She got up and pulled off the tape. Her grotesque face was only an inch from his.
"Don't say a word," she said. "If you talk without permission, I'll zap you."
She waited until he stopped snuffling and met her eyes.
"You have one chance to survive the night," she said. "One chance - not two. I'm going to ask you a number of questions. If you answer them, I'll let you live. Nod if you understand."
"If you refuse to answer a question I'll have to zap you. Understand?"
"If you lie to me or give an evasive answer I'll zap you."
"I'm not going to bargain with you. There will be no second chance. You answer my questions immediately or you die. If you answer satisfactorily, then you'll survive. It's that simple."
He nodded. He believed her. He had no choice.
"Please," he said. "I don't want to die... "
"It's up to you whether you live or die. But you just broke my first rule: you do not talk without my permission."
He pressed his lips together. God, she's completely insane.
Blomkvist was too frustrated and restless to know what to do. Finally he put on his jacket and scarf and walked aimlessly to Sodra station, past Bofills Båge, before he ended up at the Millennium offices on Gotgatan. It was perfectly quiet. He did not turn on any lights, but he did put on the coffeemaker and then stood at the window looking down at Gotgatan. He tried to put his thoughts in order. The murder investigation was like a broken mosaic in which he could make out some pieces while others were simply missing. Somewhere there was a pattern. He could sense it, but he could not figure it out. Too many pieces were missing.
He was assailed by doubt. She is not a deranged killer, he reminded himself. She had written to tell him that she had not shot his friends. He believed her. But in some unfathomable way she was still intimately involved in the murders.
Slowly he began to reevaluate the theory he had clung to since he walked into the apartment in Enskede. He had immediately assumed that Svensson's investigative reporting about sex trafficking was the only plausible motive for the murders. Now he was coming to accept Bublanski's assertion that this couldn't explain Bjurman's murder.
Salander had told him in her message that he should forget about the johns and focus on Zala instead. Why? The damn pest. Why couldn't she tell him anything that made sense?
Blomkvist poured coffee into a Young Left mug. He sat on one of the sofas in the middle of the office, put his feet up on the coffee table, and lit a forbidden cigarette.
Bjorck was on the list of johns. Bjurman had been Salander's guardian. It could not be an accident that Bjurman and Bjorck had both worked at Sapo. A police report about Salander had disappeared.
Could there be more than one motive?
Could Lisbeth Salander be the motive?
Blomkvist sat there with an idea that he couldn't put into words. There was something still unexplored, but he couldn't explain exactly what he meant by the idea that Salander herself could be a motive for murder. He experienced a fleeting sense of discovery.
Then he realized that he was too tired and poured out his coffee, rinsed the machine, and went home to bed. Lying in the dark, he took up the thread again and for two hours tried to understand what it was he wanted to articulate.
Salander smoked a cigarette, comfortably leaning back in the chair in front of him. She crossed her right leg over her left and fixed him with her gaze. Sandstrom had never seen such an intense look before. When she spoke her voice was still soft.
"In January 2003 you visited Ines Hammujarvi for the first time at her apartment in Norsborg. She had just turned sixteen. Why did you visit her?"
Sandstrom did not know how to answer. He could hardly make sense of it himself, how it had begun or why he... She raised the Taser.
"I... I don't know. I wanted her. She was so beautiful."
"Yes. She was beautiful."
"And you thought that you had the right to tie her to the bed and fuck her."
"She went along with it. I swear. She went along with it."
"You paid her?"
Sandstrom bit his tongue. "No."
"Why not? She was a whore. Whores get paid."
"She was a... she was a present."
"A present?" Her voice had taken on a dangerous tone.
"It was in return for a favour I did someone."
"Per-Åke," Salander said in a reasonable tone, "you wouldn't be trying to avoid answering my question, would you?"
"I swear. I'll answer anything you ask. I won't lie."
"Good. What favour and who was it for?"
"I'd smuggled in some anabolic steroids. I was on a business trip to Estonia and I brought the pills back in my car. The guy I went with was called Harry Ranta. Although he didn't come with me in the car."
"How did you meet Harry Ranta?"
"I've known him for years. Since the eighties, in fact. He's a friend. We used to go to bars together."
"And it was Harry Ranta who offered you Ines Hammujarvi as... a present?"
"Yes... no, I'm sorry, that was later, here in Stockholm. It was his brother, Atho Ranta."
"So you're saying that Atho Ranta knocked on your door and asked if you wanted to drive to Norsborg and fuck Ines?"
"No... I was at... we had a party in... damn, I can't remember where we were... "
He was suddenly shaking uncontrollably and felt his knees begin to give way. He needed to brace his legs against something to stand upright.
"Answer calmly," Salander said. "I'm not going to hang you because you need time to collect your thoughts. But the minute I get the idea you're trying to dodge a question, then ... pow!"
She raised her eyebrows and to his astonishment looked angelic. As angelic as anyone could look behind such a hideous mask.
Sandstrom swallowed. His mouth was dry as a bone, and he could feel the rope tightening around his neck.
"Where you went drinking isn't important. How come Atho Ranta offered you Ines?"
"We were talking about... we... I told him that I wanted... " He realized he was crying.
"You said that you wanted to have one of his whores."
