He had been in touch with the journalist Sandstrom, whom he had every intention of exposing in the book. Sandstrom had begged and pleaded for Svensson to have mercy. He had offered a bribe. Svensson was not going to change his mind, but he did use his advantage to pressure Sandstrom for information about Zala.


Sandstrom claimed he had never met Zala, but he had talked to him on the telephone. No, he did not have the number. No, he could not say who had set up the contact.


Svensson had been struck by the realization that Sandstrom was terrified. It was a terror beyond the threat of exposure. He was afraid for his life. Why?


CHAPTER 10


Monday, March 14 - Sunday, March 20


The journeys to and from Ersta were time-consuming and a hassle. In the middle of March Salander decided to buy a car. She started by acquiring a parking place, a much greater problem than buying the car itself.


She had a space in the garage beneath the building in Mosebacke, but she did not want anyone to be able to connect the car to where she lived on Fiskargatan. On the other hand, several years before she had put herself on a waiting list for a space in the garage of her old housing association apartment on Lundagatan. She called to find out where on the list she was now and was told that she was at the top. And not only that - at the end of the month there would be a spot free. Sweet. She called Mimmi and asked her to make a contract with the association right away. The next day she started hunting for a car.


She had the money to buy whatever Rolls-Royce or Ferrari she wanted, but she was not remotely interested in anything ostentatious. Instead she went to two dealers in Nacka and came away with a four-year-old burgundy Honda automatic. She spent an hour going over every detail, including the engine, to the salesman's exasperation. On principle she talked the price down a couple of thousand and paid in cash.


Then she drove to Lundagatan, where she knocked on Mimmi's door and gave her a set of keys. Sure, Mimmi could use the car if she asked in advance. Since the garage space would not be free until the end of the month, they parked on the street.


Mimmi was on her way to a date and a movie with a girlfriend Salander had never heard of. Since she was made up outrageously and dressed in something awful with what looked like a dog's collar round her neck, Salander assumed it was one of Mimmi's flames, and when Mimmi asked if she wanted to come along she said no thanks. She had no desire to end up in a threesome with one of Mimmi's long-legged girlfriends who was no doubt unfathomably sexy but would make her feel like an idiot. Anyway, Salander had something to do in town, so they took the tunnelbana together to Hotorget, and there they parted.


Salander walked to OnOff on Sveavagen and made it with two minutes to spare before closing time. She bought a toner cartridge for her laser printer and asked them to take it out of the box so that it would fit in her backpack.


When she came out of the shop, she was thirsty and hungry. She walked to Stureplan, where she decided on Cafe Hedon, a place she had never been to before or even heard about. She instantly recognized Nils Bjurman from behind and turned right around in the doorway. She stood by the picture window facing the pavement and craned her neck so that she could observe her guardian from behind a serving counter.


The sight of Bjurman aroused no dramatic feelings in Salander, not anger, nor hatred, nor fear. As far as she was concerned, the world would assuredly be a better place without him, but he was alive only because she had decided that he would be more useful to her that way. She looked across at the man opposite Bjurman, and her eyes widened when he stood up. Click.


He was an exceptionally big man, at least six foot six and well built. Exceptionally well built, as a matter of fact. He had a weak face and short blond hair, but overall he made a very powerful impression.


Salander saw the man lean forward and say something quietly to Bjurman, who nodded. They shook hands and Salander noticed that Bjurman quickly drew his hand back.


What sort of guy are you and what business do you have with Bjurman?


Salander walked briskly down the street and stood under the awning of a tobacconist shop. She was looking at a newspaper headline when the blond man came out of Cafe Hedon and without looking around turned left. He passed less than a foot behind Salander. She gave him a good head start before she followed him.


It was not a long walk. The man went straight down into the tunnelbana station at Birger Jarlsgatan and bought a ticket at the gate. He waited on the southbound platform - the direction Salander was going anyway - and got on the Norsborg train. He got off at Slussen, changed to the green line towards Farsta, and got off again at Skanstull. From there he walked to Blomberg's Cafe on Gotgatan.


