Scala was fat. Seriously fat.


"If you want information from me there are two preconditions," Hedstrom said.


"Shoot."


"First, no mention of Milton Security in the article. Our role is as consultants only."


"Although it is newsworthy given that Salander worked at Milton."


"Cleaning and stuff like that," Hedstrom said, brushing him off. "That's no news."


"If you say so."


"Second, you have to slant the article so it sounds as though a woman leaked the information."


"How come?"


"To divert suspicion from me."


"All right. So what have you got?"


"Salander's lesbian girlfriend just showed up."


"OK, excellent! The chick she signed over the Lundagatan apartment to? The one who disappeared?"


"Miriam Wu. Is that worth anything to you?"


"You'd better believe it. Where was she?"


"Out of the country. She claims she hadn't even heard about the murders."


"Is she a suspect at all?"


"No. Not yet anyway. She was interviewed today and released three hours ago."


"I see. Do you believe her story?"


"I think she's lying through her teeth. She knows something."


"Great stuff, Niklas."


"But check her out. We're talking about a girl who goes in for S&M with Salander."


"You know this for a fact?"


"She admitted to it during the interview. We found handcuffs, leather outfits, whips, and the whole shebang when we searched the place."


The stuff about the whips was an exaggeration. All right, it was a total lie, but surely that Chinese cunt played with whips too.


"Are you kidding?" Scala said.


Paolo Roberto was one of the last to leave the library. He had spent the afternoon reading every line that had been written about the hunt for Salander.


He came out on Sveavagen feeling depressed and confused. And hungry. He went into McDonald's, ordered a burger, and sat down at a corner table.


Lisbeth Salander a triple murderer. He could hardly believe it. Not that skinny little fucking freaky chick. But should he do something about it? And if so, what?


Miriam Wu took a cab back to Lundagatan and slowly took in the devastation of her newly decorated apartment. Cupboards, wardrobes, storage boxes, and desk drawers had been emptied out. There was fingerprint powder on every surface. Her highly private sex toys were heaped on the bed. But as far as she could tell, nothing had been taken.


She put on the coffeemaker and shook her head. Lisbeth, Lisbeth, what the fuck have you got yourself mixed up in?


She took out her mobile and called Salander's number, but got the message that the subscriber could not be reached. She sat for a long time at her kitchen table and tried to work out what was real and what wasn't. The Salander she knew was no psychotic killer, but on the other hand she didn't know her very well. Salander was hot in bed, sure, but she could be a very cold fish if her mood changed.


She promised herself not to make up her mind before she saw Salander and got her own explanation. She felt like crying and spent two hours cleaning up.


By 7:00 p.m. the apartment was more or less habitable again. She took a shower and was in the kitchen dressed in a black-and-gold Oriental silk robe when the doorbell rang. At the door was an unshaven, exceptionally fat man.


"Hi, Miriam, my name is Tony Scala. I'm a journalist. Can I ask you a few questions?"


Standing next to him was a photographer who took a flash picture right in her face.


Miriam Wu contemplated a dropkick and an elbow to his nose, but she had the presence of mind to realize that it would only give them more photo ops.


"Have you been out of the country with Lisbeth Salander? Do you know where she is?"


Miriam Wu shut the door in their faces and locked it with the newly installed dead bolt. Scala pushed open the mail slot.


"Miriam, sooner or later you'll have to talk to the press. I can help you."


She balled up her fist and smashed it down on Scala's fingers. She heard a wail of pain. Then she closed the inner door and lay on the bed, closing her eyes. Lisbeth, I'm going to wring your neck when I find you.


After his trip to Smådalaro, Blomkvist spent the afternoon visiting another of the men that Svensson had planned to name. So far that week he had crossed off six of the thirty-seven names. The latest one was a retired judge living in Tumba; he had presided over several cases involving prostitution.


Refreshingly, the wretched man did not attempt denials, threats, or pleas for mercy. On the contrary, he cheerfully conceded that he had screwed whores from the East. No, he did not feel a grain of remorse. Prostitution was an honourable profession and he considered he was doing the girls a favour by being their customer.


Blomkvist was driving through Liljeholmen around 10:00 p.m. when Eriksson called him.


"Hi," she said. "Did you read the online edition of the Morgon-Posten?"


"No, what've they got?"


"Salander's girlfriend came home today."


"What? Who?"


"That dyke Miriam Wu who lives in her apartment on Lundagatan."


Wu, Blomkvist thought. SALANDER-WU on the nameplate.


"Thanks. I'm on my way."


Wu had unplugged the phone in her apartment and turned off her mobile. By 7:30 that evening news of her homecoming had appeared on the website of one of the morning papers. Soon after that Aftonbladet called, and three minutes later Expressen. Aktuellt ran the story without naming her, but by 9:00 no fewer than sixteen reporters from various media had tried to get a comment out of her.


Twice the doorbell had rung. She had not opened the door, and she turned off all the lights in the apartment. She felt like breaking the nose of the next reporter who hassled her. In the end she turned on her mobile and called a girlfriend who lived within walking distance down by Hornstull and asked if she could spend the night there.


She slipped out the entrance door on Lundagatan less than five minutes before Blomkvist rang her doorbell.


***


Bublanski called Modig just after 10:00 on Saturday morning. She had slept until 9:00 and then played with the children before her husband took them out for a Saturday treat.


"Have you read the papers today?"


"No, not yet. I've only been up an hour, and busy with the kids. Did something happen?"


"Somebody on our team is leaking stuff to the press."


"We've known that all along. Someone leaked Salander's psychiatric report several days ago."


"That was Ekstrom."


"It was?" Modig said.


