"But -"



"You will be notified shortly."


Then, to his considerable irritation, the connection was cut. Bjurman swore to himself. He went over to the drinks cabinet and poured himself a triple measure of Kentucky bourbon. He swallowed the drink in two gulps. I've got to go easy on the booze, he thought. Then he poured one more measure and took the glass back to his desk, where he looked at the statement from Handelsbanken again.


***


Mimmi was massaging Salander's back and neck. She had been kneading intently for twenty minutes while Salander mainly enjoyed herself and uttered an occasional groan of pleasure. A massage from Mimmi was a fantastic experience, and she felt like a kitten who just wanted to purr and wave its paws around.


She stifled a sigh of disappointment when Mimmi slapped her on the backside and said that should do it. For a while she lay still in the vain hope that Mimmi would go on, but when she heard her pick up her wineglass, Salander rolled onto her back.


"Thank you," she said.


"You're sitting in front of your computer all day. That's why your back hurts."


"I just pulled a muscle."


They were lying naked in Mimmi's bed on Lundagatan, drinking red wine and feeling silly. Since Salander had resumed her friendship with Mimmi, it was as if she couldn't get enough of her. It had become a bad habit to call her every day - much too often. She looked at Mimmi and reminded herself not to get too close to anyone again. It might end with someone getting hurt.


Mimmi leaned over the edge of the bed and opened the drawer of her bedside table. She took out a small flat package wrapped in flowered paper with a gold bow and tossed it into Lisbeth's lap.


"What's this?"


"Your birthday present."


"My birthday's more than a month away."


"It's your present from last year, but I couldn't find you."


"Should I open it?"


"If you feel like it."


She put down her wineglass, shook the package, and opened it carefully. She drew out a beautiful cigarette case with a lid of blue and black enamel and some tiny Chinese characters as decoration.


"You really should stop smoking," Mimmi said. "But if you won't, at least you can keep your cigarettes in a pretty box."


"Thank you," Salander said. "You're the only person who ever gives me birthday presents. What do the characters mean?"


"How on earth would I know that? I don't understand Chinese. I just found it at the flea market."


"It's beautiful."


"It's just some cheap nothing, but it looked as if it was made for you. We've run out of wine. You want to go out and get a beer?"


"Does that mean we have to leave the bed and get dressed?"


"I'm afraid so. But what's the point of living in Soder if you can't go to a bar now and then?"


Salander sighed.


"Come on," Mimmi said, pointing at the jewel in Salander's navel. "We can come back here afterwards."


Salander sighed again, but she put one foot on the floor and reached for her underwear.


Svensson was working late at the desk he had been assigned in a corner of the Millennium offices when he heard the rattle of a key in the door. He looked at the clock and saw that it was past 9:00 p.m. Blomkvist seemed surprised to find someone still working there.


"The lamp of diligence and all that, Mikael. I'm fine - tuning the book and I lost track of time. What are you doing here?"


"Just stopped by to pick up a file I forgot. Is everything going well?"


"Sure...  Well, actually no...  I've spent three weeks trying to track down Bjorck from Sapo. He seems to have vanished without a trace. Perhaps he's been kidnapped by some enemy secret service."


Blomkvist pulled up a chair and sat thinking for a moment.


"Have you tried the old lottery trick?"


"What's that?"


"Think of a name, write a letter saying that he's won a mobile telephone with a GPS navigator, or whatever. Print it out so it looks official and post it to his address - in this case that P.O. box he has. He's already won the mobile, a brand-new Nokia. But more than that, he's one of twenty people who can go on to win 100,000 kronor. All he has to do is take part in a marketing study for various products. The session will take about an hour and be done by a professional interviewer. And then...  well."


Svensson stared at Blomkvist, openmouthed. "Are you serious?"


"Why not? You've tried everything else, and even a spook from Sapo should be able to figure out that the odds of winning a hundred grand are pretty good if he's one of only twenty people on the list."


