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Saturday, December 21
Erika Berger looked up quizzically when an apparently freezing Blomkvist came into the editorial office.
Millennium’s offices were in the centre of the trendy section of Götgatan, above the offices of Greenpeace. The rent was actually a bit too steep for the magazine, but they had all agreed to keep the space.
She glanced at the clock. It was 5:10, and darkness had fallen over Stockholm long before. She had been expecting him around lunchtime.
“I’m sorry,” he said before she managed to say anything. “But I was feeling the weight of the verdict
and didn’t feel like talking. I went for a long walk to think things over.”
“I heard the verdict on the radio. She from TV4 called and wanted a comment.”
“What’d you say?”
“Something to the effect that we were going to read the judgement carefully before we make any statements. So I said nothing. And my opinion still holds: it’s the wrong strategy. We come off looking weak with the media. They will run something on TV this evening.”
Blomkvist looked glum.
“How are you doing?”
Blomkvist shrugged and plopped down in his favourite armchair next to the window in Erika’s office.
The decor was spartan, with a desk and functional bookcases and cheap office furniture. All of it was from IKEA apart from the two comfortable and extravagant armchairs and a small end table—a
concession to my upbringing, she liked to say. She would sit reading in one of the armchairs with her feet tucked underneath her when she wanted to get away from the desk. Blomkvist looked down on Götgatan,
where people were hurrying by in the dark. Christmas shopping was in full swing.
“I suppose it’ll pass,” he said. “But right now it feels as if I’ve got myself a very raw deal.”
“Yes, I can imagine. It’s the same for all of us. Janne Dahlman went home early today.”
“I assume he wasn’t over the moon about the verdict.”
“He’s not the most positive person anyway.”
Mikael shook his head. For the past nine months Dahlman had been managing editor. He had started there just as the Wennerström affair got going, and he found himself on an editorial staff in crisis mode.
Blomkvist tried to remember what their reasoning had been when he and Berger decided to hire him. He
was competent, of course, and had worked at the TT news bureau, the evening papers, and Eko on the radio. But he apparently did not like sailing against the wind. During the past year Blomkvist had often
regretted that they had hired Dahlman, who had an enervating habit of looking at everything in as negative a light as possible.
“Have you heard from Christer?” Blomkvist asked without taking his eyes off the street.
Christer Malm was the art director and designer of Millennium. He was also part owner of the magazine together with Berger and Blomkvist, but he was on a trip abroad with his boyfriend.
“He called to say hello.”
“He’ll have to be the one who takes over as publisher.”
“Lay off, Micke. As publisher you have to count on being punched in the nose every so often. It’s part
of the job description.”
“You’re right about that. But I was the one who wrote the article that was published in a magazine of
which I also happen to be the publisher. That makes everything look different all of a sudden. Then it’s a matter of bad judgement.”
Berger felt that the disquiet she had been carrying with her all day was about to explode. In the weeks
before the trial started, Blomkvist had been walking around under a black cloud. But she had never seen
him as gloomy and dejected as he seemed to be now in the hour of his defeat. She walked to his side of
the desk and sat on his lap, straddling him, and put her arms round his neck.
“Mikael, listen to me. We both know exactly how it happened. I’m as much to blame as you are. We
simply have to ride out the storm.”
“There isn’t any storm to ride out. As far as the media are concerned, the verdict means that I’ve been
shot in the back of the head. I can’t stay on as the publisher of Millennium. The vital thing is to maintain the magazine’s credibility, to stop the bleeding. You know that as well as I do.”
“If you think I intend to let you take the rap all by yourself, then you haven’t learned a damn thing about me in the years we’ve worked together.”
“I know how you operate, Ricky. You’re 100 percent loyal to your colleagues. If you had to choose, you’d keep fighting against Wennerström’s lawyers until your credibility was gone too. We have to be smarter than that.”
“And you think it’s smart to jump ship and make it look as if I sacked you?”
“If Millennium is going to survive, it depends on you now. Christer is great, but he’s just a nice guy who knows about images and layout and doesn’t have a clue about street fighting with billionaires. It’s just not his thing. I’m going to have to disappear for a while, as publisher, reporter, and board member.
Wennerström knows that I know what he did, and I’m absolutely sure that as long as I’m anywhere near
Millennium he’s going to try to ruin us.”
“So why not publish everything we know? Sink or swim?”
“Because we can’t prove a damn thing, and right now I have no credibility at all. Let’s accept that Wennerström won this round.”
“OK, I’ll fire you. What are you going to do?”
“I need a break, to be honest. I’m burned right out. I’m going to take some time for myself for a while,
some of it in prison. Then we’ll see.”
Berger put her arms around him and pulled his head down to her breasts. She hugged him hard.
“Want some company tonight?” she said.
“Good. I’ve already told Greger I’m at your place tonight.”
The street lights reflecting off the corners of the windows were all that lit the room. When Berger fell asleep sometime after 2:00 in the morning, Blomkvist lay awake studying her profile in the dimness. The
covers were down around her waist, and he watched her breasts slowly rising and falling. He was relaxed, and the anxious knot in his stomach had eased. She had that effect on him. She always had had.
