"But he does own the gun that was used in Enskede."


"That's correct. He has a licence for it and he's a member of the police shooting club," Bublanski said. "I talked to Gunnarsson in weapons - he's the chairman of the club and knows Bjurman well. He joined in 1978 and was treasurer from 1984 to 1992. Gunnarsson describes Bjurman as an excellent shot with a pistol, calm and collected, and no funny stuff."


"A gun freak?"


"Gunnarsson thinks Bjurman was more interested in club life than in the shooting itself. He liked to compete, but he didn't stand out, at least not as a gun fanatic. In 1983 he participated in the Swedish championships and came in thirteenth. For the past ten years he's cut back on shooting practice and just shows up for annual meetings and such."


"Does he own any other weapons?"


"He has had licences for four handguns since he joined the shooting club. In addition to the Colt, he's had a Beretta, a Smith&Wesson, and a competition pistol made by Rapid. The other three were sold within the club ten years ago, and the licences were transferred to other members."


"And we have no idea where he is."


"That's correct. But we've only been looking for him since 10:00 this morning. He may be out walking in Djurgården or in hospital or whatever."


At that moment Faste burst in. He seemed out of breath.


"Sorry I'm late. May I jump right in?"


Ekstrom motioned "be my guest."


"Lisbeth Salander is a very interesting character. I've spent the morning at the social welfare agency and the Guardianship Agency." He took off his leather jacket and hung it over the back of his chair before he sat down and opened a notebook.


"The Guardianship Agency?" Ekstrom said with a frown.


"This is one very disturbed lady," Faste said. "She was declared incompetent and put under guardianship. Guess who's her guardian." He paused for effect. "Nils Bjurman, the owner of the weapon that was used in Enskede."


This announcement certainly had the effect Faste had anticipated. It took him fifteen more minutes to brief the group on all he had learned about Salander.


"To sum up," Ekstrom said when Faste was finished, "we have fingerprints on the probable murder weapon from a woman who during her teens was in and out of psychiatric units, who is understood to make her living as a prostitute, who was declared incompetent by the district court, and who has been documented as having violent tendencies. We should be asking what the hell she's doing out on the streets at all."


"She's had violent tendencies since she was in elementary school," said Faste. "She seems to be a real psycho."


"But so far we have nothing to link her to the couple in Enskede." Ekstrom drummed his fingertips on the tabletop. "This double murder may not be so hard to solve after all. Have we got an address for Salander?"


"On Lundagatan in Sodermalm. Tax records show that she declared periodic income from Milton Security."


"And what in God's name was she doing for them?"


"I don't know. It's a pretty modest annual income for several years. Maybe she's a cleaning woman or something."


"Hmm," Ekstrom said. "We'll have that checked out. Right now we have to find her."


"We'll have to work out the details gradually," Bublanski said. "But now we have a suspect. Hans, you and Curt go down to Lundagatan and pick up Salander. Be careful - we don't know if she has other weapons, and we don't really know how dangerous she may be."


"OK."


"Bubble," Ekstrom said, "the head of Milton Security is Dragan Armansky. I met him on a case a few years ago. He's reliable. Go to his office and have a private talk with him about Salander. You'd better get there before he leaves for the day."


Bublanski was visibly annoyed, partly because Ekstrom had used his nickname, partly because he had formulated his request as an order.


"Modig," Bublanski said, "keep looking for Bjurman. Knock on all the neighbours' doors. I think it's just as important to find him."


"OK."


"We have to find the connection between Salander and the couple in Enskede. And we have to place Salander down in Enskede at the time of the murders. Jerker, get some pictures of her and check with everyone who lives in the apartment building. Knock on doors this evening. Get some uniforms to help you out."


Bublanski paused and scratched the back of his neck.


"Damn, with a little luck we could tie up this mess tonight - and I thought this was going to be a long, drawn - out affair."


"One more thing," Ekstrom said. "The media are obviously pressuring us. I've promised them a press conference at 3:00 p.m. I can handle it provided I get somebody from the press office to help out. I'm guessing that a number of journalists will call you directly as well. We'll say nothing at all about Salander and Bjurman for as long as need be."


Armansky had considered going home early. It was Maundy Thursday and he and his wife had planned to go to their summer cabin on Blido over the Easter weekend. He had just closed his briefcase and put on his coat when the receptionist buzzed him and said that Criminal Inspector Jan Bublanski was looking for him. Armansky did not know Bublanski, but the fact that a senior police officer had come to the office was enough to make him hang his coat back on the coatrack. He did not feel like seeing anyone at all, but Milton Security could not afford to ignore the police. He met Bublanski by the elevator in the corridor.


"Thanks for taking the time to see me," Bublanski said. "My boss sends his greetings - Prosecutor Ekstrom."


They shook hands.


"Ekstrom - I've had dealings with him a few times. It's been several years. Would you like some coffee?"


Armansky stopped at the coffee machine and pressed the buttons for two cups before he invited Bublanski into his office and offered him the comfortable chair by the window.


"Armansky...  Russian?" Bublanski said. "My name ends in-ski too."


"My family comes from Armenia. And yours?"


"Poland."


"How can I help you?"


Bublanski took out his notebook.


"I'm investigating the killings in Enskede. I assume you heard the news today."


Armansky gave a brisk nod.


"Ekstrom said that you're discreet."


"In my position it pays to cooperate with the police. I can keep a secret, if that's what you're wondering."


"Good. We're looking for an individual who worked for your company at one time. Lisbeth Salander. Do you know her?"


