She was almost bowled over by the furious gusts, but she clenched her teeth and worked her way forward, step by step, into the storm. She had almost reached the couple when one more flash of lightning lit up the beach and she saw Geraldine Forbes sink to her knees by the water's edge. Forbes stood over her, his arm raised to strike with what looked like an iron pipe in his hand. She saw his arm move in an arc towards his wife's head. Geraldine stopped struggling.
Forbes never saw Salander coming.
She cracked the chair leg over the back of his head and he fell forward on his face.
Salander bent and took hold of Geraldine Forbes. As the rain whipped across them, she turned the body over. Her hands were suddenly bloody. Geraldine Forbes had a wound on her scalp. She was as heavy as lead, and Salander looked around desperately, wondering how she was going to pull her up to the hotel wall. Then Bland appeared at her side. He shouted something that Salander could not make out in the storm.
She glanced at Forbes. He had his back to her, but he was up on all fours. She took Geraldine's left arm and put it around her neck and motioned to Bland to take the other arm. They began laboriously dragging her up the beach.
Halfway to the hotel wall Salander felt completely drained, as if all strength had left her body. Her heart skipped a beat when she felt a hand grab her shoulder. She let go of Geraldine and spun around to kick Forbes in the crotch. He stumbled to his knees. Then she kicked him in the face. She saw Bland's horrified expression. Salander gave him half a second of attention before she again took hold of Geraldine Forbes and resumed dragging her.
After a few seconds she turned her head. Forbes was tottering ten paces behind them, but he was swaying like a drunk in the gusting winds.
Another bolt of lightning cleaved the sky and Salander opened her eyes wide.
She felt a paralyzing terror.
Behind Forbes, a hundred yards out to sea, she saw the finger of God.
A frozen image in the sudden flash, a coal black pillar that towered up and vanished from sight into space.
It's not possible.
A hurricane - yes.
A tornado - impossible.
Grenada is not in a tornado zone.
A freak storm in a region where tornadoes can't happen.
Tornadoes cannot form over water.
This is scientifically wrong.
This is something unique.
It has come to take me.
Bland had seen the tornado too. They yelled at each other to hurry, not able to hear what the other was saying.
Twenty yards more to the wall. Ten. Salander tripped and fell to her knees. Five. At the gate she took one last look over her shoulder. She caught a glimpse of Forbes just as he was tugged into the sea as if by an invisible hand and disappeared. She and Bland heaved their burden through the gate. As they staggered across the back courtyard, over the storm Salander heard the crash of windowpanes shattering and the screeching whine of twisting sheet metal. A plank flew through the air right past her nose. The next second she felt pain as something solid struck her in the back. The violence of the wind diminished when they reached the lobby.
Salander stopped Bland and grabbed his collar. She pulled his head to her mouth and yelled in his ear.
"We found her on the beach. We didn't see the husband. Understood?"
They carried Geraldine Forbes down the cellar stairs and Salander kicked at the door. McBain opened it and stared at them. Then he pulled them in and shut the door again.
The noise from the storm dropped in a second from an intolerable roar to a creaking and rumbling in the background. Salander took a deep breath.
Ella poured hot coffee into a mug. Salander was so shattered she could scarcely raise her arm to take it. She sat passively on the floor, leaning against the wall. Someone had wrapped blankets around both her and the boy. She was soaked through and bleeding badly from a gash below her kneecap. There was a rip about four inches long in her jeans and she had no memory of it happening. She watched numbly as McBain and two hotel guests worked on Geraldine Forbes, wrapping bandages around her head. She caught words here and there and understood that someone in the group was a doctor. She noticed that the cellar was packed and that the hotel guests had been joined by people from outside who had come looking for shelter.
After a while McBain came over to Salander and squatted down.
Salander said nothing.
"We found her beyond the wall on the beach."
"I was missing three people when I counted the guests down here in the cellar. You and the Forbes couple. Ella said that you ran off like a crazy person just as the storm got here."