And he knew that he had the same effect on her.
Twenty years, he thought. That’s how long it had been. As far as he was concerned, they could go on
sleeping together for another two decades. At least. They had never seriously tried to hide their relationship, even when it led to awkwardness in their dealings with other people.
They had met at a party when they were both in their second year at journalism school. Before they said
goodnight they had exchanged telephone numbers. They both knew that they would end up in bed together,
and in less than a week they realised this conviction without telling their respective partners.
Blomkvist was sure that it was not the old-fashioned kind of love that leads to a shared home, a shared
mortgage, Christmas trees, and children. During the eighties, when they were not bound by other relationships, they had talked of moving in together. He had wanted to, but Erika always backed out at the last minute. It wouldn’t work, she said, they would risk what they had if they fell in love too. Blomkvist had often wondered whether it were possible to be more possessed by desire for any other woman. The
fact was that they functioned well together, and they had a connection as addictive as heroin.
Sometimes they were together so often that it felt as though they really were a couple; sometimes weeks
and months would go by before they saw each other. But even as alcoholics are drawn to the state liquor
store after a stint on the wagon, they always came back to each other.
Inevitably it did not work in the long run. That kind of relationship was almost bound to cause pain.
They had both left broken promises and unhappy lovers behind—his own marriage had collapsed because
he could not stay away from Erika Berger. He had never lied about his feelings for her to his wife, Monica, but she had thought it would end when they married and their daughter was born. And Berger had
almost simultaneously married Greger Beckman. Blomkvist too had thought it would end, and for the first
years of his marriage he and Berger had only seen each other professionally. Then they started Millennium and within a few weeks all their good intentions had dissolved, and one late evening they had furious sex on her desk. That led to a troublesome period in which Blomkvist wanted very much to live
with his family and see his daughter grow up, but at the same time he was helplessly drawn to Berger. Just as Salander had guessed, it was his continual infidelity that drove his wife to leave.
Strangely enough, Beckman seemed to accept their relationship. Berger had always been open about her feelings for Mikael, and she told her husband as soon as they started having sex again. Maybe it took
the soul of an artist to handle such a situation, someone so wrapped up in his own creativity, or possibly just wrapped up in himself, that he did not rebel when his wife slept with another man. She even divided
up her holiday so she could spend two weeks with her lover in his summer cabin at Sandhamn. Blomkvist
did not think very highly of Beckman, and he had never understood Berger’s love for him. But he was glad
that he accepted that she could love two men at the same time.
Blomkvist could not sleep, and at 4:00 he gave up. He went to the kitchen and read the court judgement
one more time from beginning to end. Having the document in his hand he had a sense that there had been
something almost fateful about the meeting at Arholma. He could never be sure whether Lindberg had told
him the details of Wennerström’s swindle simply for the sake of a good story between toasts in the privacy of his boat’s cabin or whether he had really wanted the story to be made public.
He tended to believe the first. But it may have been that Lindberg, for his own personal or business reasons, had wanted to damage Wennerström, and he had seized the opportunity of having a captive journalist on board. Lindberg had been sober enough to insist on Blomkvist treating him as an anonymous
source. From that moment Lindberg could say what he liked, because his friend would never be able to
disclose his source.
If the meeting at Arholma had been a set-up, then Lindberg could not have played his role better. But the
meeting had to have happened by chance.
Lindberg could have had no notion of the extent of Blomkvist’s contempt for people like Wennerström.
For all that, after years of study, he was privately convinced that there was not a single bank director or celebrity corporate executive who wasn’t also a cretin.
Blomkvist had never heard of Lisbeth Salander and was happily innocent of her report delivered earlier that day, but had he listened to it he would have nodded in agreement when she spoke of his loathing for bean counters, saying that it was not a manifestation of his left-wing political radicalism.
Mikael was not uninterested in politics, but he was extremely sceptical of political “isms.” He had voted
only once in a parliamentary election—in 1982—and then he had hesitantly plumped for the Social Democrats, there being nothing in his imagination worse than three years more with Gösta Bohman as finance minister and Thorbjörn Fälldin (or possibly Ola Ullsten) as prime minister. So he had voted for
Olof Palme, and got instead the assassination of his prime minister plus the Bofors scandal and Ebbe Carlsson.
His contempt for his fellow financial journalists was based on something that in his opinion was as plain as morality. The equation was simple. A bank director who blows millions on foolhardy
speculations should not keep his job. A managing director who plays shell company games should do time. A slum landlord who forces young people to pay through the nose and under the table for a one-room
apartment with shared toilet should be hung out to dry.
The job of the financial journalist was to examine the sharks who created interest crises and speculated
away the savings of small investors, to scrutinise company boards with the same merciless zeal with which political reporters pursue the tiniest steps out of line of ministers and members of Parliament. He
could not for the life of him understand why so many influential financial reporters treated mediocre financial whelps like rock stars.
