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Wednesday, February 19
If Salander had been an ordinary citizen, she would most likely have called the police and reported the
rape as soon as she left Advokat Bjurman’s office. The bruises on her neck, as well as the DNA signature
of his semen staining her body and clothing, would have nailed him. Even if the lawyer had claimed that
she wanted to do it or she seduced me or any other excuse that rapists routinely used, he would have been guilty of so many breaches of the guardianship regulations that he would instantly have been stripped of
his control over her. A report would have presumably resulted in Salander being given a proper lawyer,
someone well-versed in assaults on women, which in turn might have led to a discussion of the very heart
of the problem—meaning the reason she had been declared legally incompetent.
Since 1989, the term “legally incompetent” has no longer been applied to adults.
There are two levels of social welfare protection—trusteeship and guardianship.
A trustee steps in to offer voluntary help for individuals who, for various reasons, have problems managing their daily lives, paying their bills, or taking proper care of their hygiene. The person who is
appointed as a trustee is often a relative or close friend. If there is no-one close to the person in question, the welfare authorities can appoint a trustee. Trusteeship is a mild form of guardianship, in which the client—the person declared incompetent—still has control over his or her assets and decisions are made in consultation with the trustee.
Guardianship is a stricter form of control, in which the client is relieved of the authority to handle his or her own money or to make decisions regarding various matters. The exact wording states that the guardian shall take over all of the client’s legal powers. In Sweden approximately 4,000 people are under guardianship. The most common reason for a guardianship is mental illness or mental illness in conjunction with heavy abuse of alcohol or drugs. A smaller group includes those suffering from dementia. Many of the individuals under guardianship are relatively young—thirty-five or less. One of them was Lisbeth Salander.
Taking away a person’s control of her own life—meaning her bank account—is one of the greatest infringements a democracy can impose, especially when it applies to young people. It is an infringement
even if the intent may be perceived as benign and socially valid. Questions of guardianship are therefore
potentially sensitive political issues, and are protected by rigorous regulations and controlled by the Guardianship Agency. This agency comes under the county administrative board and is controlled, in turn,
by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
For the most part the Guardianship Agency carries out its activities under difficult conditions. But considering the sensitive issues handled by the authorities, remarkably few complaints or scandals are ever reported in the media.
Occasionally there are reports that charges have been brought against some trustee or guardian who has
misappropriated funds or sold his client’s co-op apartment and stuffed the proceeds into his own pockets.
That those cases are relatively rare may be the result of two things: the authorities are carrying out their jobs in a satisfactory manner, or the clients have no opportunity to complain and in a credible way make
themselves heard by the media or by the authorities.
The Guardianship Agency is bound to conduct an annual review to see whether any cause exists for revoking a guardianship. Since Salander persisted in her refusal to submit to psychiatric examination—
she would not even exchange a polite “good morning” with her teachers—the authorities had never found
any reason to alter their decision. Consequently, a situation of status quo had resulted, and so year after year she was retained under guardianship.
The wording of the law states, however, that the conditions of a guardianship “shall be adapted to each
individual case.” Palmgren had interpreted this to mean that Salander could take charge of her own money
and her own life. He had meticulously fulfilled the requirements of the authorities and submitted a monthly report as well as an annual review. In all other respects he had treated Salander like any other normal being, and he had not interfered with her choice of lifestyle or friends. He did not think it was either his business or that of society to decide whether the young lady should have a ring in her nose or a tattoo on her neck. This rather stubborn attitude vis-à-vis the district court was one of the reasons why they had got along so well.
As long as Palmgren was her guardian, Salander had not paid much attention to her legal status.
Salander was not like any normal person. She had a rudimentary knowledge of the law—it was a subject
she had never had occasion to explore—and her faith in the police was generally exiguous. For her the
police were a hostile force who over the years had put her under arrest or humiliated her. The last dealing she had had with the police was in May of the previous year when she was walking past Götgatan on her
way to Milton Security. She suddenly found herself facing a visor-clad riot police officer. Without the slightest provocation on her part, he had struck her on the shoulders with his baton. Her spontaneous reaction was to launch a fierce counterattack, using a Coca-Cola bottle that she had in her hand. The officer turned on his heel and ran off before she could injure him. Only later did she find out that
“Reclaim the Streets” was holding a demonstration farther down the road.
