Blomkvist hurried over. At the same time he pulled out his mobile and dialled 112 for emergency services. They answered right away.



"My name is Mikael Blomkvist. I need an ambulance and police."


He gave the address.


"What is this regarding?"


"A man. He seems to have been shot in the head and is unconscious."


Blomkvist bent down and tried to find a pulse on Svensson's neck. Then he saw the enormous crater in the back of his head and realized that he must be standing in Svensson's brain matter. Slowly he withdrew his hand.


No ambulance crew in the world would be able to save Dag Svensson now.


Then he noticed shards from one of the coffee cups that Johansson had inherited from her grandmother and that she was so afraid would get broken. He straightened up quickly and looked all around.


"Mia," he yelled.


The neighbour in the brown dressing gown had come into the hall behind him. Blomkvist turned at the living-room door and held his hand up.


"Stop there," he said. "Back out to the stairs."


The neighbour at first looked as if he wanted to protest, but he obeyed the order. Blomkvist stood still for fifteen seconds. Then he stepped around the pool of blood and proceeded warily past Svensson's body to the bedroom door.


Johansson lay on her back on the floor at the foot of the bed. NonononotMiatooforGodssake. She had been shot in the face. The bullet had entered below her jaw by her left ear. The exit wound in her temple was as big as an orange and her right eye socket gaped empty. The flow of blood was if possible even greater than that from her partner. The force of the bullet had been such that the wall above the head of the bed, several yards away, was covered with blood splatter.


Blomkvist became aware that he was clutching his mobile in a death grip with the line to the emergency centre still open and that he had been holding his breath. He took air into his lungs and raised the telephone.


"We need the police. Two people have been shot. I think they're dead. Please hurry."


He heard the voice from emergency services say something but did not catch the words. He felt as if there was something wrong with his hearing. It was utterly silent around him. He did not hear the sound of his own voice when he tried to say something. He backed out of the apartment. When he got out to the landing he realized that his whole body was shaking and that his heart was pounding painfully. Without a word he squeezed through the petrified crowd of neighbours and sat down on the stairs. From far away he could hear the neighbours asking him questions. What happened? Are they hurt? Did something happen? The sound of their voices echoed as if coming through a tunnel.


Blomkvist felt numb. He knew that he was in shock. He leaned his head down between his knees. Then he began to think. Good God - they've been murdered. They were shot just a few minutes ago. The killer could still be in the apartment...  no, I would have seen him. He couldn't stop shaking. The sight of Johansson's shattered face could not be erased from his retina.


Suddenly his hearing came back, as if someone had turned up a volume control. He got up quickly and looked at the neighbour in the dressing gown.


"You," he said. "Stay here and make sure nobody goes inside the apartment. The police and an ambulance are on their way. I'll go down and let them in."


Blomkvist took the stairs three at a time. On the ground floor he glanced at the cellar stairs and stopped short. He took a step towards the cellar. Halfway down the stairs lay a revolver in plain sight. Blomkvist thought it looked like a Colt.45 Magnum - the kind of weapon used to murder Olof Palme[1].


He suppressed the impulse to pick up the weapon. Instead he went and opened the front door and stood in the night air. It was not until he heard the brief honk of a car horn that he remembered his sister was waiting for him. He walked across the street.


Annika opened her mouth to say something sarcastic about her brother's tardiness. Then she saw the expression on his face.


"Did you see anyone while you were waiting?" Blomkvist asked. His voice sounded hoarse and unnatural.


"No. Who would that be? What happened?"


Blomkvist was silent for a few seconds while he looked left and right. Everything was quiet on the street. He reached into his jacket pocket and found a crumpled pack with one cigarette left. As he lit it he could hear sirens approaching in the distance. He looked at his watch. It was 11:17 p.m.


"Annika - this is going to be a long night," he said without looking at her as the police car turned up the street.


***


The first to arrive were officers Magnusson and Ohlsson. They had been on Nynasvagen responding to what turned out to be a false alarm. Magnusson and Ohlsson were followed by a staff car with the field superintendent, Oswald Mårtensson, who had been at Skanstull when the central switchboard had sent out a call for all cars in the area. They arrived at almost the same time from different directions and saw a man in jeans and a dark jacket standing in the middle of the street raising his hand for them to stop. At the same time a woman got out of a car parked a few yards away.


All three policemen froze. The central switchboard had reported that two people had been shot, and the man was holding something in his left hand. It took a couple of seconds to be sure that it was a mobile telephone. They got out of their cars at the same time and adjusted their belts. Mårtensson assumed command.


"Are you the one who called about a shooting?"


The man nodded. He seemed badly shaken. He was smoking a cigarette and his hand was trembling when he put it in his mouth.


"What's your name?"


"Mikael Blomkvist. Two people were just shot in this building a very short time ago. Their names are Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson. Three floors up. Their neighbours are standing outside the door."


"Good Lord," the woman said.


"And who are you?" Mårtensson asked Annika.


"Annika Giannini. I'm his sister," she said, pointing at Blomkvist.


"Do you live here?"


"No," Blomkvist said. "I was going to visit the couple who were shot. My sister gave me a ride from a dinner party."


"You say that two people were shot. Did you see what happened?"


"No. I found them."


"Let's go up and have a look," Mårtensson said.


"Wait," Blomkvist said. "According to the neighbours the shots were fired only a minute or so before I arrived. I dialled 112 within a minute of getting here. Since then less than five minutes have passed. That means the person who killed them must still be in the area."


"Do you have a description?"


"We haven't seen anyone, but it's possible that some of the neighbours saw something."


Mårtensson motioned to Magnusson, who raised his radio and talked into it in a low voice. He turned to Blomkvist.


