"What is it that links things together?" she asked.


He gave her a searching look. "Were you eavesdropping?"


"No, but your door was open and I heard you say that just as I knocked."


Faste shrugged. "I called Bubble to tell him that the NFL have finally come up with something useful."


"What's that?"


"Svensson had a mobile with a Comviq cash card. They've produced a list of calls which confirms the conversation with Mikael Blomkvist at 7:30 p.m. That's when Blomkvist was at dinner at his sister's house."


"Good. But I don't think Blomkvist has anything to do with the murders."


"Me neither. But Svensson made another call that night. At 9:34. The call lasted three minutes."


"And?"


"He called Nils Bjurman's home phone. In other words, there's a link between the two murders."


Modig sank down into Faste's visitor's chair.


"Sure. Have a seat, be my guest."


She ignored him.


"OK. What does the time frame look like? At 7:30 Svensson calls Blomkvist and sets up a meeting for later that evening. At 9:30 Svensson calls Bjurman. Just before closing time at 10:00 Salander buys cigarettes at the corner shop in Enskede. Soon after 11:00 Blomkvist and his sister arrive in Enskede and at 11:11 he calls the police."


"That seems to be correct, Miss Marple."


"But it isn't correct at all. According to the pathologist, Bjurman was shot between 10:00 and 11:00 that night. By which time Salander was in Enskede. We've been working on the assumption that Salander shot Bjurman first and then the couple in Enskede."


"That doesn't mean a thing. I talked with the pathologist again. We didn't find Bjurman until the night after, almost twenty-four hours later. The pathologist says that the time of death could be plus or minus an hour."


"But Bjurman must have been the first victim, since we found the murder weapon in Enskede. That would mean that she shot Bjurman sometime after 9:34 and then drove to Enskede, where she bought her cigarettes. Was there enough time to get from Odenplan to Enskede?"


"Yes, there was. She didn't take public transportation as we assumed earlier. She had a car. Sonny Bohman and I test-drove the route and we had plenty of time."


"But then she waits for an hour before she shoots Svensson and Johansson? What was she doing all that time?"


"She had coffee with them. We have her prints on the cup."


He gave her a triumphant look. Modig sighed and sat silently for a minute.


"Hans, you're looking at this like it's some sort of prestige thing. You can be a fucking shithead and you drive people crazy sometimes, but I actually knocked on your door to ask you to forgive me for slapping you. I was out of line."


He looked at her for a long moment. "Modig, you might think I'm a shithead. But I think you're unprofessional and don't have any business being a police officer. At least not at this level."


Modig weighed various replies, but in the end she just shrugged and stood up.


"Well, now we know where we stand."


"We know where we stand. And believe me, you're not going to last long here."


Modig closed the door behind her harder than she meant to. Don't let that fucking asshole get to you. She went down to the garage.


Faste smiled contentedly at the closed door.


Blomkvist had just gotten home when his mobile rang.


"Hi. It's Malin. Can you talk?"


"Sure."


"Something struck me yesterday."


"Tell me."


"I was going through all the clippings we have here on the hunt for Salander, and I found that spread on her time at the psychiatric clinic. What I'm wondering is why there's such a big gap in her biography."


"What gap?"


"There's plenty of stuff about the trouble she was mixed up in at school. Trouble with teachers and classmates and so on."


"I remember that. There was even a teacher who said she was afraid of Lisbeth when she was eleven."


"Birgitta Miåås."


"That's the one."


"And there are details about Lisbeth at the psychiatric clinic. Plus a lot of stuff about her with foster families during her teens and about the assault in Gamla Stan."


"So what are you thinking?"


"She was taken into the clinic just before her thirteenth birthday."


"Yes?"


"And there isn't a word about why she was committed. Obviously if a twelve-year-old is committed, something has to have happened. And in Lisbeth's case it was most likely some huge outburst that should have shown up in her biography. But there's nothing there."


Blomkvist frowned. "Malin, I have it from a source I trust that there's a police report on Lisbeth dated March 1991, when she was twelve. It's not in the file. I was at the point of asking you to dig around for it."


"If there's a report then it would have to be a part of her file. It would be breaking the law not to have it there. Have you really checked?"


"No, but my source says that it's not in the file."


Eriksson paused for a second. "And how reliable is your source?"


"Very."


Eriksson and Blomkvist had arrived at the same conclusion simultaneously.


"Sapo," Eriksson said.


"Bjorck," Blomkvist said.


CHAPTER 24


Monday, April 4 - Tuesday, April 5


Per-Åke Sandstrom, a freelance journalist in his late forties, came home just after midnight. He was a little drunk and felt a lump of panic lurking in his stomach. He had spent the day doing nothing. He was, quite simply, terrified.


It was almost two weeks since Svensson had been killed. Sandstrom had watched the TV news that night in shock. He had felt a wave of relief and hope - Svensson was dead, so maybe the book about trafficking, in which Sandstrom would be exposed, was history.


He hated Svensson. He had begged and pleaded, he had crawled for that fucking pig.


It was not until the day after that that he began to consider his situation. The police would find Svensson's text and start digging into his little escapade. Jesus...  he could even be a murder suspect.


His panic had subsided when Salander's face was slapped on every front page in the country. Who the hell was this Salander? He had never heard her name before. But the police clearly considered her a serious suspect, and according to the prosecutor's statement, the murders might soon be solved. It was possible that no-one would show any interest in him at all. But from his own experience he knew that journalists always saved documentation and notes. Millennium. A piece-of-shit magazine with an undeserved reputation. They were like all the rest. Poking around and whining and damaging people.


He had no way of knowing how long the research had been going on. There was nobody he could ask. He felt as if he was in a vacuum.