These recalcitrant views had time after time brought him into conflict with his peers. Borg, for one, was going to be an enemy for life. His taking on a role of social critic had actually transformed him into a prickly guest on TV sofas—he was always the one invited to comment whenever any CEO was caught with a golden parachute worth billions.
Mikael had no trouble imagining that champagne bottles had been uncorked in some newspapers’ back
rooms that evening.
Erika had the same attitude to the journalist’s role as he did. Even when they were in journalism school
they had amused themselves by imagining a magazine with just such a mission statement.
Erika was the best boss Mikael could imagine. She was an organiser who could handle employees with
warmth and trust but who at the same time wasn’t afraid of confrontation and could be very tough when
necessary. Above all, she had an icy gut feeling when it came to making decisions about the contents of
the upcoming issue. She and Mikael often had differing views and could have healthy arguments, but they
also had unwavering confidence in each other, and together they made an unbeatable team. He did the field work of tracking down the story, while she packaged and marketed it.
Millennium was their mutual creation, but it would never have become reality without her talent for digging up financing. It was the working-class guy and the upper-class girl in a beautiful union. Erika came from old money. She had put up the initial seed money and then talked both her father and various
acquaintances into investing considerable sums in the project.
Mikael had often wondered why Erika had set her sights on Millennium. True, she was a part owner—
the majority partner, in fact—and editor in chief of her own magazine, which gave her prestige and the control over publicity that she could hardly have obtained in any other job. Unlike Mikael, she had concentrated on television after journalism school. She was tough, looked fantastic on camera, and could
hold her own with the competition. She also had good contacts in the bureaucracy. If she had stuck to it,
she would undoubtedly have had a managerial job at one of the TV channels at a considerably higher salary than she paid herself now.
Berger had also convinced Christer Malm to buy into the magazine. He was an exhibitionist gay celebrity who sometimes appeared with his boyfriend in “at home with” articles. The interest in him began when he moved in with Arnold Magnusson, an actor with a background at the Royal Dramatic Theatre who had made a serious breakthrough when he played himself in a docusoap. Christer and Arn
had then become a media item.
At thirty-six, Malm was a sought-after professional photographer and designer who gave Millennium a modern look. He ran his business from an office on the same floor as Millennium, and he did graphic design one week in every month.
The Millennium staff consisted of three full-time employees, a full-time trainee, and two part-timers. It was not a lucrative affair, but the magazine broke even, and the circulation and advertising revenue had
increased gradually but steadily. Until today the magazine was known for its frank and reliable editorial
Now the situation would in all probability be changing. Blomkvist read through the press release which
he and Berger had drafted and which had quickly been converted to a wire service story from TT that was
already up on Aftonbladet’s website.
CONVICTED REPORTER LEAVES
Stockholm (T.T.). Journalist Mikael Blom kvist is leaving his post as publisher of the m agazine Millennium, reports editor in chief and m aj ority shareholder Erika Berger.
Blom kvist is leaving Millennium of his own choice. “He’s exhausted after the dram a of recent m onths and needs tim e off,” say s Berger, who will take over the role of publisher.
Blom kvist was one of the founders of Millennium, started in 1990. Berger does not think that the m agazine will suffer in the wake of the so-called “Wennerström affair.”
The m agazine will com e out as usual next m onth, say s Berger. “Mikael Blom kvist has play ed a m aj or role in the m agazine’s developm ent, but now we’re turning a new page.”
Berger states that she regards the Wennerström affair as the result of a series of unfortunate circum stances. She regrets the nuisance to which Hans-Erik Wennerström was subj ected. Blom kvist could not be reached for com m ent.
“It makes me mad,” Berger said when the press release was emailed out. “Most people are going to think that you’re an idiot and I’m a bitch who’s taking the opportunity to sack you.”
“At least our friends will have something new to laugh about.” Blomkvist tried to make light of it; she
was not the least amused.
“I don’t have a plan B, but I think we’re making a mistake,” she said.
“It’s the only way out. If the magazine collapses, all our years of work will have been in vain. We’ve
already taken a beating on the ads revenue. How did it go with the computer company, by the way?”
She sighed. “They told me this morning that they didn’t want to take space in the next issue.”
“Wennerström has a chunk of stock in that company, so it’s no accident.”
“We can scare up some new clients. Wennerström may be a big wheel, but he doesn’t own everything in
Sweden, and we have our contacts.”
Blomkvist put an arm around her and pulled her close.
“Some day we’re going to nail Herr Wennerström so hard Wall Street is going to jump out of its socks.
But today Millennium has to get out of the spotlight.”
“I know all that, but I don’t like coming across as a fucking bitch, and you’re being forced into a disgusting situation if we pretend that there’s some sort of division between you and me.”
“Ricky, as long as you and I trust each other we’ve got a chance. We have to play it by ear, and right
now it’s time to retreat.”
She reluctantly admitted that there was a depressing logic to what he said.
Monday, December 23–
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