Salander stopped outside. She studied the man the blond hulk had come to meet. Click. Salander saw immediately that something sinister was going on. The man was overweight and had a narrow, untrustworthy face. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail and he had a mousy moustache. He wore a denim jacket, black jeans, and high-heeled boots. On the back of his right hand he had a tattoo, but Salander could not make out the design. He wore a gold chain around his wrist and was smoking Lucky Strikes. His gaze was glassy-eyed, like someone who got high too often. Salander also noticed that he had a leather vest on under his jacket. She could tell he was a biker.


The giant did not order anything. He seemed to be giving instructions. The man in the denim jacket paid close attention but did not contribute to the conversation. Salander reminded herself that one day soon she should buy herself a shotgun mike.


After only five minutes the giant left Blomberg's Cafe. Salander retreated a few paces, but he did not even look in her direction. He walked forty yards to the steps to Allhelgonagatan, where he got into a white Volvo. Salander managed to read his licence plate number before he turned at the next corner.


Salander hurried back to Blomberg's, but the table was empty. She looked up and down the street but could not see the man with the ponytail. Then she caught a glimpse of him across the street as he pushed open the door to McDonald's.


She had to go inside to find him again. He was sitting with another man who was wearing his vest outside his denim jacket. Salander read the words SVAVELSJo MC. The logo was a stylized motorcycle wheel that looked like a Celtic cross with an axe.


She stood on Gotgatan for a minute before heading north. Her internal warning system had suddenly gone on high alert.


Salander stopped at the 7-Eleven and bought a week's worth of food: a jumbo pack of Billy's Pan Pizza, three frozen fish casseroles, three bacon pies, two pounds of apples, two loaves of bread, a pound of cheese, milk, coffee, a carton of Marlboro Lights, and the evening papers. She walked up Svartensgatan to Mosebacke and looked all around before she punched in the door code of her building. She put one of the bacon pies in the microwave and drank milk straight from the carton. She switched on the coffee machine and then booted up her computer, clicking on Asphyxia 1.3 and logging in to the mirrored copy of Bjurman's hard drive. She spent the next half hour going through the contents of his computer.


She found absolutely nothing of interest. He seemed to use his email rarely; she discovered only a dozen brief personal messages to or from acquaintances. None of the emails had any connection to her.


She found a newly created folder with porn photos that made clear that he was still interested in the sadistic humiliation of women. Technically it wasn't a violation of her rule that he couldn't have anything to do with women.


She opened the folder of documents dealing with Bjurman's role as Salander's guardian and read through each of his monthly reports. They corresponded precisely to the copies he had sent to one of her hotmail addresses.


Everything normal.


Maybe a small discrepancy...  When she opened the file properties in Word for the various monthly reports, she could see that he usually wrote them in the first few days of each month, that he spent about four hours editing each report, and sent them punctually to the Guardianship Agency on the twentieth of every month. It was now the middle of March and he had not yet begun work on the current month's report. Lazy? Out too late? Busy with something else? Up to some tricks? Salander frowned.


She shut down the computer and sat on her window seat and opened her cigarette case. She lit a cigarette and looked out at the darkness. She had been sloppy about keeping track of him. He's as slippery as an eel.


She was genuinely worried. First Kalle Fucking Blomkvist, then the name Zala, and now Nils Fucking Slimebag Bjurman together with an alpha male on steroids with contacts in some gang of ex-con bikers. Within a few days, several ripples of disquiet had materialized in the orderly life Salander was trying to create for herself.


At 2:30 the following morning Salander put a key in the front door of the building on Upplandsgatan near Odenplan, where Bjurman lived. She stopped outside his door, carefully lifted up the mail slot cover, and shoved in an extremely sensitive microphone she had bought at Counterspy in Mayfair in London. She had never heard of Ebbe Carlsson, but that was the shop where he had bought the famous eavesdropping equipment that caused Sweden's minister of justice to resign suddenly in the late 1980s. Salander inserted her earpiece and adjusted the volume.


