"Sonja says she didn't leak anything," Bublanski said. "That's good enough for me. It's insane to remove an experienced detective who's familiar with every detail of the case."



Ekstrom refused to budge.


"Modig, I can't prove that you leaked the information, but I have no confidence in you with regard to this investigation. You are relieved from the team, effective immediately. Take the rest of the week off. You'll be given other assignments on Monday."


Modig nodded and headed for the door. Bublanski stopped her.


"Sonja. For the record: I don't believe one word of this, and you have my full confidence. But I'm not the one who decides. See me in my office before you go home, please."


Bublanski's face had taken on a dangerous hue. Ekstrom looked furious.


Modig went back to her office, where she and Hedstrom had been working on Svensson's computer. She was angry and close to tears. Hedstrom could tell that something was wrong, but he said nothing and she ignored him. She sat at her desk and stared into space. There was an oppressive silence in the room.


After a while Hedstrom excused himself and said he had to get a cup of coffee. He asked if he could bring her one. She shook her head.


When he had left she got up and put on her jacket. She took her shoulder bag and went to Bublanski's office. He pointed to the visitor's chair.


"Sonja, I don't intend to yield in this matter unless Ekstrom removes me from the investigation too. I won't accept it and I'm thinking of filing a complaint. Until you hear otherwise from me, you'll remain on the team. At my direction. Understand?"


She nodded.


"You will not take the rest of the week off as Ekstrom said. I want you to go to Millennium's offices and have another talk with Blomkvist. Ask him for help in guiding you through Dag Svensson's hard drive. They have a copy there. We can save a lot of time if we have somebody who's already familiar with the material picking out the things that might be important."


Modig breathed more easily.


"I didn't say anything to Hedstrom."


"I'll take care of him. He can help Andersson. Have you seen Faste?"


"No. He left right after the meeting."


Bublanski sighed.


Blomkvist had arrived home from the hospital at 8:00 a.m. He had had too little sleep and he had to be at his best for an afternoon meeting with Bjorck in Smådalaro. He undressed, set the alarm for 10:30, and got two more hours of much-needed sleep. He shaved, showered, and put on a clean shirt. As he was driving past Gullmarsplan, Modig called his mobile. Blomkvist explained that he would not be able to meet her. She told him what she needed, and he referred her to Berger.


When she arrived at Millennium's offices, Modig found that she liked the self-confident and slightly domineering woman with the dimples and shock of short blond hair. She vaguely wondered whether Berger was a dyke too, since all the women in this investigation, according to Faste, seemed to have that inclination. But then she remembered that she had read somewhere that Berger was married to the artist Greger Beckman.


"There's a problem here," Berger said, after listening to her request.


"What's that?"


"It's not that we don't want to solve the murders or help the police. Besides, you already have all the material in the computer you took from here. The dilemma is an ethical one. The media and the police don't work very well together."


"Believe me, I found that out this morning," Modig said with a smile.


"How so?"


"Nothing. Just a personal reflection."


"OK. To maintain their credibility, the media have to keep a clear distance from the authorities. Journalists who run to the police station and cooperate with police investigations will end up being errand boys for the police."


"I've met some of those," Modig said. "But the opposite can also be true. And the police end up running errands for certain newspapers."


Berger laughed. "That's right. I'm afraid to say that at Millennium we simply can't afford to be associated with that sort of mercenary journalism. This isn't about you wanting to question any of Millennium's staff - which we would allow without hesitation - but about a formal request for us to assist actively in a police investigation by placing our journalistic material at your disposal."


Modig nodded.


"There are two points of view on that," Berger said. "First, one of our journalists has been murdered. So we will help out all we can. But the second point is that there are some things we cannot and will not give to the police. And that has to do with our sources."


"I can be flexible. I can pledge to protect your sources."


"It's not a matter of your intent or our trust in you. It is that we never reveal a source, no matter what the circumstances."


"Understood."


