"And hired a hit man. Micke - that's the stuff of American movies. This book is about the exploiters, the users. It names police officers, politicians, journalists... So you think one of them murdered Dag and Mia?"
"I don't know, Ricky. But we're supposed to be going to press in three weeks with the toughest expose of trafficking that's ever been published in Sweden."
At that moment Eriksson knocked and put her head round the door. An Inspector Bublanski wanted to speak with Blomkvist.
Bublanski shook hands with Berger and Blomkvist and sat down in the third chair at the table by the window. He studied Blomkvist and saw a hollow-eyed man with a day's growth of beard.
"Have there been any developments?" Blomkvist said.
"Maybe. I understand you were the one who found the couple in Enskede and called the police last night."
Blomkvist nodded wearily.
"I know that you told your story to the detective on duty last night, but I wonder if you could clarify a few details for me."
"What would you like to know?"
"How did you come to be driving over to see Svensson and Johansson so late at night?"
"That's not a detail, it's a whole novel," Blomkvist said with a tired smile. "I was at a dinner party at my sister's house - she lives in a new development in Staket. Dag Svensson called me on my mobile and said that he wasn't going to have time to come to the office on Thursday - today, that is - as we had previously agreed. He was supposed to deliver some photographs to our art director. The reason he gave was that he and Mia had decided to drive up to her parents' house over the weekend, and they wanted to leave early in the morning. He asked if it would be OK if he messengered them to me last night instead. I said that since I lived so close, I could pick up the photographs on my way home from my sister's."
"So you drove to Enskede to pick up photographs."
"Can you think of any motive for the murders of Svensson and Johansson?"
Blomkvist and Berger glanced at each other. Neither said a word.
"What is it?" Bublanski wanted to know.
"We've discussed the matter today and we're having a bit of a disagreement. Well, actually not a disagreement - we're just not certain. We would rather not speculate."
Blomkvist described to him the subject of Svensson's book, and how he and Berger had been discussing whether it might have some connection to the murders. Bublanski sat quietly for a moment, digesting the information.
"So Dag Svensson was about to expose police officers."
He did not at all like the turn the conversation had taken, and imagined how a "police trail" might wander back and forth in the media and give rise to all kinds of conspiracy theories.
"No," Blomkvist said. "He was about to expose criminals, a few of whom happen to be police officers. There are also one or two members of my own profession, namely journalists."
"And you're thinking of publishing this information now?"
Blomkvist turned to look at Berger.
"No," she said. "We've spent the day working on the next issue. In all probability we'll publish Svensson's book, but that won't happen until we know exactly what's going on. In light of what has happened, the book will have to be extensively reworked. We will do nothing to sabotage the investigation into the murder of our two friends, if that's what you're worried about."
"I'll have to take a look at Svensson's desk, but since these are the editorial offices of a magazine it might be a sensitive thing to put in hand a complete search."
"You'll find all Dag's material in his laptop," Berger said.
"I've gone through his desk," Blomkvist said. "I've taken some documents that directly identify sources who want to remain anonymous. You are at liberty to examine everything else, and I've put a note on the desk to the effect that nothing may be touched or moved. The problem is that the contents of the book absolutely have to remain under wraps until it's printed. We badly need to avoid having the text passed around the police force, the more so since we're going to hang one or two policemen out to dry."
Shit, Bublanski thought. Why didn't I come straight here this morning? But he only nodded and changed tack.
"OK. We have a person we want to question in connection with the murders. I believe it's someone you know. I'd like to hear what you have to say about a woman named Lisbeth Salander."
For a second Blomkvist looked like a virtual question mark. Bublanski noted that Berger gave her colleague a sharp look.
"Now I don't understand."
"You know Lisbeth Salander?"
"Yes, I do know her."
"How do you know her?"
"Why do you ask?"
Bublanski was obviously irritated, but all he said was, "I'd like to interview her in connection with the murders. How do you know her?"
"But... that doesn't make sense. Lisbeth Salander has no connection whatsoever to Dag Svensson or Mia Johansson."
"That's something we'll establish in due course," Bublanski said patiently. "But my question remains. How do you know Lisbeth Salander?"
Blomkvist stroked the stubble on his chin and then rubbed his eyes as thoughts tumbled around in his head. At last he met Bublanski's gaze.
"I hired her about two years ago to do some research for me on a completely different project."
"What was that project?"
"I'm sorry, but now you'll have to take my word for it: it didn't have the slightest thing to do with Dag Svensson or Mia Johansson. And it's all over."
Bublanski did not like it when someone claimed there were matters that could not be discussed even in a murder investigation, but he chose to drop it for the time being.
"When was the last time you saw Salander?"
Blomkvist paused before he spoke.
"Here's how it is. During the autumn two years ago I was seeing her. The relationship ended around Christmas of that year. Then she disappeared from the city. I hadn't seen her for more than a year until a week ago."
Berger raised her eyebrows. Bublanski surmised that this was news to her.
"Tell me where you saw her."
Blomkvist took a deep breath and then gave a brisk account of the events on Lundagatan. Bublanski listened with gathering astonishment, unsure how much of the story Blomkvist was making up.
"So you didn't talk to her?"
"No, she disappeared on upper Lundagatan. I waited a long time, but she never came back. I wrote her a note and asked her to get in touch with me."
"And you're quite sure you know of no connection between her and the couple in Enskede."
"I am certain of it."
"Can you describe the man you say you saw attack her?"