"Of course, though he'll never admit it. He's trying to generate interest because it's to his advantage. But not this. A freelancer called Tony Scala talked to someone who told him all kinds of stuff about Miriam Wu. Among other things, details from what was said in the interview yesterday. That was something we wanted to keep quiet, and Ekstrom has gone through the roof."


"Damn it."


"The reporter didn't name anyone. The source was described as a person with a 'central position in the investigation.'"


"Shit," Modig said.


"The article describes the source as a 'she.'"


Modig said nothing for ten seconds. She was the only woman on the investigative team.


"Bublanski...  I haven't said one word to a single journalist. I haven't discussed the investigation with anyone outside our corridor. Not even with my husband."


"I don't for a second believe that you would leak information. But unfortunately Prosecutor Ekstrom does. And Faste, who's on weekend duty, is brimming with insinuations."


Modig felt quite weary. "So what happens now?"


"Ekstrom is insisting that you be taken off the investigation while the charge is checked out."


"What charge? This is absurd. How am I supposed to prove -"


"You don't have to prove a thing. The person making the accusation has to come up with the proof."


"I know, but...  damn it all. How long is this going to take?"


"It's already over."


"What?"


"I've just asked you. You said that you hadn't leaked any information. So the investigation is done and I write a report. I'll see you at 9:00 on Monday in Ekstrom's office, and I'll handle the questions."


"Thank you, Bublanski."


"My pleasure."


"There is one problem."


"I know."


"Since I didn't leak anything, somebody else on the team must have."


"Any suggestions?"


"My first guess would be Faste, but I don't really think he could be the one."


"I'm inclined to agree with you. He can be a total prick, but he was genuinely outraged at the leak."


Bublanski liked his walks, depending on the weather and how much time he had. It was exercise he enjoyed. He lived on Katarina Bangata in Sodermalm, not so far from Millennium's offices, or from Milton Security for that matter, where Salander had worked, and Lundagatan, where she had lived. It was also within walking distance of the synagogue on St.Paulsgatan. On Saturday afternoon he walked to all of these places.


His wife Agnes accompanied him for the first part of the walk. They had been married for twenty-three years, and in all that time he had never strayed.


They stopped at the synagogue for a while and talked to the rabbi. Bublanski was a Polish Jew, while Agnes' family - the few who had survived Auschwitz - were originally from Hungary.


After visiting the synagogue they parted - Agnes to go shopping, Bublanski to keep walking. He needed to be alone, to think about the investigation. He went back over the measures he had taken since the job had landed on his desk on the morning of Maundy Thursday, and he could identify only a couple of mistakes.


One was that he hadn't immediately sent someone to go through Svensson's desk at Millennium. When eventually he remembered to do it - and he had done it himself - Blomkvist had already cleaned out God knows what.


Another mistake was missing the fact that Salander had bought a car. But Holmberg had reported that the car contained nothing of interest.


Apart from these two errors, the investigation had been as thorough as could have been expected.


He stopped at a kiosk near Zinkensdamm and stared at a newspaper headline. The passport photograph of Salander had been cropped to a small but easily recognizable size and the focus had shifted to a more sensational line of news:


POLICE TRACKING


LESBIAN SATANIST CULT


He bought a copy and found the spread, which was dominated by a photograph of five girls in their late teens dressed in black leather jackets with rivets, torn black jeans, and tight T-shirts. One of the girls was holding up a flag with a pentagram and another was making a sign with her index and little fingers. The caption read: Lisbeth Salander hung out with a death-metal band that played in small clubs. In 1996 the group paid homage to the Church of Satan and had a hit with "Etiquette of Evil."


The name Evil Fingers was not mentioned, and the newspaper had blacked out their eyes, but friends of the rock group would certainly recognize the girls.


The story was mainly about Miriam Wu and was illustrated with a picture taken from a show at Bern's in which she had performed. She was topless and wearing a Russian army officer's cap. Her eyes were blacked out too.


SALANDER'S GIRLFRIEND WROTE ABOUT LESBIAN S&M SEX


The 31-year-old woman is well known in Stockholm's trendy nightspots. She makes no secret that she picks up women and likes to dominate her partner.


The reporter had even found a girl he called Sara who, according to her own testimony, had been the object of the woman's pickup attempts. Her boyfriend had been "disturbed" by the incident. The article went on to say that the band was an obscure and elitist feminist variant on the fringes of the gay movement, and that it had acquired a certain fame for hosting a "bondage workshop" at the Gay Pride Festival. The rest of the article was based on a deliberately provocative piece Wu had written six years earlier for a feminist fanzine. Bublanski scanned the text and then tossed the paper into a trash can.


He brooded over Faste and Modig, both competent detectives. But Faste was a problem; he got on people's nerves. He would have to have a talk with the man, but he didn't think he was the source of the leaks.


When Bublanski got his bearings again he was standing on Lundagatan staring at the front door of Salander's building. It had not been a conscious decision to walk there.


He walked up the steps to upper Lundagatan, where he stood for a long time thinking about Blomkvist's story of Salander's attack. That didn't lead anywhere either. There was no police report, no names of persons involved, and not even an adequate description of the attacker. Blomkvist had claimed that he could not read the licence plate of the van that drove away from the scene.


Assuming any of it had happened at all.


Another dead end.


Bublanski looked down Lundagatan at the burgundy Honda that was still parked in the street, and at that moment Blomkvist walked up to the front door.


Miriam Wu awoke late in the day, tangled in the sheets. She sat up and looked around at the unfamiliar room.


She had used the torrent of media attention as an excuse to call a girlfriend. But she had also left the apartment, she realized, because she was afraid that Salander might knock on her door. Her interview with the police and the newspaper coverage had affected her profoundly, and even though she had resolved not to make up her mind one way or the other until Salander had a chance to explain what had happened, she had started to suspect that her friend might actually be guilty.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com