"Two?"



"Lisbeth and her twin sister Camilla."


"Good God - there are two of her?"


"They're very different. But that's another story. Lisbeth's mother's name was in fact Agneta Sofia Sjolander. She was seventeen when she met Zalachenko. I don't know anything else about how they met, but I gather she was quite a dependent young girl and easy prey for an older, more experienced man. She was impressed by him and probably head over heels in love with him. Zalachenko turned out to be anything but nice. I assume he was just after a willing woman and not much else. Naturally she fantasized about a secure future with him, but he wasn't the least bit interested in marriage. They never did marry, but in 1979 she changed her name from Sjolander to Salander. That was, I suppose, her way of showing that they belonged together."


"How do you mean?"


"Zala. Salander."


"Jesus," Blomkvist said.


"I started looking into the whole matter just before I fell ill. She had the right to take the name because her mother, Lisbeth's grandmother, was actually named Salander. Then what happened was that Zalachenko proved himself to be a psychopath on a grand scale. He drank and savagely abused Agneta. As far as I know, this abuse went on throughout the girls' childhood. As long as Lisbeth can remember, Zalachenko would turn up from time to time. Sometimes he would be gone for long periods, but then he was suddenly there again in the apartment on Lundagatan. And every time it was the same old story. He came there to have sex and to get drunk, and it ended with him abusing Lisbeth's mother in various ways. Lisbeth told me things that indicated it was more than physical abuse. He carried a gun and was threatening, and there were elements of sadism and psychological terrorizing. I gather it only got worse as the years went on. Lisbeth's mother spent a great part of the eighties living in fear."


"Did he hit the children too?"


"No. Apparently he was totally uninterested in his daughters. He hardly even said hello to them. Their mother used to send them to their room when Zalachenko turned up, and they weren't allowed to come out without permission. On one occasion he may have spanked Lisbeth or her sister, but that was mostly because they were irritating him or were somehow in the way. All the violence was directed towards their mother."


"Jesus Christ. Poor Lisbeth."


Palmgren nodded. "Lisbeth told me all this about a month before I had my stroke. It was the first time she had spoken openly about what had happened. I'd just decided that it was time to put an end to the absurd declaration of incompetence. Lisbeth is as smart as anyone I know, and I was prepared to take up her case again with the district court. Then I had the stroke...  and when I woke up I was here."


He waved at his confined quarters. A nurse knocked at the door and brought in coffee. Palmgren sat in silence until she left.


"There are some aspects of Lisbeth's story that I don't understand," he said. "Agneta had been forced to go to the hospital dozens of times. I read her medical record. It was perfectly obvious that she was the victim of aggravated assault, and social welfare should have intervened. But nothing happened. Lisbeth and Camilla had to stay at the social emergency service whenever she sought care, but as soon as she was discharged she would go back home and it would start all over again. I can only interpret this as the collapse of the whole social safety net, and Agneta was too terrified to do anything but wait for her torturer. Then something happened. Lisbeth calls it All The Evil.'"


"What was it?"


"Zalachenko had been gone for several months. Lisbeth had turned twelve. She had apparently begun to think that he was gone for good. But he wasn't, of course. One day he came back. First Agneta locked Lisbeth and her sister in their room. Then she and Zalachenko went to bed. And then he started hitting her. He enjoyed beating people. But this time it wasn't two helpless little girls who were locked up...  The twins reacted quite differently. Camilla was panic-stricken that someone would find out what was going on in their apartment. She repressed everything and made out that her mother was never beaten. When the abuse was over, Camilla would go in and hug her father and pretend that everything was fine."


"Her way of protecting herself, no doubt."


"Right. But Lisbeth was a whole different story. This time she interrupted the beating. She went into the kitchen and got a knife and stabbed Zalachenko in the shoulder. She stabbed him five times before he managed to take the knife away and punch her in the face. They weren't deep wounds, it seems, but he was bleeding like a stuck pig and he ran off."