"I went to get my friend George." Salander nodded at Bland. "He lives down the road in a shack that can't possibly still be standing."
"That was very brave but awfully stupid," McBain said, glancing at Bland. "Did either of you two see the husband?"
"No," Salander said with a neutral expression. Bland glanced at her and shook his head.
Ella tilted her head and gave Salander a sharp look. Salander looked back at her with expressionless eyes.
Geraldine Forbes came to at around 3:00 a.m. By that time Salander had fallen asleep with her head on Bland's shoulder.
In some miraculous way, Grenada survived the night. McBain allowed the guests out of the cellar, and when dawn broke the storm had died away, replaced by the most torrential rain Salander had ever seen.
The Keys Hotel would be needing a major overhaul. The devastation at the hotel, and all along the coast, was extensive. Ella's bar beside the pool was gone altogether, and one veranda had been demolished. Windows had peeled off along the facade, and the roof of a projecting section of the hotel had bent in two. The lobby was a chaos of debris.
Salander took Bland with her and staggered up to her room. She hung a blanket over the empty window frame to keep out the rain. Bland met her gaze.
"There'll be less to explain if we didn't see her husband," Salander said before he could ask any questions.
He nodded. She pulled off her clothes, dropped them on the floor, and patted the edge of the bed next to her. He nodded again and undressed and crawled in beside her. They were asleep almost at once.
When she awoke at midday, the sun was shining through cracks in the clouds. Every muscle in her body ached, and her knee was so swollen that she could hardly bend it. She slipped out of bed and got into the shower. The green lizard was back on the wall. She put on shorts and a top and stumbled out of the room without waking Bland.
Ella was still on her feet. She looked dog-tired, but she had gotten the bar in the lobby up and running. Salander ordered coffee and a sandwich. Through the blown-out windows by the entrance she saw a police car. Just as her coffee arrived, McBain came out of his office by the front desk, followed by a uniformed policeman. McBain caught sight of her and said something to the policeman before they came over to Salander's table.
"This is Constable Ferguson. He'd like to ask you some questions."
Salander greeted him politely. Constable Ferguson had obviously had a long night, too. He took out a notebook and pen and wrote down Salander's name.
"Ms. Salander, I understand that you and a friend discovered Mrs. Richard Forbes during the hurricane last night."
"Where did you find her?"
"On the beach just below the gate," Salander said. "We almost tripped over her."
Ferguson wrote that down.
"Did she say anything?"
Salander shook her head.
"She was unconscious?"
Salander nodded sensibly.
"She had a nasty wound on her head."
Salander nodded again.
"You don't know how she was injured?"
Salander shook her head. Ferguson muttered in irritation at her lack of response.
"There was a lot of stuff flying through the air," she said helpfully. "I was almost hit in the head by a plank."
"You injured your leg?" Ferguson pointed at her bandage. "What happened?"
"I didn't notice it until I got down to the cellar."
"You were with a young man."
"Where does he live?"
"In a shack behind the Coconut, on the road to the airport. If the shack is still standing, that is."
Salander did not add that Bland was at that moment asleep in her bed three floors above them.
"Did either of you see her husband, Richard Forbes?"
Salander shook her head.
Constable Ferguson could not, it seemed, think of any other questions to ask, and he closed his notebook.
"Thank you, Ms. Salander. I'll have to write up a report on the death."
"Did she die?"
"Mrs. Forbes? No, she's in hospital in St.George's. Apparently she has you and your friend to thank for the fact that she's alive. But her husband is dead. His body was found in a parking lot at the airport two hours ago."
Six hundred yards further south.
"He was pretty badly knocked about," Ferguson said.
"How unfortunate," Salander said without any great sign of shock.
When McBain and Constable Ferguson had gone, Ella came and sat at Salander's table. She set down two shot glasses of rum. Salander gave her a quizzical look.
"After a night like that you need something to rebuild your strength. I'm buying. I'm buying the whole breakfast."
The two women looked at each other. Then they clinked glasses and said, "Cheers."