"Can you show us the way?" he said.


When they got inside the front door Blomkvist stopped and pointed to the cellar stairs. Mårtensson bent down and looked at the weapon. He went all the way down the stairs and tried the cellar door. It was locked.


"Ohlsson, stay here and keep an eye on this," Mårtensson said.


Outside the apartment the crowd of neighbours had thinned out. Two had gone back to their own apartments, but the man in the dressing gown was still at his post. He seemed relieved when he saw the uniformed officers.


"I didn't let anyone in," he said.


"That's good," Blomkvist and Mårtensson said together.


"There seem to be bloody tracks on the stairs," Officer Magnusson said.


Everyone looked at the footprints. Blomkvist looked at his Italian loafers.


"Those are probably from my shoes," he said. "I was inside the apartment. There's quite a bit of blood."


Mårtensson gave Blomkvist a searching look. He used a pen to push open the apartment door and found more bloody footprints in the hall.


"To the right. Dag Svensson's in the living room and Mia Johansson's in the bedroom."


Mårtensson did a quick inspection of the apartment and came out after only a few seconds. He radioed to ask for backup from the criminal duty officer. As he finished talking, the ambulance crew arrived. Mårtens son stopped them as they were going in.


"Two victims. As far as I can see, they're beyond help. Can one of you look in without messing up the crime scene?"


It did not take long to confirm. A paramedic decided that the bodies would not be taken to hospital for resuscitation. They were beyond help. Blomkvist suddenly felt sick to his stomach and turned to Mårtensson.


"I'm going outside. I need some air."


"Unfortunately I can't let you go just yet."


"I'll just sit on the porch outside the door."


"May I see your ID, please?"


Blomkvist took out his wallet and put it in Mårtensson's hand. Then he turned without a word and went outside, where Annika was still waiting with Officer Ohlsson. She sat down next to him.


"Micke, what happened?"


"Two people I liked a lot have been murdered. Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson. It was his manuscript I wanted you to read."


Annika realized that this was no time to ply him with questions. Instead she put her arm around her brother's shoulders and hugged him. More police cars arrived. A handful of curious nighttime onlookers had stopped on the pavement across the street. Blomkvist watched them while the police started to set up a cordon. A murder investigation was beginning.


It was past 3:00 a.m. by the time Blomkvist and his sister were allowed to leave the police station. They had spent an hour in Annika's car outside the apartment building in Enskede, waiting for a duty prosecutor to arrive to initiate the pre-investigative stage. Then, since Blomkvist was a good friend of the two victims and since he was the one who had found them, they were asked to follow along to Kungsholmen to assist the investigation.


There they'd had to wait a long time before they were interviewed by an Inspector Nyberg at the station. She had light blond hair and looked like a teenager.


I'm getting old, Blomkvist thought.


By 2:30 he had drunk so many cups of police canteen coffee that he was sober and feeling unwell. He had to interrupt the interview and run to the toilet, where he was violently sick. He still had the image of Johansson's face swimming in his head. He drank three cups of water and rinsed his face over and over before returning to the interview. He tried to pull himself together to answer all of Inspector Nyberg's questions.


"Did Dag Svensson or Mia Johansson have enemies?"


"No, not that I know of."


"Had they received any threats?"


"Not that I know of."


"How would you describe their relationship?"


"They gave every appearance of loving each other. Dag told me that they were thinking of having a baby after Mia got her doctorate."


"Did they use drugs?"


"I don't know for sure, but I don't think so, and if they did it would be nothing more than a joint at a party when they had something to celebrate."


"Why were you visiting them so late at night?"


Blomkvist explained that they were doing last-minute work on a book, without identifying the subject.


"Wasn't it unusual to call on people so late at night?"


"That was the first time it had ever happened."


"How did you know them?"


"Through work."


The questions were relentless as they tried to establish the time frame.


The shots had been heard all over the building. They had been fired less than five seconds apart. The seventy-year-old man in the dressing gown, a retired major from the coastal artillery, as it turned out, was their nearest neighbour. He was watching TV. After the second shot, he went out to the stairwell. He had a hip problem and so getting up from the sofa was a slow process. He estimated that it had taken him thirty seconds to reach the landing. Neither he nor any other neighbour had seen anybody on the stairs.


According to the neighbours, Blomkvist had arrived at the apartment less than two minutes after the second shot was fired.


Calculating that he and Annika had had a view of the street for half a minute while she found the right building, parked, and exchanged a few words before he crossed the street and went up the stairs, Blomkvist figured there was a window of thirty to forty seconds. During which time the killer had left the apartment, gone down three flights of stairs - dropping the weapon on the way - left the building, and disappeared before Annika turned into the street. They had just missed him.


For a dizzying moment Blomkvist realized that Inspector Nyberg was toying with the possibility that he himself could have been the killer, that he had only run down one flight and pretended to arrive on the scene after the neighbours had gathered. But he had an alibi in the form of his sister. His whole evening, including the telephone conversation with Svensson, could be vouched for by a dozen members of the Giannini family.


Eventually Annika put her foot down. Blomkvist had given all reasonable and conceivable help. He was visibly tired and he was not feeling well. She told the inspector that she was not only Blomkvist's sister but also his lawyer. It was time to bring all this to a close and let him go home.


When they got out to the street they stood for a time next to Annika's car. "Go home and get some sleep," she said.


Blomkvist shook his head.


"I have to go to Erika's," he said. "She knew them too. I can't just call and tell her, and I don't want her to wake up and hear it on the news."


Annika hesitated, but she knew that her brother was right.


"So, off to Saltsjobaden," she said.

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