"That sounds like Lisbeth."


Palmgren laughed. "Yes, it does. Don't ever fight with Lisbeth Salander. Her attitude towards the rest of the world is that if someone threatens her with a gun, she'll get a bigger gun. That's what frightens me about what's going on right now."


"So that was 'All The Evil'?"


"No, no. Then two things happened. I can't understand it. Zalachenko was wounded so badly that he had to go to the hospital. There should have been a police report."


"But?"


"But as far as I could discover, there were absolutely no repercussions. Lisbeth remembers that a man came and talked with Agneta. She didn't know what was said or who he was. And then her mother told her that Zalachenko had forgiven her everything."


"Forgiven?"


"That was the expression she used."


And suddenly Blomkvist understood.


Bjorck. Or one of Bjorck's colleagues. It was about cleaning up after Zalachenko. Those fucking pigs. He closed his eyes.


"What is it?" Palmgren said.


"I think I know what happened. And someone is going to pay for this. But go on with the story."


"Zalachenko was gone for several months. Lisbeth waited for him and made her preparations. She had played truant from school every single day to watch out for her mother. She was scared to death that Zalachenko would really hurt her. She was twelve and felt responsible for her mother, who did not dare to go to the police and couldn't break it off with Zalachenko, or who perhaps did not understand the seriousness of the situation. But on the day Zalachenko finally turned up, Lisbeth was at school. She came home just as he was leaving the apartment. He didn't say a word. He just laughed at her. Lisbeth went in and found her mother unconscious on the kitchen floor."


"But Zalachenko didn't touch Lisbeth?"


"No. She caught up with him just as he was getting into his car. He rolled down the window, possibly to say something. Lisbeth was ready. She threw a milk carton she had filled with gasoline into the car. Then she threw in a burning match."


"Good God."


"She tried to kill her father twice. This time there were consequences. A man sitting in a car on Lundagatan burning like a beacon could hardly go unnoticed."


"But he survived."


"He suffered horribly. One of his feet had to be amputated. His face and other parts of his body suffered serious burns. And Lisbeth ended up at St.Stefan's Psychiatric Clinic for Children."


Despite the fact that she already knew every word by heart, Salander once again read through the material about herself that she had found in Bjurman's files. She sat in the window seat and opened the cigarette case Miriam Wu had given her. She lit a cigarette and looked out towards Djurgården. She had discovered some things about her life that she had never known before.


In fact so much fell into place that she turned quite cold. Above all she was interested in the report filed by Bjorck in March 1991. She wasn't certain which one of the many grown-ups who had talked to her was Bjorck, but she thought she knew. He had introduced himself with another name. Sven Jansson. She remembered every feature of his face, every word he said, and every gesture he made on the three occasions she had encountered him.


The whole thing was a disaster.


Zalachenko had burned like fury inside the car. He had managed to push open the door and roll out onto the pavement, but his leg got caught inside by the seat belt. People had come rushing up to smother the flames. A fire engine arrived and put out the fire. An ambulance arrived and Lisbeth had tried to get the medics to ignore Zalachenko and come and see to her mother. They had shoved her aside. The police arrived, and there were witnesses who pointed to her. She tried to explain what had happened, but it felt as if nobody was listening to her, and suddenly she was sitting in the backseat of a police car and it took minutes and minutes and minutes and finally almost an hour before the police went into the apartment and found her mother.


Agneta Sofia Salander was unconscious. She had brain damage. The first in a long series of small cerebral haemorrhages had been triggered by the beating. She would never recover.


Salander now understood why nobody had read the police report, why Palmgren had failed in his attempt to have it released, and why even today Prosecutor Ekstrom, who was leading the search for her, did not have access to it. It had not been written by the regular police. It had been put together by some creep in the Security Police. It had rubber stamps on it saying that the report was classified as top secret according to the law of national security.


Zalachenko had worked for Sapo.


