Holmberg's team was in luck. Just half an hour after they began knocking on doors among the intermittently populated cabins, they found Anna Viktoria Hansson. She had spent the spring morning clearing up a garden near the access road to the summer-cabin area. Yes indeed, she might be seventy-two, but she had good eyesight. Yes indeed, she had seen a short girl in a dark jacket walk past around lunchtime. At three in the afternoon two men on motorcycles had driven by. They made an appalling racket. And shortly after that, the girl had gone back the other way on one of the motorcycles, or maybe on a different one altogether. Well, it looked like the girl, but in the helmet she could not be 100 percent certain. And then the police cars started arriving.


Just as Holmberg was getting this statement, Andersson arrived at the cabin.


"What's happening here?" he said.


Holmberg looked glumly at his colleague. "I don't quite know how to explain this to you," he said.


"Jerker, are you trying to tell me that Salander turned up at Bjurman's cabin and all by herself beat the shit out of the top echelon of the Svavelsjo MC?" Bublanski sounded tense.


"Well, she was trained by Paolo Roberto."


"Jerker, please. Give me a break."


"OK, listen to this. Magnus Lundin has a bullet wound in his foot. Which is going to do him permanent damage. The bullet went out the back of his heel, blew his boot to kingdom come."


"At least she didn't shoot him in the head."


"Apparently that wasn't necessary. According to the local team, Lundin has serious injuries to his face: a broken jaw and two teeth knocked out. The medics suspected a concussion. Besides the gunshot wound to his foot, he also has a massive pain in his abdomen."


"How's Nieminen doing?"


"He seems unhurt. But according to the old man who called in, he was unconscious when he arrived. Nieminen came to after a while and was trying to leave just as the Strangnas team got there."


Bublanski was speechless.


"There's one mysterious detail," Holmberg said.


"Another one?"


"Nieminen's leather vest...  He came here on his bike."


"Yes?"


"It was ripped."


"What do you mean, ripped?"


"There's a chunk missing. About eight by eight inches cut out of the back of it. Just where Svavelsjo MC has its insignia."


Bublanski raised his eyebrows. "Why would Salander cut a square out of his vest? For a trophy? For revenge? But revenge for what?"


"No idea. But I thought of one other thing," Holmberg said. "Magnus Lundin is a hefty guy with a ponytail. One of the guys who kidnapped Salander's girlfriend had a beer belly and a ponytail."


Salander had not had such a rush since she visited Grona Lund amusement park several years before and rode on the Freefall. She went on it three times and could have gone another three if she had had the money.


It was one thing to ride a 125cc lightweight Kawasaki, which was really no more than a heavily souped-up moped, but it was something else entirely to maintain control of a 1450cc Harley-Davidson. Her first three hundred yards on Bjurman's badly maintained forest track was a regular roller coaster, and she felt like a living gyro. Twice she almost rode into the woods before at the last second she managed to regain control of the hog.


The helmet kept slipping down and masking her vision, even though she had put in some extra stuffing using a piece of leather she'd cut out of Nieminen's padded vest.


She did not dare stop to adjust the helmet for fear she would not be able to manage the bike's weight. She was too short to reach the ground with both feet and was afraid the Harley would tip over. If that happened, she would never be able to get it upright again.


Things went more smoothly once she got on the wider gravel road leading to the summer-cabin area. When she turned onto the Strangnas highway a few minutes later, she risked taking one hand off the handlebars to set the helmet right. Then she gave the bike some gas. She covered the distance to Sodertalje in record time, smiling in delight the whole way. Just before she reached Sodertalje, two blue-and-yellow police Volvos with their sirens on flew by in the other direction.


The sensible course would be to dump the Harley in Sodertalje and let Irene Nesser take the shuttle train into Stockholm, but Salander couldn't resist the temptation. She turned onto the E4 and accelerated. She did not go over the speed limit - well, not much anyway - but it still felt as though she were in freefall. Not until she reached alvsjo did she turn off and find her way to the fairground, where she managed to park the beast without tipping it over. She was very sad to leave the bike behind, along with the helmet and the piece of leather from Nieminen's vest. She walked to the shuttle train. She was seriously chilled. She rode the one stop to Sodra station, then walked home to Mosebacke and ran herself a hot bath.


