Salander also placed software in the officers' desktop computers, making it possible for her to gather data from outside and, by simply stealing their identities, to make adjustments to the criminal register. However, she had to proceed with the utmost caution. The police security division had an automatic alarm if any local officer logged on to the network outside working hours or if the number of modifications increased too dramatically. If she fished for information from investigations in which the local police would not normally be involved, it would trigger the alarm.


Over the past year she had worked together with her hacker associate Plague to take control of the police IT network. This proved to be fraught with such difficulty that eventually they gave up the project, but in the process they had accumulated almost a hundred existing police identities that they could borrow at will.


Plague had a breakthrough when he succeeded in hacking into the home computer of the head of the police data security division. He was a civil service economist with no in-depth IT knowledge but with a wealth of information on his laptop. Salander and Plague thereafter had the opportunity, if not to hack into, at least to devastatingly disrupt the police intranet with viruses of various types - an activity in which neither of them had the slightest interest. They were hackers, not saboteurs. They wanted access to functioning networks, not to destroy them.


Salander now checked her list and saw that none of the individuals whose identity she had stolen was working on the investigation into the three murders - that would have been too much to hope for. But she was able to get in without much trouble and read details of the nationwide alert, including updated APBs on herself. She discovered that she had been sighted and pursued in Uppsala, Norrkoping, Goteborg, Malmo, Hassleholm, and Kalmar, and that a classified computer image giving a better idea of what she looked like had been circulated.


One of Salander's few advantages in all the media attention was that not many photographs of her existed. Apart from a four-year-old passport photograph, which was also used on her driver's licence, and a police mug shot taken when she was eighteen (which did not look anything like her today), there were only pictures from old school yearbooks and photographs taken by a teacher on a field trip to the Nacka nature reserve when she was twelve. The pictures from the field trip showed a blurry figure sitting a little apart from the others.


The passport photograph showed her with staring eyes, her mouth compressed to a thin line, and her head leaning a bit forward. It fitted the image of a retarded, asocial killer, and the media published millions of copies of it. But she now looked so different that very few people would recognize her from it.


She read with interest the profiles of the three murder victims. On Tuesday the media began to tread water, and with the lack of any new or dramatic revelations in the hunt for Salander, interest focused on the victims. Dag Svensson, Mia Johansson, and Nils Bjurman were portrayed in a long article in one of the evening papers.


Nils Bjurman came across as a respected and socially involved lawyer who belonged to Greenpeace and had a "commitment to young people." A column was devoted to his close friend and colleague Jan HÃ¥kansson, who had an office in the same building. HÃ¥kansson confirmed the image of Bjurman as a man who fought for the rights of the little people. A civil servant at the Guardianship Agency described him as genuinely committed to his ward.


Salander smiled her first lopsided smile of the day.


Johansson, the female victim in the drama, elicited great interest in the media. She was described as a sweet and enormously intelligent young woman with an already impressive record of achievement and a brilliant career ahead of her. Shocked friends, colleagues at the university, and a tutor had given comments, and the question they had all asked was "why?" Pictures showed flowers and lighted candles outside the door of the apartment building in Enskede.


By comparison, very little space was devoted to Svensson. He was described as a sharp, fearless reporter. But the main interest was in his partner.


Salander noted with mild surprise that it took till Easter Sunday before anyone seemed to realize that Svensson had been working on a big report for Millennium magazine. And even then, there was no mention in the articles about what specifically he was working on.


She never read the quote Blomkvist had sent to Aftonbladet. It was not until late Tuesday, when it was mentioned on the TV news, that she realized Blomkvist was purposely putting out misleading information. He claimed that Svensson had been involved in writing a report on computer security and illegal hacking.


Salander frowned. She knew that was false, and wondered what game Millennium was playing. Then she understood the message and smiled her second lopsided smile of the day. She connected to the server in Holland and double-clicked on the MikBlom/laptop icon. She found the folder and the document [To Sally] prominently displayed in the middle of the desktop. She double-clicked and read it.


Then she sat for a long time staring at Blomkvist's letter. She wrestled with contradictory feelings. Up until then it had been her against the rest of Sweden, which in its simplicity was quite an elegant and lucid equation. Now suddenly she had an ally, or at least a potential ally, who claimed to believe she was innocent. And of course it would be the only man in Sweden that she never wanted to see again under any circumstances. She sighed. Blomkvist was, as always, a naive do-gooder. Salander hadn't been innocent since the age of ten.


There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.


Bjurman was dead because he had chosen not to play according to the rules she had stipulated. He had had every chance, but still he had hired some fucking alpha male to do her harm. That was not her responsibility.


But Kalle Blomkvist's involvement should not be underrated. He could be useful.


He was good at riddles and he was unmatchably stubborn. She had found that out in Hedestad. When he sank his teeth into something he simply would not let go. He really was naive. But he could move in places where she couldn't. He might be useful until she could get safely out of the country. Which was what she assumed she would soon be forced to do.


Unfortunately, Blomkvist could not be controlled. He needed a reason of his own to act. And he needed a moral excuse as well.


In other words, he was quite predictable. She thought for a while and then created a new document called [To MikBlom] and wrote a single word.


Zala.


That would give him something to think about.


She was still sitting there thinking when she noticed that Blomkvist had booted up his computer. His reply came shortly after he read her message:


Lisbeth,


You damn troublesome person. Who the hell is Zala? Is he the link? Do you know who murdered Dag & Mia? If so, tell me so we can solve this mess and go to sleep. Mikael.


OK. Time to hook him.


She created another document and called it [Kalle Blomkvist]. She knew that would upset him. Then she wrote a brief message:


You're the journalist. Find out.


As expected, he replied at once with an appeal for her to listen to reason, and he tried to play on her feelings. She smiled and closed her connection to his hard drive.