Armansky felt a lump of cement form in his stomach. His expression did not change.


"And why are you looking for Froken Salander?"


"Let's say that we have reason to consider her a person of interest in the investigation."


The lump of cement in Armansky's stomach expanded. It almost caused him physical pain. Since the day he had first met Salander he had had a strong presentiment that her life was on a trajectory towards catastrophe. But he had always imagined her as a victim, not an offender. He still showed no emotion.


"So you suspect Lisbeth Salander of the killings in Enskede. Do I understand you correctly?"


Bublanski hesitated a moment, and then he nodded.


"What can you tell me about her?"


"What do you want to know?"


"First of all, how can we find her?"


"She lives on Lundagatan. I'll have to look up the exact address. I have a mobile telephone number for her."


"We have the address. The mobile number would be helpful."


Armansky went to his desk and read out the number, which Bublanski wrote down.


"She works for you?"


"She has her own business. I gave her freelance assignments now and then from 1998 until about a year and a half ago."


"What sort of jobs did she do?"


"Research."


Bublanski looked up from his notebook.


"Research?" he said.


"Personal investigations, to be more precise."


"Just a moment...  are we talking about the same girl? The Lisbeth Salander we're looking for didn't finish school and was officially declared incompetent to manage her affairs."


"They don't say 'incompetent' nowadays," Armansky said calmly.


"I don't give a damn what they say nowadays. The girl we're looking for has a record which says she is a deeply disturbed and violence-prone individual. It says in her social welfare agency file that she was a prostitute in the late nineties. There is nothing anywhere in her records to indicate that she could hold down a white-collar job."


"Files are one thing. People are something else."


"You mean that she is qualified to do personal investigations for Milton Security?"


"Not only that. She is by far the best researcher I've ever had."


Bublanski put down his pen and frowned.


"It sounds as though you have...  respect for her."


Armansky looked at his hands. The question marked a fork in the road. He had always feared that Salander would end up in hot water sooner or later, but he could not conceive of her being mixed up in a double murder in Enskede - as the killer or in any other way. But what did he know about her private life? Armansky thought of her recent visit to his office in which she had cryptically explained that she had enough money to get by and did not need a job.


The wisest thing to do at that moment would be to distance himself, and above all Milton Security, from all contact with Salander. But then Salander was probably the loneliest person he knew.


"I have respect for her skills. You won't find that in her school results or personal record."


"So you know about her background."


"The fact that she's under guardianship and that she had a pretty confused upbringing, yes."


"And yet you trusted her."


"That is precisely why I trusted her."


"Please explain."


"Her previous guardian, Holger Palmgren, was old J. F. Milton's lawyer. He took on her case when she was a teenager, and he persuaded me to give her a job. I employed her initially to sort the mail and look after the photocopier, things like that. But she turned out to have unbelievable talents. And you can forget any report that says she may have been a prostitute. That's nonsense. Lisbeth had a difficult period in her teens and was undoubtedly a bit wild - but that's not the same as breaking the law. Prostitution is probably the last thing in the world she would turn to."


"Her current guardian is a lawyer by the name of Nils Bjurman."


"I've never met him. Palmgren had a cerebral haemorrhage a couple of years ago. Lisbeth cut back on the work she did for me quite soon after that happened. The last job she did was in October a year and a half ago."


"Why did you stop employing her?"


"It wasn't my choice. She was the one who broke off contact and disappeared abroad. Without a word of explanation."


"Disappeared abroad?"


"She was gone for about a year."


"That can't be right. Bjurman sent in monthly reports on her for all of last year. We have copies up at Kungsholmen."


Armansky shrugged and smiled.


"When was the last time you saw her?"


"In early February. She popped up out of nowhere and paid me a social visit. She spent all of last year out of the country, travelling in Asia and the Caribbean."


"Forgive me, but I'm getting a little muddled here. I had the impression that this Lisbeth Salander was a mentally ill girl who hadn't even finished school and who was under guardianship. Now you tell me that you trusted her as an exceptional researcher, that she has her own business, and that she earned enough money to take a year off and travel around the world, all without her guardian sounding the alarm. Something doesn't add up here."


"There's quite a bit that doesn't add up regarding Froken Salander."


"May I ask...  what is your overall opinion of her?"


Armansky thought for a while. Finally he said: "She's one of the most irritating, inflexible people I've met in my whole life."


"Inflexible?"


"She won't do anything she doesn't want to do. She doesn't give a damn what other people think of her. She is tremendously skilled. And she is unlike anyone I've ever met."


"Is she unbalanced?"


"How do you define unbalanced?"


"Is she capable of murdering two people in cold blood?"


Armansky was quiet for a long time. "I'm sorry. I can't answer that question. I'm a cynic. I believe that everyone has it in them to kill another person. In desperation or hatred, or at least to defend themselves."


"You don't discount the possibility, at any rate."


"Lisbeth Salander will not do anything unless she has a good reason for it. If she murdered someone, then she must have felt that she had a very good reason to do so. On what grounds do you suspect her of being involved in these murders?"


Bublanski met Armansky's gaze.


"Can we keep this confidential?"


"Absolutely"


"The murder weapon belonged to her guardian. And her fingerprints were on it."


Armansky clenched his teeth. That was serious circumstantial evidence.


"I've only heard about the murders on the radio. What was it about? Drugs?"


"Is she mixed up with drugs?"


"Not that I know of. But, as I said, she went through a bad time in her teens, and she was arrested a few times for being drunk. Her record will tell you whether drugs were involved."

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