"So you found the strap-on in my drawer. What did you fantasize about then?"



Miriam Wu gave a curious smirk. Faste looked like he was going to explode.


"Shut up and answer the question."


"You asked me if I ever fuck Lisbeth Salander with it. And my answer is that it's none of your fucking business."


Modig raised her hand: "The interview with Miriam Wu was interrupted for a break at 11:12 a.m."


She turned off the tape recorder.


"Would you stay here, please, Miriam? Faste, I'd like a word with you."


Miriam Wu smiled sweetly when Faste gave her a filthy look and slouched after Modig into the corridor. Modig spun around and looked Faste in the eye, her nose nearly touching his.


"Bublanski assigned me to take over the interview. Your help's not worth shit."


"Oh, come off it. That surly cunt is squirming like a snake."


"Could there be some sort of Freudian symbolism in your choice of similes?"


"What?"


"Forget it. Go and find Curt and challenge him to a game of tic-tac-toe, or go and shoot your pistol in the club room, or do whatever the hell you want. Just stay away from this interview."


"Why the hell are you acting this way, Modig?"


"Because you're sabotaging my interview."


"Are you so hot for her that you want to have her all to yourself?"


Before Modig could stop herself her hand shot out and slapped Faste across the face. She regretted it instantly, but it was too late. She glanced up and down the hall and saw that there were no witnesses, thank God.


At first Faste looked surprised. Then he sneered at her, tossed his jacket over his shoulder, and walked away. Modig almost called after him to apologize but decided against it. She waited a whole minute while she calmed down. Then she collected two cups of coffee from the vending machine and went back to Miriam Wu.


They sat in silence, drinking the coffee. At last Modig looked up.


"I'm sorry. This is probably one of the worst interviews ever conducted in police headquarters."


"He seems like a great guy to work with. Let me guess: he's heterosexual, divorced, and in charge of cracking gay jokes during coffee breaks."


"He's...  a relic of something. That's all I can say."


"And you aren't?"


"At least I'm not homophobic."


"I'll buy that."


"Miriam, I...  we, all of us, have been working around the clock for ten days now. We're tired and pissed off. We're trying to get to the bottom of a horrible double murder in Enskede and an equally horrible murder near Odenplan. Your friend Lisbeth Salander has been linked to the sites of both crimes. We have forensic evidence. A nationwide alert has been put out for her. Please understand that, whatever the cost, we have to apprehend her before she does harm to someone else or maybe to herself."


"I know Lisbeth Salander. I can't believe she murdered anyone."


"You can't believe it or you don't want to? Miriam, we don't put out a nationwide alert for someone without a damn good reason. But I can tell you this much: my boss, Criminal Inspector Bublanski, isn't convinced that she's guilty. We're discussing the possibility that she had an accomplice, or that she was somehow drawn into all this against her will. But we have to find her. You believe she's innocent, Miriam, but what happens if you're wrong? You say yourself that you don't know that much about her."


"I don't know what to believe."


"Then help us figure out the truth."


"Am I being arrested for anything?"


"No."


"Can I leave here when I want?"


"Technically, yes."


"And untechnically?"


"You'll remain a question mark in our eyes."


Miriam Wu weighed Modig's words. "Fire away. If your questions piss me off I won't answer."


Modig turned on the tape recorder again.


CHAPTER 20


Friday, April 1 - Sunday, April 3


Miriam Wu spent one more hour with Modig. Towards the end of the interview, Bublanski came into the room and sat down and listened without saying a word. Miriam Wu acknowledged him politely, but she carried on talking only to Modig.


Finally Modig looked at Bublanski and asked whether he had any more questions. Bublanski shook his head.


"I declare the interview with Miriam Wu concluded. The time is 1:09 p.m." She turned off the tape recorder.


"I understand there was a little problem with Criminal Inspector Faste," Bublanski said.


"He had difficulty concentrating," said Modig neutrally.


"He's an idiot," said Miriam Wu.


"Criminal Inspector Faste actually does have many good points, but he may not be the best choice to interview a young woman," said Bublanski, looking Miriam Wu in the eye. "I shouldn't have entrusted him with the task. I apologize."


Miriam Wu looked surprised. "Apology accepted. I was quite unfriendly to you at first too."


Bublanski waved it off.


"May I ask you a few more things? With the tape recorder off?"


"Go ahead."


"The more I hear about Lisbeth Salander, the more puzzled I become. The picture I get from the people who know her is inconsistent with the documentation from the social welfare and psychiatric agencies."


"So?"


"Please give me some straight answers."


"All right"


"The psychiatric evaluation that was done when Salander was eighteen concludes that she is mentally retarded."


"Nonsense. Lisbeth is probably smarter than anyone I know."


"She never graduated from school and doesn't even have a certificate that says she can read and write."


"Lisbeth reads and writes a whole lot better than I do. Sometimes she sits and scribbles mathematical formulas. Pure algebra. I have no clue about that sort of math."


"Mathematics?"


"It's a hobby she's taken up."


"A hobby?" asked Bublanski after a moment.


"Some sort of equations. I don't even know what the symbols mean."


Bublanski sighed.


"Social services wrote a report after she was brought in one time from Tantolunden when she was seventeen. It indicated that she was supporting herself as a prostitute."


"Lisbeth a whore? Bullshit. I don't know what sort of work she does, but I'm not the least bit surprised that she had a job at that security company."


"How does she make a living?"


"I don't know."


"Is she a lesbian?"


"No. Lisbeth has sex with me, but that isn't the same thing as being a dyke. I don't think she knows herself what sort of sexual identity she has. I'd guess she's bisexual."