***


Now that she had started snooping around, she moved on and opened Armansky's hard drive. She read the report about herself that he had written the day after Easter. It was not clear to whom the report was addressed, but she assumed that the only reasonable explanation was that Armansky was working with the police to help bring her in.


She spent a while going through Armansky's email, but found nothing of interest. Just as she was about to disconnect, she lit upon a message to the technical chief at Milton Security with instructions for the installation of a hidden surveillance camera in his office.


Bingo.


She looked at the date and saw that the message was sent about an hour after her social call in February.


That meant she would have to adjust certain routines in the automatic surveillance system before she paid another visit to Armansky's office.


CHAPTER 22


Tuesday, March 29 - Sunday, April 3


On Tuesday morning Salander accessed the police criminal register and looked up Alexander Zalachenko. He was not listed, which was not surprising, since as far as she knew he had never been convicted of a crime in Sweden and was not even in the national database.


When she had accessed the criminal register she used the identity of Superintendent Douglas Skiold of the Malmo police. She got a mild shock when her computer suddenly pinged and an icon in the menu toolbar started blinking to signal that someone was looking for her in the ICQ chat programme.


Her first impulse was to pull the plug and shut down. Then she thought about it. Skiold had not had the ICQ programme on his machine. Very few older people did.


Which meant that someone was looking for her. And there were not many alternatives to choose from. She clicked on ICQ and typed the words:


- What is it, Plague?


- You are hard to find, Wasp. Ever read your emails?


- How did you find me?


- By Skiold. I have the same list. I thought you chose the user with the widest access rights.


- What do you want?


- Who is that Zalachenko you were looking for?


- MYOB.


- ...?


- Mind Your Own Business.


- What's happening?


- Fuck off, Plague!


- I thought that it was me, as you say, had problems of social adaptation. But according to the newspapers compared to you I am normality personified.


- I


- Another finger for you. Need help?[4]


Salander hesitated. First Blomkvist and now Plague. Was there no end to all the people coming to her rescue? The problem with Plague was that he was a 350-pound recluse who communicated almost exclusively via the Internet and made Salander look like a miracle of social skills. When she didn't answer, Plague typed another line:


- Are you still there? Need help getting out of the country?


- No.


- Why did you shoot?


- Piss off.


- Do you think killing more people? And if so, should I worry? Surely I am the only person who can trace you.


- Mind your own business, do not have to worry about.


- I do not worry. Find me on hotmail if you need anything. Guns? Passport again?


- You're a sociopath.


- Look who's talking.[5]


Lisbeth disconnected from ICQ and sat down on the sofa to think. Ten minutes later she sent an email to Plague's hotmail address.


Prosecutor Richard Ekstrom, leader of the preliminary investigation, lives in Taby. He's married with two children and has a broadband connection to his house. I need access to his laptop or home computer. I need to read him in real time. Hostile takeover with mirrored hard drive.


She knew that Plague himself seldom left his apartment in Sundbyberg, so she hoped he had cultivated some pimply teenager to do the field work. There was no need to sign the message. She got an answer fifteen minutes later.


- How much are you paying?


- 10,000 to your account + expenses and 5,000 to your assistant.


- I'll be in touch.


On Thursday morning she had one email from Plague containing an FTP address. Salander was amazed. She had not expected a result for at least two weeks. Doing a hostile takeover, even with Plague's brilliant programme and his specially designed hardware, was a laborious process that required slipping bits of information into a computer one kilobyte at a time until a simple piece of software had been created. How rapidly it could be done depended on how often Ekstrom used his computer, and then it should normally take another few days to transfer all the data to a mirrored hard drive. Forty-eight hours was not merely exceptional, it was theoretically impossible. Salander was impressed. She pinged his ICQ:


- How did you manage it?


- Four family members have computers. You will not believe - they have no firewall! Zero safety. I had only to get hooked to the cable and load. My expenditure was 6000 kronor. Can you afford this much?


- Yes. Plus a bonus for urgency.[6]


She thought for a moment and then transferred 30,000 kronor to Plague's account via the Internet. She did not want to frighten him off with excessive amounts. Then she made herself comfortable on her Verksam IKEA chair and opened Ekstrom's laptop.


Within an hour she had read all the reports that Inspector Bublanski had sent to Ekstrom. Salander suspected that, technically, reports like these were not allowed to leave police headquarters. It proved once again the theory that no security system is a match for a stupid employee. Through Ekstrom's computer she gleaned several important pieces of information.


First, she discovered that Armansky had assigned two of his staff to join Bublanski's investigative team without remuneration, which in practice meant that Milton Security was sponsoring the police hunt for her. Their assignment was to assist in the arrest of Salander by all possible means. Thanks a lot, Armansky. I'll remember that. She frowned when she discovered which employees they were. Bohman she had taken for a straight arrow, and he had been perfectly decent in his behaviour towards her. Hedstrom was a corrupt nobody who had exploited his position at Milton Security to swindle one of the company's clients.


Salander had a selective morality. She had nothing at all against swindling the company's clients herself - provided they deserved it - but if she had accepted a job with a confidentiality agreement in it, she would never have broken it.


Salander soon discovered that the person who had leaked the information to the media was Ekstrom himself. This was evident from an email in which he answered follow-up questions about both Salander's psychiatric report and the connection between her and Miriam Wu.


The third significant piece of information was the insight that Bublanski's team did not have a single lead as to where they should look for Salander. She read with interest a report on what measures had been taken and which addresses had been put under sporadic surveillance. It was a short list. Lundagatan, obviously, but also Blomkvist's address, Miriam's old address at St.Eriksplan, and Kvarnen, where they had been seen together. Fuck, why did I have to involve Mimmi? What a mistake that was.

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