"Then there's the fact that at Millennium we're conducting our own investigation into the murders, which should be viewed as a journalistic assignment. In this case I'm prepared to hand over information to the police when we have something finished that we are ready to publish - but not before." Berger frowned as she paused to think. "I also have to be able to live with myself. Let's do this...  You can work with Malin Eriksson. She's familiar with the material and competent to decide where the boundaries lie. She'll guide you through Dag's book - with the objective of compiling a list of all those who might be suspects."


As she caught the shuttle train from Sodra station to Sodertalje, Irene Nesser was unaware of the drama that had occurred the night before. She was wearing a midlength black leather jacket, dark pants, and a neat red sweater. She wore glasses that she had pushed up on her forehead.


In Sodertalje she walked to the Strangnas bus and bought a ticket to Stallarholmen. She got off the bus a little south of Stallarholmen just after 11:00 a.m. There were no buildings in sight. She visualized the map in her head. Lake Malaren was a few miles to the northeast. It was summer-cabin country, with a scattering of year-round residences. Bjurman's property was about two miles from the bus stop. She took a swallow of water from her bottle and started walking. She got there about forty-five minutes later.


She began by making a tour of the area and studying the neighbouring houses. About a hundred and fifty yards to the right, she saw the next cabin. Nobody was at home. To the left was a ravine. She passed two summer houses before she reached a group of cabins where she noticed signs of life: an open window and the sound of a radio. But that was three hundred yards from Bjurman's cabin. She could work undisturbed.


She had taken the keys from his apartment. Once inside, she first unscrewed a window shutter at the back of the house, giving her an escape route in case any unpleasantness should occur at the front. The unpleasantness she was prepared for was that some cop might get the idea to show up at the cabin.


Bjurman's was one of the older buildings, with one main room, one bedroom, and a small kitchen with running water. The toilet was a compost outhouse in the backyard. She spent twenty minutes looking through the closets, wardrobes, and dressers. She did not find so much as one scrap of paper that could have anything to do with Lisbeth Salander or Zala.


Then she went and searched the outhouse and woodshed. She found nothing of interest, and no paperwork at all. The journey had apparently been in vain.


She sat on the porch and drank some water and ate an apple.


When she went to close the shutter, she stopped short in the hallway as she caught sight of an aluminium stepladder three feet high. She went into the main room again and examined the clapboard ceiling. The opening to the attic was almost invisible between two roof beams. She got the stepladder, opened the trapdoor, and immediately found two A4 file boxes, each containing several folders and various other documents.


Things had gone all wrong. One disaster had followed another. The blond giant was worried.


Sandstrom had gotten hold of the Rantas. They said he sounded terrified and reported that the journalist Svensson had been planning an expose about his whoring activities and about the Rantas. So far it hadn't been a big deal. If the media exposed Sandstrom it was none of his business, and the Ranta brothers could lie low for as long as they needed to. They had taken the Baltic Star to Estonia for a vacation. It was unlikely that the whole mess would lead to a court case, but if the worst should happen they had done time before. It was part of the job description.


More troublesome was that Salander had managed to elude Magge Lundin. This was incredible, since Salander was a rag doll compared to Lundin. All he had to do was stuff her in a car and take her to the warehouse south of Nykvarn.


Then Sandstrom had received another visit, and this time Svensson was after Zala. That put everything in a whole new light. Between Bjurman's panic and Svensson's continued snooping, a potentially dangerous situation had arisen.


An amateur is a gangster who is not prepared to take the consequences. Bjurman was a rank amateur. The giant had advised Zala not to have anything to do with Bjurman, but for Zala the name Lisbeth Salander had been irresistible. He loathed Salander. It was a reflex, like pressing a button.


It was pure chance that he had been at Bjurman's place the night Svensson called. The same fucking journalist who had already caused problems for Sandstrom and the Rantas. He had gone to Bjurman's to calm him down or to threaten him, as needed, after the abortive attempt to kidnap Salander. Svensson's call had triggered a wild panic in Bjurman, a reaction of unreasonable stupidity. All of a sudden he wanted out.