For a long time to come, Matilda would be the object of scientific studies and discussions at meteorological institutes in the Caribbean and across the United States. Tornadoes of Matilda's scale were almost unknown in the region. Gradually the experts agreed that a particularly rare constellation of weather fronts had combined to create a "pseudo-tornado" - something that was not actually a tornado but looked like one.
Salander did not care about the theoretical discussion. She knew what she had seen, and she decided to try to avoid getting in the way of any of Matilda's siblings in the future.
Many people on the island had been injured during the night. Only one person died.
No-one would ever know what had induced Richard Forbes to go out in the midst of a full-fledged hurricane, save possibly that sheer ignorance which seemed common to American tourists. Geraldine Forbes was not able to offer any explanation. She had suffered a severe concussion and had only incoherent memories of the events of that night.
On the other hand, she was inconsolable to have been left a widow.
PART 2. From Russia with Love
January 10 - March 23
An equation commonly contains one or more so-called unknowns, often represented by x, y, z, etc. Values given to the unknowns which yield equality between both sides of the equation are said to satisfy the equation and constitute a solution.
Example: 3x + 4 = 6x − 2 (x = 2)
Monday, January 10 - Tuesday, January 11
Salander landed at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport at noon. In addition to the flying time, she had spent nine hours at Grantley Adams Airport on Barbados. British Airways had refused to let the aircraft take off until a passenger who looked vaguely Arabic had been taken away for questioning and a possible terrorist threat had been snuffed out. By the time she landed at Gatwick in London, she had missed her connecting flight to Sweden and had had to wait overnight before she could be rebooked.
Salander felt like a bag of bananas that had been left too long in the sun. All she had with her was a carry-on bag containing her PowerBook, Dimensions, and a change of clothes. She passed unchecked through the green gate at Customs. When she got outside to the airport shuttle buses she was welcomed home by a blast of freezing sleet.
She hesitated. All her life she had had to choose the cheapest option, and she was not yet used to the idea that she had more than three billion kronor, which she had stolen by means of an Internet coup combined with good old-fashioned fraud. After a few moments of getting cold and wet, she said to hell with the rule book and waved for a taxi. She gave the driver her address on Lundagatan and fell asleep in the backseat.
It was not until the taxi drew up on Lundagatan and the driver shook her awake that she realized she had given him her old address. She told him she had changed her mind and asked him to continue on to Gotgatsbacken. She gave him a big tip in dollars and swore as she stepped into a puddle in the gutter. She was dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and a thin cloth jacket. She wore sandals and short cotton socks. She walked gingerly over to the 7-Eleven, where she bought some shampoo, toothpaste, soap, kefir, milk, cheese, eggs, bread, frozen cinnamon rolls, coffee, Lipton's tea bags, a jar of pickles, apples, a large package of Billy's Pan Pizza, and a pack of Marlboro Lights. She paid with a Visa card.
When she came back out on the street she hesitated about which way to go. She could walk up Svartensgatan or down Hokens Gata towards Slussen. The drawback with Hokens Gata was that then she would have to walk right past the door of the Millennium offices, running the risk of bumping into Blomkvist. In the end she decided not to go out of her way to avoid him. She walked towards Slussen, although it was a bit longer that way, and turned off to the right by way of Hokens Gata up to Mosebacke Torg. She cut across the square past the statue of the Sisters in front of Sodra Theatre and took the steps up the hill to Fiskargatan. She stopped and looked up at the apartment building pensively. It did not really feel like "home."
She looked around. It was an out-of-the-way spot in the middle of Sodermalm Island. There was no through traffic, which was fine with her. It was easy to observe who was moving about the area. It was apparently popular with walkers in the summertime, but in the winter the only ones there were those who had business in the neighbourhood. There was hardly a soul to be seen now - certainly not anyone she recognized, or who might reasonably be expected to recognize her. Salander set down her shopping bag in the slush to dig out her keys. She took the elevator to the top floor and unlocked the door with the nameplate V. KULLA.