What would you do if it was me?
He replied with [Cryptic 3].
Lisbeth, if it's true that you've really gone over the edge, then maybe you can ask Peter Teleborian to help you. But I don't believe you murdered Dag and Mia. I hope and pray that I'm right.
Dag and Mia were going to publish their exposes of the sex trade. My theory is that could have been the reason for the murders. But I have nothing to go on.
I don't know what went wrong between us, but you and I discussed friendship once. I said that friendship is built on two things - respect and trust. Even if you don't like me, you can still depend on me and trust me. I've never shared your secrets with anyone. Not even what happened to Wennerstrom's billions. Trust me. I'm not your enemy. M.
Blomkvist had almost given up hope when, nearly fifty minutes later, the file [Cryptic 4] materialized.
I'll think about it.
Blomkvist sighed with relief. He felt a little ray of hope. The reply meant exactly what it said. She was going to think about it. It was the first time since, without a word of explanation, she had vanished from his life that she had held out the prospect of communicating with him at all. He wrote [Cryptic 5].
OK, I'll wait. But please don't take too long.
Inspector Faste got the call when he was on Långholmsgatan near Vasterbron on his way to work on Friday morning. The police did not have the resources to put the apartment on Lundagatan under twenty-four-hour surveillance, so they had arranged for a neighbour, a retired policeman, to keep an eye on it.
"The Chinese girl just came in," the neighbour said.
Faste could hardly have been in a more convenient place. He made an illegal turn past the bus shelter on to Heleneborgsgatan just before Vasterbron and drove down Hogalidsgatan to Lundagatan. He was there less than two minutes after he got the call and jogged across the street and through to the back building.
Miriam Wu was still standing at the door of her apartment staring at the drilled-out lock and the police tape across the door when she heard footsteps on the stairs behind her. She turned and saw a powerfully built man looking intently at her. She felt he was hostile and dropped her bag on the floor and prepared to resort to Thai boxing if necessary. "Are you Miriam Wu?" he said. To her surprise he held up a police ID. "Yes," she said. "What's going on here?"
"Where have you been staying the past week?"
"I've been away. What happened? Was there a break-in?"
"I'm going to have to ask you to come with me to Kungsholmen," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Bublanski and Mo dig watched as Miriam Wu was escorted by Faste into the interview room. She was plainly angry.
"Please have a seat. My name is Criminal Inspector Jan Bublanski, and this is my colleague Inspector Sonja Modig. I'm sorry we've had to bring you in like this, but we have a number of questions we need answered."
"OK. But why? That guy isn't very talkative." She jerked a thumb at Faste.
"We've been looking for you for some time. Can you tell us where you've been?"
"Yes, I can. But I don't feel like it, and as far as I'm concerned it's none of your business."
Bublanski raised his eyebrows.
"I come home to find my door broken open and police tape across it, and a guy pumped up on steroids drags me down here. Can I get an explanation?"
"Don't you like men?" Faste said.
Miriam Wu turned and stared at him, astonished. Bublanski gave him a furious look.
"You haven't read any newspapers in the past week? Have you been out of the country?"
"No, I haven't read any papers. I've been in Paris visiting my parents. For two weeks. I just came from Central Station."
"You took the train?"
"I don't like flying."
"And you didn't see any news headlines or Swedish papers today?"
"I got off the night train and took the tunnelbana home."
Bublanski thought for a moment. There hadn't been anything about Salander in the headlines this morning. He stood up and left the room. When he returned he was carrying Aftonbladet's Easter edition with Salander's photograph on the front page. Miriam Wu almost flipped.
Blomkvist followed the directions that Bjorck had given him to the cabin in Smådalaro. As he parked he saw that the "cabin" was a modern one-family home which looked to be habitable all year round. It had a view of the sea towards the Jungfrufjarden inlet. He walked up the gravel path and rang the bell. Bjorck was clearly recognizable from the passport photograph that Svensson had in his file.