Svensson laughed out loud. "You're nuts. Is that legal?"


"I can't imagine it's illegal to give away a mobile telephone."


"You really are out of your mind."


Svensson kept laughing. Blomkvist hesitated a moment. He was actually on his way home and seldom went to bars, but he liked Svensson's company.


"Do you feel like going out for a beer?" he said.


Svensson looked again at the clock.


"Why not?" he said. "Gladly. A quick one. Let me leave a message for Mia. She's out with the girls and was going to pick me up on her way home."


They went to Kvarnen, mostly because it was comfortable and close by. Svensson chuckled as he composed the letter to Bjorck at Security Police HQ. Blomkvist looked dubiously at his easily amused colleague. They were lucky enough to get a table near the door. Each of them ordered a large glass of strong beer, and with their heads together they began to drink and discuss Svensson's book.


Blomkvist did not see Salander standing at the bar with Miriam Wu. Salander took a step back to put Mimmi between her and Blomkvist. She looked at him from behind Mimmi's shoulder.


She had not been in a bar since she came back and - just her luck - she had to run into him. Kalle Fucking Blomkvist. It was the first time she had seen him in more than a year.


"What's wrong?" Mimmi said.


"Nothing."


They kept talking. Or rather, Mimmi went on with her story about a dyke she had met on a trip to London a few years back. She had been visiting an art gallery and the situation had gotten funnier and funnier as Mimmi tried to pick her up. Salander nodded now and then, but as usual missed the point of the story.


Blomkvist had not changed much, she decided. He looked absurdly well-approachable and relaxed, but with a grave expression. He was listening to what his companion was saying, nodding now and then. It seemed to be a serious discussion.


Salander looked at Blomkvist's friend. A man with a blond crew cut several years younger than Blomkvist, who was talking intently. She had no idea who he was.


All of a sudden a whole group came up to Blomkvist's table and shook hands with him. Blomkvist got a pat on the cheek from a woman who said something everyone else laughed at. Blomkvist looked self-conscious, but he laughed too.


Salander scowled.


"You're not listening to what I'm saying," Mimmi said.


"Of course I am."


"You're terrible company in a bar. I give up. Should we go home and fuck instead?"


"In a bit," Salander said.


She moved a little closer to Mimmi and put a hand on her hip.


Mimmi looked down at her partner and said, "I feel like kissing you on the mouth."


"Don't do it."


"Are you afraid people will think you're a dyke?"


"I don't want to attract attention right now."


"Let's go home then."


"Not yet. Wait a while."


They did not have long to wait. Twenty minutes after they arrived, the man Blomkvist was with got a call on his mobile. They drained their glasses and stood up simultaneously.


"Check it out," Mimmi said. "That guy over there is Mikael Blomkvist. He was more famous than a rock star after the Wennerstrom affair."


"You don't say."


"Did you miss all that? It was about the time when you left the country."


"I've heard it mentioned."


Salander waited for another five minutes before she looked at Mimmi.


"You wanted to kiss me on the mouth."


Mimmi looked at her in surprise. "I was just teasing."


Salander stood on tiptoe and pulled Mimmi's face down to her level and gave her a long, deep kiss. When they separated there was applause.


"You're nuts, you know that?" Mimmi said.


Salander did not get home until 7:00 in the morning. She pulled out the neck of her T-shirt and sniffed. She thought about taking a shower but decided the hell with it, and instead left her clothes on the floor and went to bed. She slept till 4:00 in the afternoon, then got up and went down to Soderhallarna market and had breakfast.


She thought about Blomkvist, and about her reaction to suddenly finding herself in the same room as him. She had been annoyed at his presence, but she also discovered that it no longer hurt to see him. He had been transformed to a little blip on the horizon, a minor perturbation factor in her existence. There were worse disturbances in life.


But she wished she had had the guts to go up to him and say hello. Or possibly break his legs. She wasn't sure which.