"What about the fact that you two use handcuffs and that sort of thing? Is Salander sadistically inclined, or how would you describe her?"


"You misunderstood all those sex toys. We may use handcuffs sometimes for role-playing, but it has nothing to do with sadism or violence. It's a game."


"Has she ever been violent towards you?"


"No. I'm usually the dominant one in our games."


Miriam Wu smiled sweetly.


The afternoon meeting at 3:00 resulted in the first serious disagreement of the investigation. Bublanski gave an update and then explained that he felt they should be widening their scope.


"From day one we've been focusing all our energies on finding Lisbeth Salander. She is definitely a top suspect - this is based on evidence - but our picture of her is meeting resistance from everyone who knows her. Armansky, Blomkvist, and Miriam Wu don't hold with the picture of her as a psychotic killer. Therefore I want us to expand our thinking a bit, to consider alternative killers and the possibility that Salander herself may have had an accomplice or merely have been present when the shots were fired."


Bublanski's comments triggered a vigorous debate, in which he encountered strong opposition from Faste as well as Bohman from Milton Security. Bohman reminded the team that the simplest explanation was most often the right one.


"It's possible, of course, that Salander didn't act alone, but we have no forensic trace of any accomplice."


"We could always follow up on Blomkvist's leads within the police," Faste said acidly.


In the discussion, Bublanski was backed up only by Modig. Andersson and Holmberg were content with making isolated comments. Hedstrom from Milton was as quiet as a mouse during the whole discussion. Finally Prosecutor Ekstrom raised a hand.


"Bublanski - as I understand it, you don't want to eliminate Salander from the investigation."


"No, of course not. We have her fingerprints. But so far we have no motive. I want us to start thinking along different lines. Could several people have been involved? Could it still be related to that book about the sex trade that Svensson was writing? Blomkvist is certainly right that several people named in the book have a motive for murder."


"How do you want to proceed?" Ekstrom said.


"I want two people to start looking at alternative killers. Sonja and Niklas can work together."


"Me?" said Hedstrom in astonishment.


Bublanski had chosen him because he was the youngest person in the room and the one who was most likely to think outside the box.


"You'll work with Modig. Go through everything we know so far and try to find anything we might have missed. Faste, you, Andersson, and Bohman keep on the hunt for Salander. That's our number one priority."


"What should I do?" asked Holmberg.


"Focus on Advokat Bjurman. Do a fresh examination of his apartment in case we missed anything. Questions?"


Nobody had any.


"OK. We'll keep it quiet that Miriam Wu has turned up. She might have more to tell us, and I don't want the media jumping all over her."


Ekstrom agreed that they should proceed according to Bublanski's plan.


"Right," Hedstrom said, looking at Modig. "You're the detective, you tell me what we're going to do."


They were in the corridor outside the conference room.


"I think we should have another talk with Mikael Blomkvist," she said. "But first I have to discuss one or two things with Bublanski. I have tomorrow and Sunday off. That means we won't get started until Monday morning. Spend the weekend going through the case material."


They said goodbye to each other. Modig walked into Bublanski's office as Ekstrom was leaving.


"Do you have a minute?" she said.


"Sit down."


"I got so angry with Faste that I lost my temper."


"He mentioned that you really laid into him."


"He said that I obviously wanted to be alone with Wu because I was turned on by her."


"That qualifies as sexual harassment. Would you like to file a complaint?"


"I slapped his face. That was enough."


"You were extremely provoked."


"I was."


"Faste has problems with strong women."


"I've noticed that."


"You're a strong woman and a very good cop."


"Thanks."


"But I'd appreciate it if you didn't beat up the staff."


"It won't happen again. I didn't even get a chance to go through Svensson's desk at Millennium today."


"Go home and take it easy over the weekend. We'll get started with the new approach on Monday."


Hedstrom stopped off at Central Station and had a coffee at George Cafe. He felt depressed. All week he had been waiting for the news that Salander had been caught. If she had resisted arrest, with a little luck some right-minded cop might have shot her.


And that was an appealing fantasy.


But Salander was still at liberty. Not only that, but Bublanski was floating the idea that she might not be the murderer. Not a positive development.


Being subordinate to Bohman was bad enough - the man was one of the most boring and least imaginative people at Milton - but now he had been put under Inspector Modig, and she was the most sceptical of the Salander lead. She was probably the one who had put doubts in Bublanski's mind. He wondered whether the famous Officer Bubble had something going on with that bitch. It wouldn't surprise him. He seemed thoroughly pussy-whipped by her. Of all the officers in the investigation, only Faste had enough balls to say what he thought.


Hedstrom was thinking hard. That morning he and Bohman had had a brief meeting at Milton with Armansky and Fraklund. A week of investigating had turned up nothing, and Armansky was frustrated that nobody had found any explanation for the murders. Fraklund had suggested that Milton Security should rethink its involvement - there were other more pressing tasks for Bohman and Hedstrom than to work as unpaid labour for the police.


Armansky decided that Bohman and Hedstrom should stay on for one more week. If by then there was no result, the assignment would be called off.


In other words, Hedstrom had only a week before the door to his involvement in the investigation would slam shut. He wasn't sure what he was going to do.


After a while he took out his mobile and called Tony Scala, a freelance journalist who made a living writing drivel for men's magazines. Hedstrom had met him a few times. He told Scala that he had one or two bits of information about the investigation into the murders in Enskede. He explained how he had ended up right in the middle of the hottest police investigation in years. Scala took the bait at once: it might turn into a scoop for a major magazine. They agreed to meet for a coffee an hour later at the Aveny on Kungsgatan.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com