"Good morning," Blomkvist said.
"Good, you found the place."
"Thanks to your directions."
"Come in. We can sit in the kitchen."
Bjorck appeared to be in good health, but he had a slight limp.
"I'm on sick leave," he said.
"Nothing serious, I hope."
"I'm waiting to have surgery on a slipped disk. Would you like coffee?"
"No thanks," Blomkvist said and sat at the kitchen table and opened his briefcase. He took out a folder. Bjorck sat down facing him.
"You look familiar. Have we met before?"
"I think not," Blomkvist said.
"I'm sure I've seen you somewhere."
"Maybe in the newspapers."
"What did you say your name was?"
"Mikael Blomkvist. I'm a journalist, I work at Millennium magazine."
Bjorck looked confused. Then the penny dropped. Kalle Blomkvist. The Wennerstrom affair. But still he did not understand the implications.
"Millennium? I didn't know you did market research."
"Once in a while. I'd like to begin by asking you to look at three photographs and tell me which one you like best."
Blomkvist put images of three girls on the table. One had been downloaded from a porn site on the Internet. The other two were blown-up passport photographs.
Bjorck turned pale as a corpse.
"I don't get it."
"No? This is Lidia Komarova, sixteen years old, from Minsk. Next to her is Myang So Chin, goes by the name of Jo-Jo, from Thailand. She's twenty-five. And lastly we have Yelena Barasova, nineteen, from Tallinn. You bought sex from all three of these women, and my question is: which one did you like best? Think of it as market research."
"To sum up, you claim that you have known Lisbeth Salander for about three years. Without expecting to be remunerated she signed over her apartment to you this spring and moved somewhere else. You have sex with her once in a while when she gets in touch, but you don't know where she lives, what kind of work she does, or how she supports herself. Do you expect me to believe that?"
Miriam Wu glowered at him. "I don't give a shit what you believe. I haven't done anything illegal, and how I choose to live my life and who I have sex with is none of your business or anyone else's."
Bublanski sighed. That morning, when he had received news of Miriam Wu's reappearance, he had felt a great sense of relief. Finally a breakthrough. But the information he was getting from her was anything but enlightening. It was most peculiar, in fact. And the problem was that he believed her. She gave clear, intelligible answers, without hesitation. She cited places and dates when she had met Salander, and she gave such a precise account of how it came about that she had moved to Lundagatan that Bublanski and Modig both strongly felt that such a bizarre story had to be true.
Faste had listened to the interview with mounting exasperation, but he managed to keep his mouth shut. He thought that Bublanski was too lenient by far with the Chinese girl, who was an arrogant bitch and used a lot of words to avoid answering the only question that mattered. Namely, where in burning hell was that fucking whore Salander hiding?
But Wu did not know where Salander was. She did not know what kind of work Salander did. She had never heard of Milton Security. She had never heard of Dag Svensson or Mia Johansson, and consequently she could not provide a single scrap of information of any interest. She had had no idea that Salander was under guardianship, or that in her teens she had been committed, or that she had copious psychiatric assessments on her CV.
On the other hand, she was willing to confirm that she and Salander had gone to Kvarnen and kissed and then gone home to Lundagatan and parted early the next morning. Days later Miriam Wu had taken the train to Paris and missed all the headlines in the Swedish papers. Apart from a quick visit to return her car keys, she had not seen Salander since that evening at Kvarnen.
"Car keys?" Bublanski asked. "Salander doesn't own a car."
Miriam Wu told him that she had a burgundy Honda which was parked outside the apartment building. Bublanski got up and looked at Modig.
"Can you take over the interview?" he said and left the room.
He had to find Holmberg and have him do a forensic examination of a burgundy Honda parked on Lundagatan. And he needed to be alone to think.