Visiting the offices of those visor-clad brutes to file a report against Nils Bjurman for sexual assault
did not even cross her mind. And besides—what was she supposed to report? Bjurman had touched her
breasts. Any officer would take one look at her and conclude that with her miniature boobs, that was highly unlikely. And if it had actually happened, she should be proud that someone had even bothered.
And the part about sucking his dick—it was, as he had warned her, her word against his, and generally in
her experience the words of other people weighed more heavily than hers. The police were not an option.
She left Bjurman’s office and went home, took a shower, ate two sandwiches with cheese and pickles,
and then sat on the worn-out sofa in the living room to think.
An ordinary person might have felt that her lack of reaction had shifted the blame to her—it might have
been another sign that she was so abnormal that even rape could evoke no adequate emotional response.
Her circle of acquaintances was not large, nor did it contain any members of the sheltered middle class
from the suburbs. By the time she was eighteen, Salander did not know a single girl who at some point
had not been forced to perform some sort of sexual act against her will. Most of these assaults involved
slightly older boyfriends who, using a certain amount of force, made sure that they had their way. As far
as Salander knew, these incidents had led to crying and angry outbursts, but never to a police report.
In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was
dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.
There was no point whimpering about it.
On the other hand, there was no question of Advokat Bjurman going unpunished. Salander never forgot
an injustice, and by nature she was anything but forgiving.
But her legal status was difficult. For as long as she could remember, she was regarded as cunning and
unjustifiably violent. The first reports in her casebook came from the files of the school nurse from elementary school. Salander had been sent home because she hit a classmate and shoved him against a coat peg and drew blood. She still remembered her victim with annoyance—an overweight boy by the name of David Gustavsson who used to tease her and throw things at her; he would grow up to be an arch
bully. In those days she did not know what the word “harassment” meant, but when she came to school the
next day, the boy had threatened revenge. So she had decked him with a right jab fortified with a golf ball
—which led to more bloodshed and a new entry in her casebook.
The rules for social interaction in school had always baffled her. She minded her own business and did
not interfere with what anyone around her did. Yet there was always someone who absolutely would not
leave her in peace.
In middle school she had several times been sent home after getting into violent fights with classmates.
Much stronger boys in her class soon learned that it could be quite unpleasant to fight with that skinny girl.
Unlike the other girls in the class, she never backed down, and she would not for a second hesitate to use her fists or any weapon at hand to protect herself. She went around with the attitude that she would rather be beaten to death than take any shit.
And she always got revenge.
Salander once found herself in a fight with a much bigger and stronger boy. She was no match for him
physically. At first he amused himself shoving her to the ground several times, then he slapped her when
she tried to fight back. But nothing did any good; no matter how much stronger he was, the stupid girl kept attacking him, and after a while even his classmates began to realise that things had gone too far. She was so obviously defenceless it was painful to watch. Finally the boy punched her in the face; it split open her lip and made her see stars. They left her on the ground behind the gym. She stayed at home for two days.
On the morning of the third day she waited for her tormentor with a baseball bat, and she whacked him
over the ear with it. For that prank she was sent to see the head teacher, who decided to report her to the police for assault, which resulted in a special welfare investigation.
Her classmates thought she was crazy and treated her accordingly. She also aroused very little sympathy among the teachers. She had never been particularly talkative, and she became known as the pupil who never raised her hand and often did not answer when a teacher asked her a direct question. No-one was sure whether this was because she did not know the answer or if there was some other reason,
which was reflected in her grades. No doubt that she had problems, but no-one wanted to take responsibility for the difficult girl, even though she was frequently discussed at various teachers’
meetings. That was why she ended up in the situation where the teachers ignored her and allowed her to
sit in sullen silence.
She left middle school and moved to another, without having a single friend to say goodbye to. An unloved girl with odd behaviour.