***


"His name is Alexander Zalachenko," Bjorck said. "But officially he doesn't exist. You won't find him on the national register."


Zala. Alexander Zalachenko. Finally a name.


"Who is he and how can I find him?"


"He's not someone you'd want to find."


"Tell me anyway."


"What I'm going to tell you is top secret information. If it came out that I told you this, I'd be sent to prison. It's one of the most deeply buried secrets we have within the Swedish defence system. You have to understand why it's so important that you guarantee my anonymity."


"I've already done that," Blomkvist said impatiently.


"Alexander Zalachenko was born in 1940 in Stalingrad. When he was a year old, the German offensive on the eastern front began. Both of Zalachenko's parents died in the war. At least that's what Zalachenko thinks. He doesn't really know what happened during the war. His earliest memories are of an orphanage in the Ural Mountains."


Blomkvist made swift notes.


"The orphanage was in a garrison town and was, as it were, sponsored by the Red Army. You might say that Zalachenko got a military education very early. Since the end of the Soviet Union, documents have emerged which show there were experiments to create a cadre of particularly athletic, elite soldiers among the orphans who were being raised by the state. Zalachenko was one of them. To make a long story short, when he was five he was put in an army school. It turned out that he was talented. When he was fifteen, in 1955, he was sent to a military school in Novosibirsk, where together with two thousand other pupils he underwent training similar to Spetsnaz, the Russian elite troops."


"OK, let's get to the adult stuff."


"In 1958, when he was eighteen, he was moved to Minsk, to specialist training with the GRU-Glavnoye razvedyvatelnoye upravlenie, the military intelligence service that is directly subordinate to the army high command, not to be confused with the KGB, the civil secret police. The GRU usually took care of espionage and foreign operations. When he was twenty, Zalachenko was sent to Cuba. It was a training period and he was still only the equivalent of a second lieutenant. But he was there for two years, during the Cuban missile crisis and the invasion at the Bay of Pigs. In 1963 he went back to Minsk for further training. Thereafter he was stationed first in Bulgaria and then in Hungary. In 1965 he was promoted to lieutenant and got his first posting to Western Europe, in Rome, where he served for a year. That was his first undercover assignment. He was a civilian with a fake passport, obviously, and with no contact with the embassy."


Blomkvist nodded as he wrote. Against his will he was starting to get interested.


"In 1967 he was moved to London. There he organized the execution of a defected KGB agent. Over the next ten years he became one of the GRU's top agents. He belonged to the real elite of devoted political soldiers. He speaks six languages fluently. He's worked as a journalist, a photographer, in advertising, as a sailor - you name it. He's a survival artist, an expert in disguise and deception. He commanded his own agents and organized or carried out his own operations. Several of these operations were contracts for hits, and a large number of them took place in the third world, but he was also involved in extortion, intimidation, and all kinds of other assignments that his superiors needed him to perform. In 1969 he was promoted to captain, in 1972 to major, and in 1975 to lieutenant colonel."


"Why did he come to Sweden?"


"I'm getting to that. Over the years he became corrupt, and he squirrelled away a little money here and there. He drank too much and did too much womanizing. All this was noted by his superiors, but he was still a favourite and they could overlook the small stuff. In 1976 he was sent to Spain on a mission. We don't need to go into the details, but he made a fool of himself. The mission failed and all of a sudden he was in disgrace and called back to Russia. He chose to ignore the order and thereby ended up in an even worse situation. The GRU ordered a military attache at the embassy in Madrid to find him and talk some sense into him. Something went wrong, and Zalachenko killed the man. Now he had no choice. He had burned his bridges and rashly decided to defect. He laid a trail that seemed to lead from Spain to Portugal and possibly to a boating accident. He also left clues indicating he intended to flee to the United States. He chose in fact to defect to the most improbable country in Europe. He came to Sweden, where he contacted the Security Police, Sapo, and sought asylum. This was well thought out, because the probability that a death squad from the KGB or the GRU would look for him here was almost zero."