He nodded. "I was drunk. He said that she needed... needed... "
"What was it she needed?"
"Atho said that she needed punishment. She was difficult. She didn't do what he wanted."
"And what did he want her to do?"
"Whore for him. He offered me... I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing. I didn't mean... Forgive me."
"It's not me you need to ask for forgiveness. So you offered to help Atho punish Ines and the two of you drove over to her place."
"That's not how it was."
"Tell me how it was. Why did you go with Atho to her place?"
She balanced the Taser on her knee. He was shaking again.
"I went because I wanted to have her. She was there and she was available. Ines lived with a girlfriend of Harry Ranta's. I don't think I ever knew her name. Atho tied Ines to the bed and I... I had sex with her. Atho watched."
"No... you didn't have sex with her. You raped her."
He said nothing.
"What did Ines say?"
"She didn't say anything."
"Did she protest?"
He shook his head.
"So she thought it was cool that a middle-aged dickwad tied her up and fucked her."
"She was drunk. She didn't care."
Salander sighed in resignation.
"OK. And then you kept on going to visit Ines."
"She was so... She wanted me."
He looked at Salander in despair. Then he nodded.
"I... I raped her. Harry and Atho had given permission. They wanted her to be... to be trained."
"Did you pay them?"
"It was a friendly deal. I helped out with the smuggling."
"A few grand altogether."
"In one of your pictures Ines is here in the apartment."
"Harry brought her here."
He snuffled again.
"So for a few thousand you got a girl you could do with as you pleased. How many times did you rape her?"
"I don't know... several times."
"OK. Who runs this gang?"
"They're going to kill me if I rat on them."
"I don't give a shit. Right now I'm a much bigger problem for you than the Ranta brothers." She held up the Taser.
"Atho. He's the older one. Harry is the fixer."
"How many more are there in the gang?"
"I only know Harry and Atho. Atho's girl is in it too. And a guy called... I don't know. Pelle something. He's Swedish. I don't know who he is. He's a junkie who runs errands for them."
"Silvia. She's a whore."
Salander sat for a moment, thinking. Then she raised her eyes.
"Who is Zala?"
Sandstrom turned pale. The same question that Svensson had hounded him about. He said nothing for so long that he noticed the girl was getting pissed off.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know who he is."
Salander's expression darkened.
"You've been doing fine up to now. Don't throw away your only chance," she said.
"I swear to God, honest. I don't know who he is. The journalist you shot... "
He stopped. It might not be a good idea to bring up her massacre in Enskede.
"He asked me the same thing. I don't know. If I knew I'd tell you. I swear. He's somebody Atho knows."
"You've talked to him?"
"Just for a minute once on the phone. I talked to someone who said his name was Zala. Or rather, he talked to me."
Sandstrom blinked. Drops of sweat were running into his eyes and he could feel snot running down his chin.
"I... they wanted me to do them another favour."
"The story is getting annoyingly slow," Salander said.
"They wanted me to take another trip to Tallinn and bring back a car that was prepared already. Amphetamines. I didn't want to do it."
"It was too much. They were such gangsters. I wanted out. I had a job to get on with."
"So you think you were just a gangster in your free time."
"I'm not really like that."
"Oh, right." Her voice contained such contempt that Sandstrom closed his eyes.
"Keep going. How did Zala come into the picture?"
"It was a nightmare."
The tears were running again. He bit his lip so hard that it began to bleed.
"Boring," Salander said.
"Atho kept after me about it. Harry warned me and said that Atho was getting angry and that he didn't know how it would pan out. Finally I agreed to meet Atho. That was in August of last year. I drove to Norsborg with Harry... "
His mouth kept moving but the words disappeared. Salander's eyes narrowed. He found his voice again.
"Atho was a nutcase. He's very brutal. You have no idea how brutal he can be. He said that it was too late for me to pull out and that if I didn't do as he said I wouldn't be allowed to live. He was going to give me a demonstration."
"They forced me to go with them. We drove towards Sodertalje. Atho told me to put on a hood. It was a bag that he tied over my eyes. I was scared to death."
"So you were in a car with a bag over your head. Then what happened?"
"The car stopped. I didn't know where I was."
"Where did they put the bag on you?"
"Just before Sodertalje."
"And how long did it take you to get there?"
"Maybe... half an hour. They got me out of the car. It was some sort of warehouse."
"Harry and Atho led me inside. There were lights on. The first thing I saw was some poor guy lying on a cement floor. He was tied up. He'd been beaten really badly."
"Who was it?"
"His name was Kenneth Gustafsson. But I didn't find that out until later."
"There was a man there. He was the biggest man I've ever seen. Enormous. Nothing but muscle."
"What did he look like?"
"He looked like the Devil himself. Blond."
"He never said his name."
"OK. A big blond guy. Who else?"
"There was another man. He looked stressed. Hair in a ponytail."
"Plus me and Harry and Atho."
"The huge guy... he set out a chair for me. He didn't say a word. It was Atho who did the talking. He said that the guy on the floor was a snitch. He wanted me to know what happened to people who made trouble." Sandstrom was blubbering unrestrainedly.
"The big guy lifted the other guy off the floor and put him on another chair facing me. We were sitting a yard or so apart. I looked him in the eyes. Then the giant stood behind him and put his hands around his neck... He... he... "