"How many others know this story?"



"From 1976 up to the beginning of 1990...  all in all about twenty people in the government, military high command, and within Sapo."


"And after the beginning of 1990?"


Bjorck shrugged. "The moment the Soviet Union collapsed he became uninteresting."


"But what happened after Zalachenko came to Sweden?"


Bjorck said nothing for so long that Blomkvist began to get restless.


"To be honest...  Zalachenko was a big success, and those of us who were involved built our careers on it. Don't misunderstand me, it was also a full-time job. I was assigned to be Zalachenko's mentor in Sweden, and over the first ten years we met at least a couple of times a week. This was all during the important years when he was full of fresh information. But it was just as much about keeping him under control."


"In what sense?"


"Zalachenko was a sly devil. He could be incredibly charming, but he could also be paranoid and crazy. He would go on drinking binges and then turn violent. More than once I had to go out at night and sort out some mess he'd gotten himself into."


"For instance... "


"For instance, the time he went to a bar and got into an argument and beat the living daylights out of two bouncers who tried to calm him down. He was quite a small man, but exceptionally skilled at close combat, which regrettably he chose to demonstrate on various occasions. Once I had to pick him up at a police station."


"He risked attracting serious attention to himself. That doesn't sound very professional."


"That was the way he was. He hadn't committed any crime in Sweden and was never arrested. We had provided him with a Swedish name, a Swedish passport and ID. And he had a house that the Security Police paid for. He received a salary from Sapo just to keep him available. But we couldn't prevent him from going to bars or from womanizing. All we could do was clean up after him. That was my job until 1985 when I got a new post and my successor took over as Zalachenko's handler."


"And Bjurman's role?"


"To be honest, Bjurman was deadweight. He wasn't particularly clever. In fact he was the wrong man in the wrong job. It was pure chance that he was part of the whole Zalachenko business at all, and he was only involved in the very early days and on the occasions when we needed him to deal with legal formalities. My superior solved the problem with Bjurman."


"How?"


"The easiest possible way. He was given a job outside the police force at a law firm that had, as you might say, close ties to us."


"Klang and Reine."


Bjorck gave Mikael a sharp look.


"Yes. Over the years he always had assignments, minor investigations, from Sapo. So in a way he too built his career on Zalachenko."


"Where is Zalachenko today?"


"I really don't know. My contact with him dried up after 1985, and I haven't seen him in over twelve years. The last I heard, he left Sweden in 1992."


"Apparently he's back. He's cropped up in connection with weapons, drugs, and sex trafficking."


"I wouldn't be surprised," Bjorck said. "But we can't know for sure if it's the Zala you're looking for or somebody else."


"The likelihood of two separate Zalachenkos appearing in this story must be microscopic. What was his Swedish name?"


"I'm not going to reveal that."


"Now you're being evasive."


"You wanted to know who Zala was. I've told you. But I won't give you the last piece of the puzzle before I know you've kept your side of the bargain."


"Zala has probably committed three murders and the police are looking for the wrong person. If you think I'll be satisfied without his name, you're mistaken."


"What makes you think Lisbeth Salander isn't the murderer?"


"I know."


Bjorck smiled at Blomkvist. He suddenly felt much safer.


"I think Zala is the killer," Blomkvist said.


"Wrong. Zala hasn't shot anyone."


"How do you know that?"


"Because Zala is sixty-plus years old now and severely disabled. He's had a foot amputated and doesn't do much walking. So he hasn't been running around Odenplan and Enskede shooting people. If he was going to murder somebody, he'd have to call the disabled transport service."


Eriksson smiled politely at Modig. "You'll have to ask Mikael about that."


"OK, I will."


"I can't discuss his research with you."


"And if this Zala is a potential suspect... "


"You'll have to discuss that with Mikael," Eriksson said. "I can help you with what Dag was working on, but I can't tell you about our own research."


Modig sighed. "What can you tell me about the people on this list?"


"Only what Dag wrote, nothing about the sources. But I can say that Mikael has crossed about a dozen people off this list so far. That might help."


No, that won't help. The police will have to do their own formal interviews. A judge. Two lawyers. Several politicians and journalists...  and police colleagues. A real merry-go-round. Modig knew that they should have started doing this the day after the murders.


Her eyes lighted on one name on the list. Gunnar Bjorck.


"There's no address for this man."


"No."


"Why not?"


"He works for the Security Police. His address is unlisted. Actually he's on sick leave. Dag was never able to track him down."


"And have you?" Modig said with a smile.


"Ask Mikael."


Modig stared at the wall above Svensson's desk. She was thinking. "May I ask a personal question?"


"Go right ahead."


"Who do you think murdered your friends and the lawyer?"


Eriksson wished Blomkvist were here to handle these questions. It was uncomfortable to be quizzed by a police officer. It was even more unpleasant not to be able to explain exactly what conclusions Millennium had reached. Then she heard Berger's voice behind her back.


"Our theory is that the murders were committed to prevent some part of Dag's expose from reaching the light of day. But we don't know who the killer was. Mikael is focusing on someone who goes by the name of Zala."


Modig turned to look at Millennium's editor in chief. Berger held out two mugs of coffee. They were decorated with the logos of the civil service union HTF and the Christian Democratic Party, respectively. Berger smiled sweetly and went back to her office.


She came out again three minutes later.


"Inspector Modig, your boss has just called. Your mobile is off. He wants you to call him."


An APB was sent out to say that Lisbeth Salander had at last surfaced. The bulletin indicated that she was probably riding a Harley-Davidson and contained the warning that she was armed and had shot someone at a summer cabin in the vicinity of Stallarholmen.


The police set up roadblocks on routes into Strangnas, Mariefred, and Sodertalje. Every commuter train between Sodertalje and Stockholm was searched that evening. But no-one answering to Salander's description was found.