She could hear the dull humming of the refrigerator and the sharp ticking of at least two clocks, one of which was the wall clock in the living room to the left of the front door. She turned up the volume and listened, holding her breath. She heard all sorts of creaks and rumbles from the apartment, but no evidence of human activity. It took her a minute to notice and decipher the faint sounds of heavy, regular breathing.


Bjurman was asleep.


She withdrew the microphone and stuffed it in the pocket of her leather jacket. She was wearing dark jeans and sneakers with crepe soles. She inserted the key in the lock without a sound and pushed the door open a crack. Before she opened it all the way she took the Taser out of her pocket. She had brought no other weapon. She did not think she would need anything more powerful for dealing with Bjurman.


She closed the door behind her and padded on soundless feet towards the corridor outside his bedroom. She stopped when she saw the light from a lamp, but from where she stood she could already hear his snoring. She slipped into his bedroom. The lamp stood in the window. What's wrong, Bjurman? A little scared of the dark?


She stood next to his bed and watched him for several minutes. He had aged and seemed unkempt. The room smelled of a man who was not taking good care of his hygiene.


She did not feel a grain of sympathy. For a second a hint of merciless hatred flashed in her eyes. She noticed a glass on the nightstand and leaned over to sniff it. Whiskey.


After a while she left the bedroom. She took a short tour through the kitchen, found nothing unusual, continued through the living room, and stopped at the door of Bjurman's office. From her jacket pocket she took a handful of small bits of crispbread, which she placed carefully on the parquet floor in the dark. If anyone tried to follow her through the living room, the crunching noise would alert her.


She sat down at Bjurman's desk and placed the Taser in front of her. Methodically she searched the drawers and went through correspondence dealing with Bjurman's private accounts. She noticed that he had become sloppier and more sporadic with balancing his accounts.


The bottom drawer of the desk was locked. Salander frowned. When she had visited a year before, all the drawers had been unlocked. Her eyes remained unfocused as she visualized the drawer's contents. It had contained a camera, a telephoto lens, a small Olympus pocket tape recorder, a leather-bound photograph album, and a little box with a necklace and a gold ring inscribed TILDA AND JACOB BJURMAN APRIL 23, 1951. Salander knew that these were the names of his parents and that both of them were dead. Presumably it was a wedding ring, now a keepsake.


So, he locks up stuff he thinks is valuable.


She inspected the rolltop cabinet behind the desk and took out the two binders containing his reports of her guardianship. For fifteen minutes she read each one. Salander was a pleasant and conscientious young woman. Four months earlier he had written that she seemed so rational and competent that there was good reason to discuss at the next annual review whether or not she required further guardianship. It was elegantly phrased and amounted to the first building block in the revocation of her declaration of incompetence.


The binder also contained handwritten notes that showed Bjurman had been contacted by one Ulrika von Liebenstaahl at the Guardianship Agency for a general discussion of Salander's condition. The words necessity for psychiatric assessment had been underlined.


Salander pouted, replaced the binders, and looked around.


She could not find anything of note. Bjurman seemed to be behaving in accordance with her instructions. She bit her lower lip. She still had a feeling that something was not right.


She got up from the chair and was about to turn off the desk lamp when she stopped. She took out the binders and looked through them again. She was perplexed. The binders should have contained more. A year ago there had been a summary of her development since childhood from the Guardianship Agency. That was missing. Why would Bjurman remove papers from an active case? She frowned. She could not think of any good reason. Unless he was filing additional documentation somewhere else. Her eyes swept across the shelves of the rolltop cabinet and the bottom desk drawer.


She did not have a picklock with her, so she padded back to Bjurman's bedroom and fished his key ring out of his suit jacket, which was hanging over a wooden valet stand. The same objects were in the drawer as a year ago. But the collection had been supplemented with a flat box whose printed illustration showed a Colt.45 Magnum.


She thought through the research that she had done about Bjurman two years ago. He liked to shoot and was a member of a shooting club. According to the public weapons registry he had a licence for a Colt.45 Magnum.


Reluctantly she came to the conclusion that it was no surprise he kept the drawer locked.

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