"That's OK. I discovered that I get along much better here at Milton than down at Kungsholmen."
"Can you give us a summary?"
"Well, if the objective was to find Lisbeth Salander, then obviously we failed. It was a very messy investigation with a number of competing personalities, and Bublanski may not have had ultimate control over the search."
"Hans Faste -"
"Faste is a real fuckup. But the problem is not just Faste and a sloppy investigation. Bublanski saw to it that all the leads were followed as far as they could be. The fact is, Salander has been damn good at covering her tracks."
"But your job wasn't only to pin down Salander," Armansky said.
"No, and I'm thankful that we didn't tell Hedstrom about my other assignment to act as your mole and see to it that Salander wasn't falsely accused."
"And what do you think today?"
"When we started I was positive that she was guilty. Today I'm not sure one way or the other. So many things don't fit... "
"Well, I would no longer consider her the prime suspect. I'm leaning more and more towards thinking there's something to Mikael Blomkvist's reasoning."
"Which means that we have to identify and find the killers. Shall we take the investigation from the beginning?" Armansky said, pouring coffee.
Salander had one of the worst evenings of her life. She was thinking about when she had thrown the firebomb into Zalachenko's car. In that instant the nightmares stopped and she had felt a great inner peace. She had had other problems, but they had always been about her, and she could handle them. Now it was about Mimmi.
Mimmi had been beaten up and was in the hospital. She was innocent. She'd had nothing to do with any of this. Her only crime was that she knew Salander.
She cursed herself. She was riddled with feelings of guilt. The blame was all hers. Her address was secret; she was safe. And then she had persuaded Mimmi to live in her apartment, at the address that anyone could find.
How could she have been so thoughtless? She might as well have beaten her up herself.
She felt so wretched that tears came to her eyes. But Salander never cried. She wiped them away.
At 10:30 she was so restless that she could not stay in the apartment. She put on her coat and boots and set off into the night. She walked down side streets until she reached Ringvagen and stood at the end of the driveway to Soder hospital. She wanted to go to Mimmi's room and wake her up and tell her that everything was going to be all right. Then she saw blue lights from a police car near Zinken and stepped into an alleyway to avoid being seen.
She was home again just after midnight. She was freezing, so she undressed and crawled into bed. She could not sleep. At 1:00 a.m. she was up again, walking naked through the unlit apartment. She went into the guest bedroom, where there was a bed and a desk. She had never set foot in it before. She sat on the floor with her back to the wall and stared into the night.
Lisbeth Salander has a guest bedroom. What a joke.
She sat there until after 2:00, and by then she was so cold that she was shivering. Then she started to cry again.
Some time before dawn, Salander took a shower and dressed. She put on the coffeemaker and made breakfast and turned on her computer. She went into Blomkvist's hard drive. She was surprised to discover that he had not updated his research journal, and instead she opened the folder. There was a new document titled [Lisbeth-IMPORTANT]. She looked at the document properties. It had been created at 12:52 a.m. She double-clicked.
Lisbeth, contact me right away. This story is worse than I could have dreamed. I know who Zalachenko is and I think I know what happened. I've talked to Holger Palmgren. I understand Teleborian's role and why they locked you up at the clinic. I think I know who murdered Dag and Mia. I also think I know why, but I'm missing some crucial pieces of information. I don't understand Bjurman's role. CALL ME. CONTACT ME AT ONCE. WE CAN SOLVE THIS. Mikael
Salander read the document slowly again. Kalle Blomkvist had been busy. Practical Pig. Practical Fucking Pig. He still thought there was something to solve.
He meant well. He wanted to help.
He didn't understand that whatever happened, her life was over.
It had ended before she even turned thirteen.
There was only one solution.
She created a new document and tried to write a reply, but the thoughts were whirling around in her head and there were so many things she wanted to say to him.
Salander in love. What a fucking joke.
He would never find out. She would never give him the satisfaction.
She deleted the document and stared at the empty screen. But no answer at all was less than he deserved. He had stood faithfully in her corner like a steadfast tin soldier. She created a new document and wrote:
Thanks for being my friend.