It was no report. It was a cover-up. Zalachenko was more important than Agneta Salander. He could not be identified or exposed. Zalachenko did not exist.


It was not Zalachenko who was the problem - it was Lisbeth Salander, the crazy kid who threatened to crack one of the country's most crucial secrets wide open.


A secret that she had not known anything about. She brooded. Zalachenko had met her mother very soon after he had arrived in Sweden. He had introduced himself using his real name. Perhaps at that time he had not yet been given a cover name or a Swedish identity, or he was not using it for her. She only knew his real name. But he had been given a new name by the Swedish government. That explained why Lisbeth had never found his name in any public records in all these years.


She got the point. If Zalachenko were accused of aggravated assault, Agneta Salander's lawyer would start looking into his past. Where do you work, Herr Zalachenko? What's your real name? Where do you come from?


If Salander ended up with social services maybe somebody would start digging around. She was too young to be charged, but if the gasoline-bomb attack were investigated in too much detail, the same thing would happen. She could imagine the headlines in the papers. The investigation would have to be conducted by a trusted person. And then stamped top secret and buried so deep that nobody would find it. And Salander would have to be buried so deep that nobody would find her either.


Gunnar Bjorck.


St.Stefan's.


Peter Teleborian.


The explanation was driving her wild.


Dear Government...  I'm going to have a serious talk with you if I ever find anyone to talk to.


She wondered fleetingly what the minister of health and social welfare would think about getting a Molotov cocktail tossed through the front doors of his department. But in the absence of anyone else who could be held responsible, Teleborian was a good substitute. She made a mental note to deal with him in earnest as soon as she had tidied up the rest of this mess.


But she still didn't understand the whole picture. Zalachenko had suddenly sprung to life again after all these years. He was in danger of being exposed by Svensson. Two shots. Svensson and Johansson. A gun with her fingerprints on it...


Zalachenko or whoever he sent to carry out the executions could not have known that she had found the revolver in the box in Bjurman's desk drawer and handled it. It had been pure chance, but for her it had already been clear from the start that there had to be a connection between Bjurman and Zala.


Yet the story still did not add up. She mulled it over, trying out the pieces of the puzzle one by one.


There was only one reasonable answer.


Bjurman.


Bjurman had done his investigation into her life. He had discovered the connection. He had turned to Zalachenko.


She had the video of Bjurman raping her. That was her sword over his neck. Perhaps he dreamed that Zalachenko would force her into giving it up.


She hopped down from the window seat, opened her desk drawer, and took out the DVD with BJURMAN written on it in marker pen. She had not even put it in a plastic sleeve. She had not looked at it since she had given Bjurman his very own screening two years ago. She weighed it in her hand and put it back in the drawer.


Bjurman was a fool. If he'd only kept his distance she would have released him as soon as he'd managed to get her declaration of incompetence rescinded. He would have been transformed forever into Zalachenko's lapdog, and that would have been a fair punishment.


Zalachenko's network. Some of the tentacles went all the way to Svavelsjo MC.


The blond giant.


He was her key.


She had to find him and force him to tell her where Zalachenko was.


She lit another cigarette and looked out at the citadel next to Skeppsholmen. She looked across to the roller coaster at Grona Lund. She was talking to herself. And in a voice she had heard once in a film, she said:


Daaaaddyyyyy, I'm coming to get yoooou.


At 7:30 she turned on the TV to catch up on the latest developments in the hunt for Lisbeth Salander. She was stunned by what she saw.


Bublanski finally got hold of Faste on his mobile just after 8:00 in the evening. No pleasantries were exchanged. He did not ask what Faste had been up to, but coolly gave him his instructions.


Faste had had more than he could bear of the circus at headquarters that morning and had done something he had never done before on duty. He went out on the town. He turned off his mobile and sat in the bar at Central Station and drank two beers while he boiled with rage.


Then he went home, took a shower, and went to bed.

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