"A woodland cemetery. Jan, I assume Salander is not a suspect in the murders at Nykvarn."
Bublanski smiled for the first time in hours. "No. She had to be crossed off that one. But she's definitely carrying a weapon and she did shoot Lundin."
"Mind you, she shot him in the foot, not in the head. In Lundin's case there's probably not much difference, but don't forget that whoever committed the murders in Enskede is an excellent shot."
"Sonja... this is totally absurd. Magge Lundin and Sonny Nieminen are two hooligans with long police records. Lundin may have put on a pound or two and he may not be in top form, but he's still dangerous. And Nieminen is a brutal bastard that even the tough guys are afraid of. I simply can't imagine how a skinny little creature like Salander could beat the shit out of them like that. Not that he doesn't deserve a beating, don't get me wrong. It's just that I don't understand how it could have happened."
"We'll have to ask her when we find her. She has been documented as violent, after all."
"Even Curt would have thought twice about taking those guys on. And Curt isn't exactly a pansy."
"The question is whether she had some reason to attack Lundin and Nieminen."
"One little girl with two psychopaths in a deserted summer cabin? I can think of a reason or two," Bublanski said.
"Could she have had help from someone? Could there have been other people involved?"
"There's nothing in the report to indicate that. Salander was inside the cabin. There was a coffee cup on the table. And besides, we have a statement from Anna Viktoria Hansson, who keeps an eye on everyone's movements. She swears that the only people who passed her were Salander and our two heroes from Svavelsjo."
"How did Salander get into the cabin?"
"With a key. I'm guessing she took it from Bjurman's apartment. You remember -"
"The cut police tape. She's been busy."
Modig drummed her fingertips on the table and then took a new approach.
"Has it been confirmed that it was Lundin who had a part in the kidnapping of Miriam Wu?"
"Paolo Roberto looked through mug shots of three dozen bikers. He picked him out right away, no shadow of a doubt that was the man he saw at the warehouse in Nykvarn."
"I haven't gotten hold of him yet. He's not answering his mobile."
"But Lundin matches his description of Salander's attacker on Lundagatan. So we can assume that Svavelsjo MC has been hunting Salander for a while. Why?"
Bublanski threw up his hands.
Modig asked, "Was Salander living in Bjurman's summer cabin all the time we were looking for her?"
"I thought of that too. But Jerker doesn't think so. The cabin doesn't look as if it's been lived in recently, and we have a witness who says she arrived on foot earlier today."
"Why did she go there? I don't suppose she'd set up a meeting with Lundin."
"Hardly. She must have been looking for something. And the only thing we found was a bunch of files that seem to contain Bjurman's own investigation of Salander. It's all the material about her from social welfare, the Guardianship Agency, and old school reports. But it seems that some of the folders are missing. They were numbered. We have folders 1, 4, and 5."
"So 2 and 3 are missing."
"And maybe more with higher numbers."
"Which raises a question. Why would Salander be looking for information about herself?" Modig said.
"I can think of two reasons. Either she wants to hide something that she knew Bjurman had written about her, or else she wants to find out something. But there's another question too."
"Why would Bjurman compile an extensive report on her and then hide it in his summer cabin? Salander seems to have found the material in the attic. He was her guardian and was assigned to handle her finances and other matters. But the material there gives the impression that he was almost obsessed with charting her life."
"Bjurman is looking more and more like a disreputable character. I was thinking about that today when I went through the list of johns at Millennium. I suddenly expected his name to turn up there too."
"Good thinking. Remember the violent porn you found on his computer. Did you find anything at Millennium?"
"I don't really know. Blomkvist is busy checking off the names on their list, but according to Malin Eriksson, one of the editors there, he hasn't turned up anything of interest. Jan... I have to say one thing."
"I don't think Salander did any of this. Enskede and Odenplan, I mean. I was just as persuaded as all the others when we started, but I don't believe it now. And I can't really explain why."
Bublanski realized that he agreed with Modig.
The giant paced back and forth in Lundin's house in Svavelsjo. He stopped by the kitchen window and looked down the road. They should have been back by now. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach. Something was wrong.
He didn't like being alone in this house. He didn't feel at home here. There was a draft in his room upstairs, and there were always strange noises. He tried to shake off his uneasiness. It was foolish, he knew, but he had never liked being alone. He was not in the least afraid of flesh-and-blood people, but empty houses out in the country he thought were indescribably horrible. The noises got his imagination working. He couldn't shed the sense that something dark and evil was watching him through the crack in the door. Something he believed he could hear breathing.
When he was younger he'd been troubled by a fear of the dark. That is, he'd been troubled until he had aggressively told off his friends, his own age and sometimes a lot older, who were amused by such weaknesses. He was good at telling people off.
But it was embarrassing. He hated darkness and being alone. He hated the creatures that inhabited darkness and solitude. He wished Lundin would come home. Lundin's presence would restore the balance, even if they didn't exchange a word or weren't even in the same room. He would hear real sounds and he would know that there were people nearby.
He tried to ward off his anxiety by playing CDs on the stereo, and restlessly he tried to find something he wanted to read on Lundin's shelves. Lundin's taste in books left much to be desired, and he had to settle for a collection of motorcycle magazines, men's magazines, and paperback thrillers of the type that had never interested him. The solitude became more and more claustrophobic. He cleaned and oiled the pistol he kept in his bag, and for a while that had a calming effect.
Eventually he had to get out of the house. He walked around the garden to get some fresh air. He stayed out of sight of the neighbouring houses, but stopped so that he could watch the lighted windows where there were people. If he stood quite still he could hear the sound of music in the distance.
When he felt he had to go back inside Lundin's wooden shack he stood for a long time on the steps before shaking off the oppressive feeling and resolutely going in.