First she had a number of logistical decisions to take. She needed a means of transport. Using the burgundy Honda, still on Lundagatan, was tempting but out of the question. There was nothing in Prosecutor Ekstrom's laptop to indicate that anyone in the police investigation had discovered that she had bought a car, which might be because she had not yet managed to send in the registration documents and insurance papers. But Mimmi might have talked about the car when she was questioned by the police, and obviously Lundagatan was under sporadic surveillance.
The police knew that she had a motorcycle, and it would be even more obtrusive to take it out of storage from the apartment building on Lundagatan. Besides, after a number of summer-like days, a change in the weather was forecast, and she had no great desire to venture out on a bike on rain-slick highways.
One alternative, of course, would be to rent a car in Irene Nesser's name, but there were risks involved with that too. Someone might recognize her, and the fake identity would then be lost to her. That would be a catastrophe; it was her escape route out of the country.
Then she gave a lopsided smile. There was one other possibility. She booted up her computer, logged on to Milton Security's network and navigated to the car pool, which was administered by a secretary in Milton's reception area. Milton Security had close to forty cars at its disposal, some of which carried the company logo and were used on business trips. The majority were unmarked surveillance cars, and these were kept in the garage at Milton's HQ near Slussen. Practically around the corner.
She studied the personnel files and chose employee Marcus Collander, who had just gone on vacation for two weeks. He had left the telephone number of a hotel in the Canary Islands. She changed the hotel name and scrambled the digits of the phone number where he could be reached. Then she entered a note that Collander's last action while on duty had been to drop off one of the cars for servicing. She picked a Toyota Corolla automatic, which she had driven before, and recorded that it would be back a week later.
Finally she went into the surveillance system and reprogrammed the cameras she would have to walk past. Between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. they would show a repeat of the previous half hour, but with an altered time code.
At 4:15 she packed her backpack. She had two changes of clothes, two Mace canisters, and the fully charged Taser. She looked at the two guns she had acquired. She rejected Sandstrom's Colt 1911 Government and chose Nieminen's Polish P-83 Wanad, which had one round missing from the magazine. It was slimmer and fit her hand better. She put it into her jacket pocket.
Salander closed the lid of her PowerBook but left the computer on the desk. She had transferred the contents of her hard drive to an encrypted backup on the Net and then erased her whole hard drive with a programme she had written herself, which guaranteed that not even she could reconstruct the contents. She did not want to rely on her Power-Book, which would just be cumbersome to drag around. Instead she took her Palm Tungsten PDA with her.
She looked around her office. She had a feeling that she would not be coming back to the apartment in Mosebacke and knew that she was leaving secrets behind that she should probably destroy. But glancing at her watch she realized that she did not have much time. She turned off the desk lamp.
She walked to Milton Security, went into the garage, and took the elevator up to the administrative offices. She met no-one in the empty corridors and taking the car keys out of the unlocked cabinet in reception presented no difficulty.
She was in the garage thirty seconds later, and blipped open the door lock on the Corolla. She dumped her backpack in the passenger seat and adjusted the driver's seat and the rearview mirror. She used her old card key to open the garage door.
Just before 5:00 she turned up from Soder Malarstrand at Vasterbron. It was starting to get light.
Blomkvist woke up at 6:30. He had not set his alarm clock and had slept for only three hours. He got up and switched on his iBook and opened the folder to look for her reply.
Thanks for being my friend.
Blomkvist felt a chill run down his spine. Hardly the answer he had hoped for. It felt like a farewell letter. Salander alone against the world. He went to the kitchen and started the coffeemaker and then had a shower. He put on a pair of worn jeans and realized that he had not had time to do laundry for weeks. He had no clean shirts. He put on a wine-red sweatshirt under his grey jacket.
As he made breakfast in the kitchen, a glint of metal on the counter behind the microwave caught his eye. With a fork he fished out a key ring.