To top it off, Bjurman had fetched his cowboy pistol to threaten him. The giant had just looked at Bjurman in surprise and had taken the gun from him. He was already wearing gloves, so fingerprints weren't a problem. He had no choice. Bjurman had obviously flipped out.


Bjurman knew about Zala, of course. That was why he was a liability. The giant couldn't really explain why he made Bjurman take off his clothes, except that he hated the lawyer and wanted to make that clear to him. He had almost lost it when he saw the tattoo on Bjurman's abdomen: I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST.


For a moment he almost felt sorry for the man. He was such a total idiot. But he was in a business where such feelings could not be allowed to interfere with what they had to do. So he had led Bjurman into the bedroom, forced him to his knees, and used a pillow as a silencer.


He had spent five minutes searching through Bjurman's apartment for the slightest connection to Zala. The only thing he found was his own mobile number. To be on the safe side he took Bjurman's mobile with him.


Svensson was the next problem. When Bjurman was found dead, Svensson would inevitably call the police and tell them about his call to the lawyer to ask about Zala. Zala would then become the object of police interest.


The blond giant considered himself smart, but he had an enormous respect for Zala's almost uncanny strategic gifts. They had been working together for nearly twelve years. It had been a successful decade, and he looked up to Zala with reverence. He could listen for hours as Zala explained human nature and its weaknesses and how one could profit from them.


But quite unexpectedly their business dealings were in trouble.


He had driven straight from Bjurman's to Enskede and parked the white Volvo two streets away. As luck would have it, the front door of the building was not locked. He went up and rang the doorbell with the nameplate SVENSSON-JOHANSSON.


He had fired two shots - there was a woman in the apartment too. He didn't search the apartment or take any of their papers with him. He did take a computer that was on the table in the living room. He turned on his heel, went down the stairs, and out to his car. His only mistake had been dropping the revolver on the stairs while he was trying to balance the laptop and at the same time fish out his car keys. He stopped for a second, but the gun had skittered down the stairs to the basement, and he decided it would take too much time to go down and get it. He knew he was someone people would not forget having seen, so the important thing was to get out of there before anyone laid eyes on him.


The dropped revolver had been at first a source of criticism until Zala realized its implications. They were astonished when the police began a search for Salander. His mistake had turned into an incredible stroke of luck.


It also created a new problem. Salander became the only remaining weak link. She had known Bjurman and she knew Zala. She could put two and two together. When he and Zala conferred about the matter they were in agreement. They had to find Salander and bury her somewhere. It would be ideal if she were never found. Then the murder investigation would eventually be shelved.


They had taken a chance that Miriam Wu could lead them to Salander. And then everything had gone wrong again. Paolo Roberto. Of all people. Out of nowhere. And according to the newspapers he was also friends with Salander.


The giant was dumbfounded.


After Nykvarn he had gone to Lundin's house in Svavelsjo, only a hundred yards from Svavelsjo MC's headquarters. Not an ideal hiding place, but he didn't have many options. He had to find somewhere to lie low until the bruises on his face began to fade and he could make himself scarce. He fingered his broken nose and felt the lump on his neck. The swelling had begun to subside.


It had been a good move to go back and burn down the whole fucking place.


Then, suddenly, he went ice cold.


Bjurman. He had met Bjurman once at his summer cabin. In early February - when Zala had accepted the job of taking care of Salander. Bjurman had had a file about Salander that he had leafed through. How could he have forgotten that? It could lead to Zala.


He went down to the kitchen and told Lundin to get himself to Stallarholmen as fast as he could and start another fire.


Bublanski spent his lunch break trying to put in order the investigation he knew was about to collapse. He spent time with Andersson and Bohman, who brought him up to date on the hunt for Salander. Tips had come in from Goteborg and Norrkoping. Goteborg they ruled out right away, but the Norrkoping sighting had potential. They informed their colleagues, and a cautious stakeout was put on an address where a girl who looked a little like Salander had been seen.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com