He needed to catch up on his sleep.


He woke up in time for Rapport and his eyes almost popped out of his head when he heard the top stories. Bodies dug up in Nykvarn. Salander had shot a leader of Svavelsjo MC. Police hunt through the southern suburbs. The net was tightening.


He turned on his mobile.


Almost immediately that fucker Bublanski called. He said that the investigation was now redirecting its focus to identifying an alternative killer, and that Faste was to relieve Holmberg at the crime scene in Nykvarn. During the wrapping up of the Salander investigation Faste was supposed to be collecting cigarette butts in the woods. Other people would be hunting Salander.


What the hell did Svavelsjo MC have to do with all this?


Suppose there was something to the reasoning of that fucking dyke Modig.


It wasn't possible.


It had to be Salander.


He wanted to be the one who caught her. He wanted to catch her so badly that it almost made his hands hurt as he held his mobile.


Palmgren calmly watched Blomkvist pace back and forth in front of the window in the small room. It was getting on towards 7:30 in the evening, and they had been talking nonstop for almost an hour. At last Palmgren tapped on the tabletop to get Blomkvist's attention.


"Sit down before you wear out your shoes," he said.


Blomkvist sat down.


"All these secrets," Palmgren said. "I never understood the connection until you explained Zalachenko's background. All I've seen are the assessments of Lisbeth claiming that she's mentally disturbed."


"Peter Teleborian."


"He must have some sort of deal with Bjorck. They have to have been working together somehow."


Blomkvist nodded pensively. Whatever happened, Teleborian was going to be the object of journalistic scrutiny.


"Lisbeth said that I should stay away from him. That he was evil."


Palmgren looked at him sharply. "When did she say that?"


Blomkvist said nothing for some moments. Then he smiled and looked at Palmgren.


"More secrets, damn it. I've been in touch with her while she's been in hiding. By computer. Only short, cryptic messages on her part, but she has always led me in the right direction."


Palmgren sighed. "And of course you didn't tell the police."


"No. Not exactly."


"Then you haven't told me either. She's quite good with computers."


You have no idea how good.


"I have a great belief in her ability to land on her feet. She may be hard up, but she's a survivor."


Not that hard up. She stole almost three billion kronor. She's not going to starve. She has a bag full of gold, just like Pippi Longstocking.


"What I don't quite understand," Blomkvist said, "is why you didn't take up her case in all those years."


Palmgren sighed again. He felt infinitely sad.


"I failed her," he said. "When I became her trustee she was only one in a series of difficult young people with problems. I've dealt with dozens of others. I was given the assignment by Stefan Brådhensjo when he was minister of welfare. By then she was already at St.Stefan's, and I didn't even see her that first year. I talked to Teleborian a couple of times and he explained that she was psychotic and that she was getting the best possible care. I believed him - and why not? But I also talked to Jonas Beringer, who was senior clinician at that time. I don't think he had anything to do with her case. He made an assessment at my request, and we agreed to try and get her back into society again by way of a foster family. That was when she was fifteen."


"And you backed her up over the years."


"Not enough. I took her side after the episode in the tunnelbana. By then I had gotten to know her and I liked her a lot. She was feisty. I stopped them from putting her back in an institution. The price of that was that she was declared incompetent and I became her guardian."


"Presumably Bjorck wasn't running around telling the court what to decide. It would have attracted attention. He wanted her locked up, and he counted on painting a bleak picture of her through psychiatric assessments from Teleborian and others, assuming that the court would come to the logical conclusion. But instead they followed your recommendation."


"I've never thought that she ought to be under guardianship. But to be honest, I didn't do much to get the ruling reversed. I should have acted sooner and more forcefully. But I was quite enchanted by Lisbeth and...  I always put it off. I had too many irons in the fire. And then I got sick."


"I don't think you should blame yourself. No-one else looked after her interests better over the years."


"The problem was always that I didn't know enough. Lisbeth was my client, but she never uttered a word about Zalachenko. When she got out of St.Stefan's it was years before she manifested the slightest trust in me. It was only after the hearing that I sensed she was very slowly starting to communicate with me beyond the necessary formalities."


"How did she happen to start telling you about Zalachenko?"


"I suppose that in spite of everything she had begun to trust me. Besides, on a number of occasions I'd raised the subject of having the incompetency declaration rescinded. Apparently, she thought it over and then one day she called and wanted to meet. And she told me the whole story about Zalachenko and how she viewed what had happened. You'll probably appreciate that it was a lot for me to take in. But I started digging around in the story straightaway. I couldn't find a Zalachenko in any database in all of Sweden. I did sometimes wonder whether she might be imagining the whole thing."


"After you had your stroke, Bjurman became her guardian. That couldn't have been an accident."


"No. I don't know if we'll ever be able to prove it, but I've been thinking that if we tried hard enough we would find...  whoever it is that took over after Bjorck and is in charge of the cleanup of the Zalachenko affair."


"I don't wonder at Lisbeth's absolute refusal to talk to psychiatrists or the authorities," Blomkvist said. "Every time she did, it only made matters worse. She tried to explain what had happened and no-one listened. She, a child all by herself, tried to save her mother's life and defend her against a psychopath. In the end she did the only thing she felt she could do. And instead of saying 'well done' and 'good girl,' they locked her up in an asylum."


"It's not that straightforward. I hope you understand that there really is something wrong with Lisbeth," Palmgren said sharply.


"How do you mean?"


"You're aware that she had a lot of trouble when she was growing up and problems in school and all that."


"It's been in every daily paper. And I would have had trouble in school myself if I'd had the childhood she had."


"Her problems go way beyond the problems she had at home. I've read all the psychiatric assessments, and there isn't even a diagnosis. I think we can agree that Lisbeth Salander isn't like normal people. Have you ever played chess with her?"