Gunnar Bjorck, assistant chief of the immigration division of the Security Police, now on sick leave, sat ashen and ghostlike in the kitchen with its lovely view of Jungfrufjarden. Blomkvist watched him with a patient, neutral gaze. By now he was sure that Bjorck had had nothing to do with the murders. Since Svensson had never managed to confront him, Bjorck had no idea that he was about to be exposed, his name and photograph published in Millennium and in a book.
Bjorck did offer one valuable piece of information. He knew Nils Bjurman. They had met at the police shooting club, where Bjorck had been an active member for twenty-eight years. For a time he had even sat on the board along with Bjurman. They weren't close friends, but they had spent time together and occasionally had dinner.
No, he had not seen Bjurman in several months. The last time he ran into him was the previous summer, when they had been drinking in the same bar. He was sorry that Bjurman had been murdered - and by that psychopath - but he didn't plan to go to the funeral.
Blomkvist worried about the coincidence but gradually ran out of questions. Bjurman must have known hundreds of people in his professional and social life. The fact that he happened to know someone who turned up in Svensson's material was neither improbable nor statistically unusual. Blomkvist was himself casually acquainted with a journalist who also appeared in the book.
It was time to wind things up. Bjorck had gone through all the expected stages. First denial, then - when shown part of the documentation - anger, threats, attempted bribery, and, finally, pleading. Blomkvist had ignored all his outbursts.
"You'll ruin my life if you publish this stuff," said Bjorck.
"And you're going to do it."
"Why? Can't you give me a break? I'm not well."
"Interesting that you bring up human kindness as an argument."
"It doesn't cost a thing to be compassionate."
"You're right about that. While you moan about me destroying your life, you've enjoyed destroying the lives of young girls against whom you've committed crimes. We can prove three of them. God knows how many others there are. Where was your compassion then?"
He picked up his papers and stuffed them into his briefcase.
"I'll find my own way out."
As he reached the door, he turned back to Bjorck.
"Have you ever heard of a man named Zala?" he said.
Bjorck stared at him. He was still so agitated that he scarcely heard Blomkvist's question. Then his eyes widened.
It's not possible.
Could it be possible?
Blomkvist noticed the change and came back to the table.
"Why do you ask about Zala?" Bjorck said. He looked to be almost in shock.
"He interests me," Blomkvist said.
Blomkvist could almost see the wheels turning in Bjorck's head. After a while Bjorck grabbed a pack of cigarettes from the windowsill and lit one.
"If I do know something about Zala... what's it worth to you?"
"It depends on what you know."
Feelings and thoughts tumbled through Bjorck's head.
How the hell could Blomkvist know anything about Zalachenko?
"It's a name I haven't heard in a long time," Bjorck finally said.
"So you know who he is?"
"I didn't say that. What are you after?"
"He's one of the names on the list of people Svensson was investigating."
"What's it worth to you?" he said again.
"What's what worth?"
"If I can lead you to Zala... Would you leave me out of your report?"
Blomkvist sat down slowly. After Hedestad he had decided never again to bargain over a story. He did not intend to bargain with Bjorck either; no matter what happened he was going to hang him out to dry. But he realized he was unscrupulous enough to do a deal with Bjorck, then double-cross him. He felt no guilt. Bjorck was a policeman who had committed crimes. If he knew the name of a possible murderer, then it was his job to intervene - not to use the information to save his own skin. Blomkvist put his hand in his jacket pocket and switched on the tape recorder he had turned off when he got up from the table. "Let's hear it," he said.
Modig was infuriated by Faste, but she did not allow her expression to reveal what she thought of him. The interview with Miriam Wu, which had continued after Bublanski left the room, was anything but by the book.
Modig was also surprised. She had never liked Faste and his macho style, but she had considered him a skilful police officer. That skill was glaringly absent today. It was obvious that Faste felt threatened by a beautiful, intelligent, and outspoken lesbian. It was equally obvious that Wu was aware of Faste's irritation and ruthlessly played to it.