Salander's keys. He had found them after the attack on Lundagatan and put them on top of the microwave with her shoulder bag. He had forgotten to give them to Inspector Modig with the bag, and they must have fallen down in back.
He stared at the bunch of keys. Three large ones and three small. The three large keys were presumably to an entrance door, an apartment, and a dead bolt. Her apartment. Obviously not the apartment on Lundagatan. So where the hell did she live?
He examined the three small keys more closely. One was probably for her Kawasaki. One looked like it was for a safety-deposit box or storage cabinet. He held up the third key. The number 24914 was stamped on it. The realization hit him.
A P.O. box. Lisbeth Salander has a P.O. box.
He looked up the post offices in Sodermalm in the phone book. She had lived on Lundagatan. Ringvagen was too far away. Maybe Hornsgatan. Or Rosenlundsgatan.
He turned off the coffeemaker, abandoned his breakfast, and drove Berger's BMW to Rosenlundsgatan. The key did not fit. He drove on to Hornsgatan. The key fit perfectly in box 24914. He opened it and found twenty-two items of post, which he stuffed into the outside pocket of his laptop case.
He drove on to Hornsgatan, parked by the Kvarter cinema, and had breakfast at Copacabana on Bergsundsstrand. As he waited for his caffe latte he examined the letters one by one. All were addressed to Wasp Enterprises. Nine letters had been sent from Switzerland, eight from the Cayman Islands, one from the Channel Islands, and four from Gibraltar.
With no pang of conscience he slit open the envelopes. The first twenty-one contained bank statements and reports on various accounts and funds. Salander was as rich as a troll.
The twenty-second letter was thicker. The address was handwritten. The envelope had a printed logo and the return address of Buchanan House, Queensway Quay, Gibraltar. The enclosed letter was on the stationery of a Jeremy S. MacMillan, Solicitor. He had neat handwriting.
Dear Ms. Salander,
This is to confirm that the final payment on your property was concluded as of January 20. As agreed, I am enclosing copies of all documentation, but I will keep the original set. I trust this will meet with your satisfaction.
Let me add that I hope everything is well with you. I very much enjoyed your surprise visit of last summer, and must tell you that I found your company refreshing. I look forward to being of further service as necessary.
The letter was dated January 24. Salander apparently did not pick up her mail very often. Blomkvist looked at the attached documentation for the purchase of an apartment in a building at Fiskargatan 9 in Mosebacke.
Then he almost choked on his coffee. The price paid was twenty-five million kronor, and the deal was concluded with two payments a year apart.
Salander watched a solid, dark-haired man unlock the side door of Auto-Expert in Eskilstuna. It was a garage, a repair shop, and a car rental agency. A typical franchise. It was 6:50, and according to a handwritten sign on the front door, the shop did not open until 7:30. She went across the street and followed the man through the side door into the shop. The man heard her and turned round.
"Refik Alba?" she said.
"Yes. Who are you? I'm not open yet."
She raised Nieminen's P-83 Wanad and held the weapon with two hands aimed at his face.
"I don't want to haggle with you. I just want to see your list of cars rented out. I want to see it now. You have ten seconds to produce it."
Refik Alba was forty-two years old, a Kurd born in Diyarbakir, and he had seen his fill of guns. He stood as if paralyzed. Then he concluded that if this crazy woman came into his garage with a pistol in her hand, there was not going to be much to discuss.
"It's on the computer," he said.
"Turn it on."
He did as she told him.
"What's behind that door?" she asked as the computer booted up and the screen began to flicker.
"It's just a closet."
It contained some overalls.
"OK. Go into the closet, stay calm, and I won't have to hurt you."
He obeyed her without protest.
"Take out your mobile, put it on the floor, and kick it over to me."
He did as she said.
"Good. Now close the door behind you."
It was an antique PC with Windows 95 and a 280 MB hard drive. It took an eternity to open the Excel document with the car rental listing. The white Volvo had been rented on two occasions. First for two weeks in January, and then from March 1. It had not yet been returned. He was paying a weekly fee for a long-term rental.