"No."


"She has a photographic memory."


"I know. I realized that when I was working with her."


"She loves puzzles. One time when she came over for Christmas dinner I enticed her into solving some problems from a Mensa intelligence test. It was the kind where they show you five similar symbols and you have to decide what the sixth one will look like. I'd tried myself and got about half of them right. And I plodded away at it for two evenings. She took one look at the paper and answered every question correctly."


"Lisbeth is a very special girl."


"She has an extremely hard time relating to other people. I thought she had Asperger's syndrome or something like it. If you read the clinical descriptions of patients diagnosed with Asperger's, there are things that seem to fit Lisbeth very well, but there are just as many symptoms that don't apply at all. Mind you, she's not the least bit dangerous to people who leave her in peace and treat her with respect. But she is violent, without a doubt," said Palmgren in a low voice. "If she's provoked or threatened, she can strike back with appalling violence."


Blomkvist nodded.


"The question is, what do we do now?" Palmgren said.


"We find Zalachenko," Blomkvist said.


At that moment Dr. Sivarnandan knocked and came in.


"I hope I'm not disturbing you. But if you're interested in Lisbeth Salander, you might want to turn on the TV and watch the news."


CHAPTER 29


Wednesday, April 6 - Thursday, April 7


Salander was shaking with rage. That morning she had gone to Bjurman's summer cabin in peace and quiet. She hadn't opened her computer since the night before, and during the day she had been too busy to listen to the news. She was half expecting the incident in Stallarholmen to get a mention, but she was completely unprepared for the storm that she now encountered on the TV news.


Miriam Wu was in Soder hospital, attacked and badly wounded by a gigantic assailant who had kidnapped her outside the apartment building on Lundagatan. Her condition was described as serious.


She'd been rescued by the former professional boxer Paolo Roberto. How he had come to be in a warehouse in Nykvarn was not explained. He was mobbed by reporters when he came out of the hospital, but he didn't want to make any comments. His face looked as if he had gone ten rounds with his hands tied behind his back.


Two bodies had been found buried in the woods close to where Miriam Wu had been assaulted. It was reported that the police had designated a third site to be excavated as well, and that this might not be the last of it.


And then there was the search for the fugitive Lisbeth Salander.


The net, so they said, was tightening. That day the police had surrounded the neighbourhood of Stallarholmen. She was armed and dangerous. She had shot and wounded a Hell's Angels biker, possibly two. The shoot-out had taken place at the summer cabin of the murdered lawyer Nils Bjurman. By evening the police were ready to concede that she might have managed to elude the cordon.


Ekstrom had called a press conference. His responses were evasive. No, he could not say whether Salander had dealings with the Hell's Angels. No, he could not confirm the rumour that Salander had been seen at the warehouse in Nykvarn. No, there was nothing to indicate that this was an underworld gang war. No, it could not be confirmed that Salander alone was responsible for the Enskede murders. They were now searching for her solely to question her about the circumstances of the murders.


Salander frowned. Something had shifted within the police investigation.


She went online and first read the newspapers' reports, then accessed the hard drives of Ekstrom, Armansky, and Blomkvist, one by one.


Ekstrom's email contained several messages of interest, in particular a memo sent by Jan Bublanski at 5:22 p.m. The email was brisk and devastatingly critical of Ekstrom's management of the preliminary investigation. It ended with what was effectively an ultimatum. He demanded (a) that Inspector Modig be reinstated, effective immediately; (b) that the focus of the investigation be redirected so as to explore alternative solutions to the Enskede murders; and (c) that research be started without delay on the figure known only as Zala.


The accusations against Salander are based on a single direct piece of evidence - her fingerprints on the murder weapon. Which, I remind you, is proof that she handled the weapon but no proof that she fired it, and even less that she fired it at the murder victims.


We now know there are other players involved. The Sodertalje police have found (so far) two bodies in shallow graves close to a warehouse owned by a cousin of Carl-Magnus Lundin. It should be obvious that Salander, however violent and whatever her psychological profile, had nothing to do with those deaths.


Bublanski finished by saying that if his demands were not met he would leave the investigative team, which he did not intend to do quietly. Ekstrom had replied that Bublanski should do what he thought was best. Salander obtained even more surprising information from Armansky's hard drive. A brief exchange of emails with Milton's payroll office established that Niklas Hedstrom had left the company, effective immediately. He would get vacation pay and three months' severance. An email to the manager on duty stated that if Hedstrom came back to the building he could be escorted to his desk to remove personal effects and then escorted from the premises. An email to the technical department advised them that Hedstrom's card key was to be devalidated.


But most interesting was an exchange between Armansky and Milton Security's lawyer, Frank Alenius. Armansky asked how Salander could best be represented in the event that she was taken into custody. Alenius replied that there was no reason for Milton to become concerned with a former employee who had committed murder - it would not reflect well upon Milton Security were the company to be so involved. Armansky replied brusquely that Salander's involvement in any murder was still an open question, and that his concern was to provide support for a former employee whom he considered innocent.


Blomkvist had not, Salander discovered, been on his computer since early the previous day. So no news.


Bohman laid the folder on the table in Armansky's office. He sat down heavily. Fraklund opened it and began to read. Armansky stood by the window looking out at Gamla Stan.


"This is the last report I can deliver. I've been kicked off the investigation," Bohman said.


"Not your fault," Fraklund said.


"No, not your fault," Armansky said and sat down. He had collected all the material that Bohman had provided over the course of two weeks in a pile on the conference table.


"I talked to Bublanski. You've done a good job, Sonny. He is sorry to lose you, but he had no choice because of Hedstrom."

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