At 7:00 he watched the news on TV4. He listened with horror to the headlines and then to a report on the shoot-out at the summer cabin in Stallarholmen.
He ran up the stairs to his room on the top floor and stuffed his belongings into a bag. Two minutes later he was driving away in his white Volvo.
He had made his escape in the nick of time. Just two miles outside Svavelsjo two police cars with their blue lights flashing passed him, on their way into the village.
After a great deal of patient negotiation Blomkvist was allowed to see Holger Palmgren. He was so insistent that the nurse in charge called Dr. Sivarnandan, who apparently lived nearby. Sivarnandan arrived fifteen minutes later and assumed responsibility for dealing with the stubborn journalist. At first he was not at all sympathetic. Over the past two weeks several reporters had found out where Palmgren was and had used all sorts of strategies to get a statement. Palmgren himself had refused on any account to receive such visitors, and the staff had instructions to let no-one in to see him.
Dr. Sivarnandan had been following the case with much distress. He was shocked at the headlines that Salander had generated in the press. Palmgren had fallen into a deep depression which, Sivarnandan suspected, was a result of his inability to help Salander in any way. Palmgren had broken off his rehabilitation therapy and now spent the days reading newspapers and following the hunt for the girl on TV. Otherwise he sat in his room and brooded.
Blomkvist remained standing at Sivarnandan's desk and explained that of course he had no wish to subject Palmgren to any unpleasantness. He didn't want a statement from him. He was a good friend of Salander, he was persuaded of her innocence, and he was desperately searching for information that might shed some light on certain aspects of her past.
Dr. Sivarnandan was hard to convince. Blomkvist had to explain in detail his own role in the drama. Not until half an hour of discussion had passed did Sivarnandan give his consent. He asked Blomkvist to wait while he went up to ask Palmgren whether he would see him.
Sivarnandan returned after ten minutes.
"He's agreed to see you. If he doesn't like you then he'll put you out on your ear. You are not to interview him or write anything in the press about the visit."
"I won't write a line about this."
Palmgren had a small room containing a bed, a bureau, a table, and a couple of chairs. He was white-haired and thin as a scarecrow. He evidently had trouble with his balance, but he stood up anyway when Blomkvist was shown into the room. He did not hold out his hand, but motioned to one of the chairs by the table. Blomkvist sat down. Dr. Sivarnandan remained in the room. Blomkvist had difficulty at first understanding Palmgren's slurred speech.
"Who are you, claiming to be Lisbeth's friend, and what do you want?"
"You don't have to say anything to me. But I ask you to listen to what I have to say before you throw me out."
Palmgren nodded curtly and shuffled over to the chair opposite Blomkvist.
"I met Lisbeth Salander for the first time two years ago. I hired her to do some research for me. She visited me in another town where I was living at the time, and we worked together for several weeks."
He wondered how much he had to explain to Palmgren. He decided to stay as close to the truth as possible.
"During that time two important things happened. One was that Lisbeth saved my life. The other was that we became very good friends. I came to know her well and I think very highly of her."
Without going into detail, Blomkvist told Palmgren how his relationship with her had suddenly ended after the Christmas holiday a year ago, when Salander left the country.
Then he told Palmgren about his work at Millennium and about how Svensson and Johansson were murdered and how he had been drawn into the hunt for the killer.
"I've heard that you've been bothered by reporters lately, and certainly the papers have published one idiotic story after the other. All I can do now is to assure you that I'm not here to gather material for yet another article. I'm here because of Lisbeth, as her friend. I'm probably one of the few people in the country right now who unhesitatingly, and without an ulterior motive, is on her side. I believe her to be innocent. I believe that a man named Zalachenko is behind the murders."
Blomkvist paused. Something had glimmered in Palmgren's eyes when he said the name Zalachenko.
"If you can contribute anything that would shed some light on Lisbeth's past, this is the time to do it. If you don't want to help her, then I'm wasting my time and yours and I'll know where you stand."
Palmgren had not said a word during this monologue. As Blomkvist finished, his eyes flashed again. But he was smiling. He spoke as clearly as he could.
"You really want to help her."
Palmgren leaned forward. "Describe the sofa in her living room."
"On the occasions I visited her she had a worn-out, extremely ugly piece of furniture with a certain curiosity value. I would guess it's from the early fifties. It has two shapeless cushions covered in brown cloth with a yellow pattern of sorts on it. The cloth is torn in several places and the stuffing was coming out when I last saw it."
All of a sudden Palmgren laughed. It sounded more like he was clearing his throat. He looked at Dr. Sivarnandan.
"He's been to her apartment at least. Does the doctor think it would be possible to offer my guest a cup of coffee?"
"Certainly." Dr. Sivarnandan got up to leave. He paused in the doorway to nod at Blomkvist.
"Alexander Zalachenko," Palmgren said as soon as the door was closed.
"So you know that name?"
"Lisbeth told me the name. And I think it's important that I tell this story to someone... should I happen to drop dead, which is all too possible."
"Lisbeth? How would she know anything about his existence?"
"He is Lisbeth's father."
At first Blomkvist could not make out what Palmgren was saying. Then the words sank in.
"What the hell are you saying?"
"Zalachenko was some sort of a political refugee - I've never gotten the story quite straight, and Lisbeth was always tight-lipped about it. It was something she absolutely did not want to talk about."
Her birth certificate. Father unknown.
"Zalachenko is Lisbeth's father," Blomkvist repeated aloud.
"On only one occasion in all the years I've known her did she tell me what happened. Here's how I understood it - Zalachenko came here in the mid-seventies. He met Lisbeth's mother in 1977, they had a relationship, and the result was two children."