Anyway, she was curious about what he was up to. She ran a few errands in the afternoon and came home around 7:00 p.m. She booted up her PowerBook and started Asphyxia 1.3. The icon MikBlom/laptop was still on the server in Holland. She double-clicked and opened a copy of Blomkvist's hard drive. It was her first visit to his computer since she had left Sweden more than a year before. She noticed with satisfaction that he still had not upgraded to the latest MacOS, which would have meant that Asphyxia would have crashed and the hacking would have been terminated. She realized that she would have to rewrite the programme so that an upgrade would not interfere with it.


The volume on the hard drive had increased by almost 6.9 gigabytes since her previous visit. A large part of the increase was due to PDF files and Quark documents. The documents did not take up much room but the bitmaps did, despite the fact that the images were compressed. Since he had returned as publisher he had apparently archived every issue of Millennium.


She sorted the files on the hard disk by date with the oldest at the top and noticed that Blomkvist had spent a great deal of time over the past few months on a folder named, apparently a book project. Then she opened Blomkvist's email and read carefully through the address list in his correspondence.


One address made Salander jump. On January 26 Blomkvist had got an email from Harriet Fucking Vanger. She opened the message and read a few concise lines about a board meeting to take place at the Millennium offices. The message ended with the information that Vanger had booked the same hotel room as last time.


Salander digested the information. Then she shrugged and downloaded Blomkvist's mail, Svensson's book manuscript with the working title The Leeches and the subtitle Society's Support for the Prostitution Industry. She also found a copy of a thesis entitled "From Russia with Love" written by a woman named Mia Johansson.


She disconnected and went into the kitchen to put on some coffee. Then she sat on her new sofa in the living room with her PowerBook. She opened Mimmi's cigarette case and lit a Marlboro Light. The rest of the evening she spent reading.


By 9:00 she had finished Johansson's thesis. She bit her lower lip.


By 10:30 she had finished Svensson's book. Millennium would soon be making headlines again.


At 11:30 she was reading the last of Blomkvist's emails when she suddenly sat up and opened her eyes wide.


She felt a cold shiver go down her spine.


It was a message from Svensson to Blomkvist.


In an aside Svensson mentioned that he had some tentative ideas about an Eastern European gangster named Zala who might get a chapter all to himself - but acknowledged that there was not much time till the deadline. Blomkvist hadn't answered the email.


Zala.


Salander sat motionless until the screen saver went on.


Svensson put aside his notebook and scratched his head. He gazed at the single word at the top of the page in his notebook. Four letters.


Zala.


He spent three minutes deep in thought, drawing labyrinthine rings around the name. Then he went and got a cup of coffee from the kitchenette. It was time to go home to bed, but he had discovered that he enjoyed working late at the Millennium offices when it was quiet in the building.


He had all the material under control, but for the first time since he started the project he felt uneasy that he might have missed an important detail.


Zala.


Until that point he had been impatient to finish the writing and get the book published, but now he wished he had more time.


He thought about the autopsy report that Inspector Gulbrandsen had let him read. Irina P.'s body had been found in Sodertalje canal. She had devastating injuries to her face and chest. The cause of death was a broken neck, but two of her other injuries had been judged fatal. Six ribs had been broken and her left lung punctured. She had a ruptured spleen. The injuries were hard to interpret. The pathologist had offered the suggestion that a wooden club wrapped in cloth had been the weapon used. Why a killer would wrap a murder weapon in cloth could not be explained, but the scale of the injuries was not characteristic of an ordinary assault.


The murder remained unsolved, and Gulbrandsen had said that the prospect of their solving the case was slender.


The name Zala had come up on four occasions in the material that Mia had gathered over the last two years, but always on the periphery, always eerily elusive. Nobody knew who he was and nobody could provide proof that he even existed. Some of the girls had referred to his name being used as a threat, a terrifying warning to those who did not toe the line. He had spent a whole week hunting for more concrete information about Zala, asking questions of police, journalists, and several recently developed sources with contacts in the sex trade.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com