Then, as she was on the threshold of her teenage years, All The Evil happened, which she did not want
to think about. The last outburst set the pattern and prompted a review of the casebook entries from elementary school. After that she was considered to be legally . . . well, crazy. A freak. Salander had never needed any documents to know that she was different. But it was not something that bothered her for
as long as her guardian was Holger Palmgren; if the need arose, she could wrap him around her little finger.
With the appearance of Nils Bjurman, the declaration of incompetence threatened to become a
troublesome burden in her life. No matter who she turned to, pitfalls would open up; and what would happen if she lost the battle? Would she be institutionalised? Locked up? There was really no option.
Later that night, when Cecilia Vanger and Blomkvist were lying peacefully with their legs intertwined and
Cecilia’s breasts resting against his side, she looked up at him.
“Thank you. It’s been a long time. And you’re not bad.”
He smiled. That sort of flattery was always childishly satisfying.
“It was unexpected, but I had fun.”
“I’d be happy to do it again,” Cecilia said. “If you feel like it.”
He looked at her.
“You don’t mean that you’d like to have a lover, do you?”
“An occasional lover,” Cecilia said. “But I’d like you to go home before you fall asleep. I don’t want
to wake up tomorrow morning and find you here before I manage to do my exercises and fix my face. And
it would be good if you didn’t tell the whole village what we’ve been up to.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” Blomkvist said.
“Most of all I don’t want Isabella to know. She’s such a bitch.”
“And your closest neighbour . . . I’ve met her.”
“Yes, but luckily she can’t see my front door from her house. Mikael, please be discreet.”
“I’ll be discreet.”
“Thank you. Do you drink?”
“I’ve got a craving for something fruity with gin in it. Want some?”
She wrapped a sheet around herself and went downstairs. Blomkvist was standing naked, looking at her
bookshelves when she returned with a carafe of iced water and two glasses of gin and lime. They drank a
“Why did you come over here?” she asked.
“No special reason. I just . . .”
“You were sitting at home, reading through Henrik’s investigation. And then you came over here. A person doesn’t need to be super intelligent to know what you’re brooding about.”
“Have you read the investigation?”
“Parts of it. I’ve lived my entire adult life with it. You can’t spend time with Henrik without being affected by the mystery of Harriet.”
“It’s actually a fascinating case. What I believe is known in the trade as a locked-room mystery, on an
island. And nothing in the investigation seems to follow normal logic. Every question remains unanswered, every clue leads to a dead end.”
“It’s the kind of thing people can get obsessed about.”
“You were on the island that day.”
“Yes. I was here, and I witnessed the whole commotion. I was living in Stockholm at the time, studying.
I wish I had stayed at home that weekend.”
“What was she really like? People seem to have completely different views of her.”
“Is this off the record or . . . ?”
“It’s off the record.”
“I haven’t the least idea what was going on inside Harriet’s head. You’re thinking of her last year, of
course. One day she was a religious crackpot. The next day she put on make-up like a whore and went to
school wearing the tightest sweater she possessed. Obviously she was seriously unhappy. But, as I said, I
wasn’t here and just picked up the gossip.”
“What triggered the problems?”
“Gottfried and Isabella, obviously. Their marriage was totally haywire. They either partied or they fought. Nothing physical—Gottfried wasn’t the type to hit anyone, and he was almost afraid of Isabella.
She had a horrendous temper. Sometime in the early sixties he moved more or less permanently to his cabin, where Isabella never set foot. There were periods when he would turn up in the village, looking
like a vagrant. And then he’d sober up and dress neatly again and try to tend to his job.”
“Wasn’t there anyone who wanted to help Harriet?”
“Henrik, of course. In the end she moved into his house. But don’t forget that he was preoccupied playing the role of the big industrialist. He was usually off travelling somewhere and didn’t have a lot of time to spend with Harriet and Martin. I missed a lot of this because I was in Uppsala and then in Stockholm—and let me tell you, I didn’t have an easy childhood myself with Harald as my father. In hindsight I’ve realised that the problem was that Harriet never confided in anyone. She tried hard to keep up appearances and pretend that they were one big happy family.”