He vacillated between panic and intoxication. Apparently the police were not looking for him. Maybe - if he was lucky - he would get away scot-free. But if he was not lucky, his working life would be over.


He stuck the key in his front door and turned the lock. When he opened the door he suddenly heard a rustling sound behind him and before he could turn he felt a paralyzing pain in the small of his back.


Bjorck had not yet gone to bed when the telephone rang. He was in his pajamas and dressing gown, but he was still sitting in the kitchen in the dark, gnawing on his dilemma. In his whole long career he had never found himself even close to being in such a fix.


He had not intended to pick up the phone. It was after midnight. But it kept ringing. After the tenth ring he could resist no longer.


"It's Mikael Blomkvist," said a voice on the other end.


Shit.


"I was in bed."


"I thought you might be interested in hearing what I have to say."


"What do you want?"


"Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. I'm giving a press conference on the murders of Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson."


Bjorck swallowed hard.


"I'm going to give an account of the details in the book about the sex trade that Svensson had all but finished. The only john I'll be naming is you."


"You promised to give me some time... " He heard the fear in his voice and stopped.


"It's been several days. You said you'd call me after the weekend. Tomorrow is Tuesday. Either you tell me now or I'm holding that press conference in the morning."


"If you hold that press conference you'll never find out a damn thing about Zala."


"That's possible. But then it won't be my problem any more either. You'll have to do your talking to the police investigation instead. And to the rest of the media, of course."


There was no room for negotiation.


Bjorck agreed to meet Blomkvist, but he succeeded in putting the meeting off until Wednesday. A short reprieve. But he was ready.


It was sink or swim.


***


He woke up on the floor of his living room. He did not know how long he had been unconscious. His body hurt all over and he couldn't move. It took him a while to realize that his hands were tied behind his back with electrical tape and his feet were bound. He had a piece of tape over his mouth. The lamps in the room were lit and the blinds were closed. He couldn't understand what had happened.


He was aware of sounds that seemed to be coming from his office. He lay still and listened and heard a drawer being opened and closed. A robbery? He heard the sound of paper and someone rummaging through the drawers.


It seemed like an eternity before he heard footsteps behind him. He tried turning his head, but he couldn't see anyone. He told himself to stay calm.


Suddenly a loop of thick cotton rope was slipped over his head. A noose was tightened around his neck. The panic almost made him shit himself. He looked up and saw the rope run up to a block that was fastened to a hook where the ceiling lamp usually hung. Then the person who had assaulted him came into view. The first thing he saw was a pair of black boots.


The shock could not have been greater when he raised his eyes. He did not at first recognize the psychopath whose passport photograph had been plastered outside every Pressbyrå kiosk since Easter. She had short black hair and did not look that much like the picture in the papers. She was dressed all in black-jeans, midlength cotton jacket, T-shirt, gloves.


But what terrified him the most was her face. It was painted. She wore black lipstick, eyeliner, and dramatically prominent greenish-black eye shadow. The rest of her face was covered in white makeup. She had painted a red stripe from the left side of her forehead across her nose and down to the right side of her chin.


It was a grotesque mask. She looked out of her fucking mind.


His brain resisted. It seemed unreal.


Salander grasped the end of the rope and pulled. He felt the rope cut into his neck and for a few seconds he couldn't breathe. Then he fought to get his feet under himself. With a block and tackle she hardly had to exert herself to pull him to his feet. When he was upright she stopped pulling and looped the rope a few times around a radiator pipe. She tied it with a clove hitch.


Then she vanished from his field of vision. She was gone for more than fifteen minutes. When she came back she pulled up a chair and sat in front of him. He tried to avoid looking at her painted face, but he could not help it. She laid a pistol on the living-room table. His pistol. She had found it in the shoebox in the wardrobe. A Colt 1911 Government. An illegal weapon he had had for several years. He had bought it from a friend but never even fired it. Right before his eyes she took out the magazine and filled it with rounds. She shoved it back in and cocked the weapon. Sandstrom was about to faint. He forced himself to meet her gaze.


"I don't understand why men always have to document their perversions," she said.


She had a soft but ice-cold voice. She held up a photograph. She must have printed it from his hard drive, for God's sake.


"I assume that this is Ines Hammujarvi, Estonian, seventeen years old, from Riepalu near Narva. Did you have fun with her?"


The question was rhetorical. Sandstrom had no way of answering. His mouth was taped shut and his brain was incapable of formulating a response. The photograph showed...  Good God, why did I save those pictures?


"You know who I am? Nod."


Sandstrom nodded.


"You're a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist."


He made no move.


"Nod."


He nodded. Suddenly he had tears in his eyes.


"Let's get the rules of engagement 100 percent clear," Salander said. "As far as I'm concerned, you should be put to death at once. Whether you survive the night or not makes no difference to me at all. Understand?"


He nodded.


"It has probably not escaped your attention that I'm a madwoman who likes killing people. Especially men."


She pointed at the recent newspapers that he had collected on the living-room table.


"I'm going to remove the tape from your mouth. If you scream or raise your voice I will zap you with this." She held up a Taser. "This horrific device puts out 50,000 volts. About 40,000 volts next time, since I've used it once and haven't recharged it. Understand?"


He looked doubtful.


"That means that your muscles will stop functioning. That was what you experienced at the door when you came staggering home." She smiled at him. "And it means that your legs will not hold you up and you'll end up hanging yourself. After I've zapped you, all I have to do is get up and leave the apartment."


He nodded. Good God, she's a fucking crazy killer. He could not help it: the tears flowed uncontrollably down his cheeks. He sniffled.

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