"Not in detail. He attacked, and she defended herself and fled. I saw him from a distance of forty to forty-five yards. It was late at night and quite dark."
"Were you intoxicated?"
"I was a little under the influence, but I wasn't falling-down drunk. The man had lightish hair in a ponytail. He wore a dark waist-length jacket. He had a prominent belly. When I went up the stairs on Lundagatan I only saw him from behind, but he turned around when he clobbered me. I seem to remember that he had a thin face and blue eyes set close together."
"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" Berger said.
Blomkvist shrugged. "There was a weekend in between, and you went to Goteborg to take part in that damned debate programme. You were gone Monday, and on Tuesday we only saw each other briefly. It didn't seem so important."
"But considering what has happened in Enskede... it's odd that you didn't mention this to the police," Bublanski said.
"Why would I mention it to the police? That's like saying I should have mentioned that I caught a pickpocket trying to rob me in the tunnelbana at T-Centralen a month ago. There is absolutely no imaginable connection between what happened on Lundagatan and what happened in Enskede."
"But you didn't report the attack to the police?"
"No." Blomkvist paused. "Lisbeth Salander is a very private person. I considered going to the police but decided it was up to her to do that if she wanted to. And I wanted to speak to her first."
"Which you haven't done?"
"I haven't spoken to her since the day after Christmas a year ago."
"Why did your - if relationship is the right word - why did it end?"
Blomkvist's eyes darkened.
"I don't know. She broke off contact with me - it happened practically overnight."
"Did something happen between you?"
"No, not if you mean an argument or anything like that. One day we were good friends. The next day she didn't answer her telephone. Then she melted into thin air and was gone from my life."
Bublanski contemplated Blomkvist's explanation. It sounded honest and was supported by the fact that Armansky had described her disappearance from Milton Security in similar terms. Something had apparently happened to Salander during the winter a year earlier. He turned to Berger.
"Do you know Salander too?"
"I met her once. Could you tell us why you're asking questions about her in connection with Enskede?" she said.
Bublanski shook his head. "She has been linked to the crime scene. That's all I can say. But I have to admit that the more I hear about Lisbeth Salander the more surprised I am. What is she like as a person?"
"In what respect?" Blomkvist said.
"How would you describe her?"
"Professionally - one of the best fact finders I have ever come across."
Berger glanced at Blomkvist and bit her lower lip. Bublanski was convinced that some piece of the puzzle was missing and that they knew something they were unwilling to tell him.
Blomkvist paused for a long moment before he spoke.
"She is a very lonely and odd person," Blomkvist said. "Socially introverted. Doesn't like talking about herself. At the same time she's a person with a strong will. She has morals."
"Yes. Her own particular moral standards. You can't talk her into doing anything against her will. In her world, things are either right or wrong, so to speak."
Again Blomkvist had described her in the same terms as Armansky had. Two men who knew her, and the same evaluation.
"Do you know Dragan Armansky?"
"We've met a few times. I took him out for a beer once last year when I was trying to find out where Lisbeth had got to."
"And you say that she was a competent researcher?"
"The best," Blomkvist said.
Bublanski drummed his fingers on the table and looked down at the flow of people on Gotgatan. He felt strangely torn. The psychiatric reports that Faste had retrieved from the Guardianship Agency claimed that Salander was a deeply disturbed and possibly violent person who was for all intents and purposes mentally handicapped. What Armansky and Blomkvist had told him painted a very different picture from the one established by medical experts over several years of study. Both men conceded that Salander was an odd person, but both held her in high regard professionally.
Blomkvist had also said that he had been "seeing her" for a period - which indicated a sexual relationship. Bublanski wondered what rules applied for individuals who had been declared incompetent. Could Blomkvist have implicated himself in some form of abuse by exploiting a person in a position of dependency?
"And how did you perceive her social handicap?" he asked.
"The guardianship and her psychiatric problems."
"What psychiatric problems?" Berger said.
Bublanski looked in astonishment from Blomkvist to Berger and back. They didn't know. They really did not know. Bublanski was suddenly angry at both Armansky and Blomkvist, and especially at Berger with her elegant clothes and her fashionable office looking down on Gotgatan. Here she sits, telling people what to think. But he directed his annoyance at Blomkvist.
"I don't understand what's wrong with you and Armansky," he said.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Lisbeth Salander has been in and out of psychiatric units since she was a teenager. A psychiatric assessment and a judgment in the district court determined that she was and still is unable to look after her own affairs. She was declared incompetent. She has a documented violent tendency and has been in trouble with the authorities all her life. And now she is a prime suspect in a murder investigation. And you and Armansky talk about her as though she were some sort of princess."
Blomkvist sat motionless, staring at Bublanski.
"I'll put it another way," Bublanski said. "We were looking for a connection between Salander and the couple in Enskede. It turns out that you not only discovered the victims, you are also the connection. Do you have anything to say to this?"
Blomkvist leaned back, closed his eyes, and tried to make heads or tails of the situation. Salander suspected of murdering Svensson and Johansson? That can't be right. It doesn't make sense. Was she capable of murder? Blomkvist suddenly saw in his mind's eye her expression from two years ago when she had gone after Martin Vanger with a golf club. There was no shadow of doubt that she could have killed him. But she didn't, because she had to save my life. He unconsciously reached for his neck, where Vanger's noose had been. But Svensson and Johansson ... it doesn't make any logical sense whatsoever.