"But are you thinking of selling it? I mean, it must be worth quite a bit."


"About one and a half million, if you can believe the estate agents' ads."


"I can't afford that."


"I'm not selling. You could move in here tonight, you can live here as long as you like, and you won't have to pay anything for a year. I'm not allowed to rent it out, but I can write you into my agreement as my roommate. That way you won't have any hassle with the housing association."


"But Lisbeth - are you proposing to me?" Mimmi laughed.


"I'm not using the apartment and I don't want to sell it."


"You mean I could live there for free, girl? Are you serious?"


"Yes."


"For how long?"


"As long as you like. Are you interested?"


"Of course I am. I don't get offered a free apartment in the middle of Soder every day of the week."


"There's a catch."


"I thought as much."


"You can live here as long as you like, but I'll still be listed as resident and I'll get my mail here. All you have to do is take in the mail and let me know if anything interesting turns up."


"Lisbeth, you're the freakiest. Where are you going to live?"


"We'll talk about that later," Salander said.


They agreed to meet that afternoon so that Mimmi could have a proper look at the apartment. Salander was already in a much better mood. She walked down to Handelsbanken on Hornsgatan, where she took a number and waited her turn.


She showed her ID and explained that she had been abroad for some time and wanted to know the balance of her savings account. The sum was 82,670 kronor. The account had been dormant for more than a year, and one deposit of 9,312 kronor had been made the previous autumn. That was the inheritance from her mother.


Salander withdrew 9,312 kronor. She wanted to spend the money on something that would have made her mother happy. She walked to the post office on Rosenlundsgatan and sent an anonymous deposit to one of Stockholm's crisis centres for women.


It was 8:00 on Friday evening when Berger shut down her computer and stretched. She had spent nine hours solid putting the finishing touches on the March issue of Millennium, and since Eriksson was working full-time on Svensson's themed issue she had had to do a good part of the editing herself. Cortez and Karim had helped out, but they were primarily writers and researchers, and not used to editing.

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