At around 7:00 p.m. a police patrol found the Harley-Davidson outside the fairground in alvsjo, and that shifted the focus of the search from Sodertalje to Stockholm. The report from alvsjo said that part of a leather jacket with the insignia of Svavelsjo MC had also been found. News of the find made Inspector Bublanski push his glasses up on his head and peer glumly at the darkness outside his office on Kungsholmen.


The day's developments had led to nothing but bafflement. The kidnapping of Salander's girlfriend, the inexplicable involvement of the boxer Paolo Roberto, the arson near Sodertalje, and bodies buried in the woods there. And finally this bizarre business in Stallarholmen.


Bublanski went out to the main office and looked at the map of Stockholm and its environs. He found Stallarholmen, Nykvarn, Svavelsjo, and finally alvsjo, the four places that for apparently different reasons were of current interest. He moved his gaze to Enskede and sighed. He had the unpleasant feeling that the police investigation was many miles behind the unfolding events. Whatever the Enskede murders had been about, it was much more complicated than they had supposed.


Blomkvist was unaware of the drama at Stallarholmen. He left Smådalaro around 3:00 in the afternoon. He stopped at a gas station and had some coffee as he tried to make sense of what he had discovered.


He was surprised that Bjorck had given him so many details, but the man had absolutely refused to give him the last piece of the puzzle: Zalachenko's Swedish identity.


"We had a deal," Blomkvist said.


"And I've fulfilled my part of it. I've told you who Zalachenko is. If you want more than that we'll have to make a new agreement. I'll need guarantees that my name will be taken out of all your research material. And I'll need guarantees that you won't write about me at all in connection with the Zalachenko story."


Blomkvist was willing to go so far as to treat Bjorck as an anonymous source in connection with the background story, but he could not guarantee that Bjorck would not be identified by anyone else - the police, for example.


"I'm not worried about the police," Bjorck said.


They agreed in the end to think about everything for a day or so before resuming their conversation.


As Blomkvist sat drinking his coffee, he felt that there was something right in front of his nose that he wasn't seeing. He was so close that he could sense shapes, but he couldn't bring the picture into focus. Then it came to him that there was another person who might be able to shed some light on the story. He was quite close to the rehabilitation home in Ersta. He checked his watch. He would go to see Holger Palmgren.


After the meeting Bjorck was exhausted. His back hurt worse than ever. He took three painkillers and had to stretch out on the sofa in the living room. Thoughts were churning around in his head. After about an hour he got up and boiled some water and took out a Lipton's tea bag. He sat at the kitchen table and brooded.


Could he trust Blomkvist? He was now at the man's mercy. But he had held back the crucial information: Zala's identity and his role in the whole drama.


How the hell had he landed in this mess? All he did was pay some whores. He was a bachelor. That sixteen-year-old bitch hadn't even pretended that she liked him. He had felt her disgust.


Fucking cunt. If she hadn't been so young. If she'd been at least twenty it wouldn't have looked so bad. Blomkvist detested him too, and made no effort to hide it.


Zalachenko.


A pimp. What irony. He had fucked Zalachenko's whores. But Zalachenko had been smart enough to stay in the background.


Bjurman and Salander.


And Blomkvist.


A way out.


After an hour of worrying he went to his study and found the piece of paper with the telephone number he had retrieved from his office earlier in the week. It wasn't the only thing he'd kept from Blomkvist. He knew exactly where Zalachenko was, though he hadn't spoken to him in more than twelve years. Nor had he any desire to do so ever again.


But Zalachenko was a sly devil. He would understand the problem. He would be able to vanish from the face of the earth. Go abroad and retire. The real catastrophe would be if he were actually caught. Then everything would come crashing down.


He hesitated a long time before he dialled the number.


"Hello. It's Sven Jansson," he said. A name that he had not used in a very long time. Zalachenko remembered instantly who he was.


CHAPTER 28


Wednesday, April 6


Bublanski met Modig for coffee and a bite to eat at Wayne's on Vasagatan at 8:00 in the evening. She had never seen her boss so downcast before. He told her everything that had happened that day. Finally she reached out and put her hand over his. It was the first time she had ever touched Bublanski, and there was no other reason than companionship. He smiled sadly and patted her hand in an equally friendly way.


"Maybe I should retire," he said.


She smiled at him indulgently.


"This investigation is falling apart," he went on. "It's already in pieces. I informed Ekstrom of everything that occurred today, and he just said, 'Do what you think is best.' He seems incapable of action."


"I don't want to bad-mouth a superior, but as far as I'm concerned, Ekstrom can go jump in the lake."


Bublanski nodded. "You're officially back on the case, but don't expect he'll come up with an apology. Also, Faste stormed out this morning and has had his mobile switched off all day. If he doesn't turn up tomorrow I'm going to have to get somebody to look for him."


"Faste can stay out of it too. What's happening with Hedstrom?"


"Nothing. I wanted to have him charged, but Ekstrom doesn't dare. We kicked him out and I had a serious talk with Armansky. We broke off working with Milton, which unfortunately means that we've lost Sonny Bohman too. Which is a shame. He was a talented detective."


"How did Armansky take it?"


"He was crushed. The curious thing is that... "


"What?"


"He said that Salander never liked Hedstrom. He remembered she told him a couple of years ago that Hedstrom should be fired. She said he was a shithead, but apparently wouldn't explain why. Armansky of course didn't do as she suggested."


"Interesting."


"Curt is still down in Sodertalje. They're about to do a search of Carl-Magnus Lundin's place. Jerker is fully occupied digging up bits of Kenneth 'the Vagabond' Gustafsson. And just before I got here he called to say that there's another body in the second grave. From the clothes it's probably a woman. Seems to have been there quite a while."

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