Bjorck fell silent.


"And?"


"What's the government supposed to do if one of the Soviet Union's top spies defects and seeks asylum in Sweden? A conservative government was coming into power. As a matter of fact, it was one of the very first matters we had to take to the newly appointed foreign minister. Those political cowards tried to get rid of him like a hot potato, of course, but they couldn't just send him back to the Soviets - that would have been a scandal of unmatched proportions if it ever came out. Instead they tried to send him to the States or to England. Zalachenko refused. He didn't like America and he knew that England was one of those countries where the Soviets had agents at the highest levels within military intelligence. He didn't want to go to Israel, because he didn't like Jews. So he decided to make his home in Sweden."


The whole thing sounded so improbable that it occurred to Blomkvist that Bjorck might be pulling his leg.


"So he stayed in Sweden?"


"Exactly. For many years it was one of the country's best-kept military secrets. The thing was, we got plenty of good information out of Zalachenko. For a time during the late seventies and early eighties, he was the jewel in the crown among defectors, the most senior from one of the GRU's elite commands."


"So he could sell information?"


"Precisely. He played his cards well and doled out information when it suited him best. We were able to identify an agent at NATO headquarters in Brussels. An agent in Rome. A contact for a whole ring of spies in Berlin. The identity of hit men he'd used in Ankara and Athens. He didn't know that much about Sweden, but the information he did have we could pass on in return for favours. He was a gold mine."


"So you started cooperating with him."


"We gave him a new identity, a passport, a little money, and he took care of himself. That was what he was trained to do."


Blomkvist sat for a while in silence, digesting this information. Then he looked up at Bjorck.


"You lied to me the last time I was here."


"I did?"


"You said that you met Bjurman at your police shooting club in the eighties. But you met him long before that."


"It was an automatic reaction. It's confidential, and I had no reason to go into how Bjurman and I met. It wasn't until you asked about Zala that I made the connection."


"Tell me what happened."


"I was thirty-three and had been working at Sapo for three years. Bjurman was a good deal younger and had just finished his degree. He was handling certain legal matters at Sapo. It was a kind of trainee job. Bjurman was from Karlskrona, and his father worked in military intelligence."


"And?"


"Neither Bjurman nor I was remotely qualified to handle someone like Zalachenko, but he made contact on election day in 1976. There was hardly a soul in police headquarters - everyone was either off that day or working on stakeouts and the like. Zalachenko chose that moment to walk into Norrmalm police station and declare that he was seeking political asylum and wanted to talk to somebody in the Security Police. He didn't give his name. I was on duty and thought it was a straightforward refugee case, so I took Bjurman with me as legal advisor."


Bjorck rubbed his eyes.


"There he sat and told us calmly and matter-of-factly who he was, and what he had worked on. Bjurman took notes. After a while I realized what I was dealing with. I stopped the conversation and got Zalachenko and Bjurman the hell out of that police station. I didn't know what to do, so I booked a room at the Hotel Continental right across from Central Station and stowed him there. I told Bjurman to babysit him while I went downstairs and called my superior." He laughed. "I've often thought that we behaved like total amateurs. But that's how it happened."


"Who was your boss?"


"That's not relevant. I'm not going to name anyone else."


Blomkvist shrugged and let the matter drop.


"He made it very clear that this was a matter that required the greatest possible discretion and that we should get as few people involved as possible. Bjurman should never have had anything to do with it - it was way above his level - but since he already knew what was going on it was better to keep him on rather than bring in somebody new. I assume that the same reasoning applied to a junior officer like myself. There came to be a total of seven people associated with the Security Police who knew of Zalachenko's existence."

Source: www.StudyNovels.com