“Yes. But she changed when her father drowned. She could no longer pretend that everything was OK.
Up until then she was . . . I don’t know how to explain it: extremely gifted and precocious, but on the whole a rather ordinary teenager. During the last year she was still brilliant, getting top marks in every exam and so on, but it seemed as if she didn’t have any soul.”
“How did her father drown?”
“In the most prosaic way possible. He fell out of a rowing boat right below his cabin. He had his trousers open and an extremely high alcohol content in his blood, so you can just imagine how it happened. Martin was the one who found him.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It’s funny. Martin has turned out to be a really fine person. If you had asked me thirty-five years ago, I would have said that he was the one in the family who needed psychiatric care.”
“Harriet wasn’t the only one who suffered ill effects from the situation. For many years Martin was so
quiet and introverted that he was effectively antisocial. Both children had a rough time of it. I mean, we all did. I had my own problems with my father—I assume you realise that he’s stark raving mad. My sister, Anita, had the same problem, as did Alexander, my cousin. It was tough being young in the Vanger
“What happened to your sister?”
“She lives in London. She went there in the seventies to work in a Swedish travel agency, and she stayed. She married someone, never even introduced him to the family, and anon they separated. Today she’s a senior manager of British Airways. She and I get along fine, but we are not much in contact and
only see each other every other year or so. She never comes to Hedestad.”
“An insane father. Isn’t that explanation enough?”
“But you stayed.”
“I did. Along with Birger, my brother.”
“Are you making fun of me? Birger is older than Anita and me. We’ve never been very close. In his own eyes he’s a fantastically important politician with a future in Parliament and maybe ministerial rank, if the conservatives should win. In point of fact he’s a moderately talented local councillor in a remote
corner of Sweden, which will probably be both the high point and the whole extent of his career.”
“One thing that tickles me about the Vanger family is that you all have such low opinions of each other.”
“That’s not really true. I’m very fond of Martin and Henrik. And I always got on well with my sister,
for all that we seldom see each other. I detest Isabella and can’t abide Alexander. And I never speak to
my father. So that’s about fifty-fifty in the family. Birger is . . . well, more of a pompous fathead than a bad person. But I see what you mean. Look at it this way: if you’re a member of the Vanger family, you learn
early on to speak your mind. We do say what we think.”
“Oh yes, I’ve noticed that you all get straight to the point.” Blomkvist stretched out his hand to touch her breast. “I wasn’t here fifteen minutes before you attacked me.”
“To be honest, I’ve been wondering how you would be in bed ever since I first saw you. And it felt
right to try it out.”
For the first time in her life Salander felt a strong need to ask someone for advice. The problem was that asking for advice meant that she would have to confide in someone, which in turn would mean revealing
her secrets. Who should she tell? She was simply not very good at establishing contact with other people.
After going through her address book in her mind, she had, strictly speaking, ten people who might be
considered her circle of acquaintances.
She could talk to Plague, who was more or less a steady presence in her life. But he was definitely not
a friend, and he was the last person on earth who would be able to help solve her problem. Not an option.
Salander’s sex life wasn’t quite as modest as she had led Advokat Bjurman to believe. On the other hand, sex had always (or at least most often) occurred on her conditions and at her initiative. She had had over fifty partners since the age of fifteen. That translated into approximately five partners per year, which was OK for a single girl who had come to regard sex as an enjoyable pastime. But she had had most of
these casual partners during a two-year period. Those were the tumultuous years in her late teens when
she should have come of age.
There was a time when Salander had stood at a crossroads and did not really have control over her own life—when her future could have taken the form of another series of casebook entries about drugs,
alcohol, and custody in various institutions. After she turned twenty and started working at Milton Security, she had calmed down appreciably and—she thought—had got a grip on her life.
She no longer felt the need to please anyone who bought her three beers in a pub, and she did not experience the slightest degree of self-fulfilment by going home with some drunk whose name she could
not remember. During the past year she had had only one regular sex partner—hardly promiscuous, as her
casebook entries during her late teens had designated her.
For her, sex had most often been with one of a loose group of friends; she was not really a member, but
she was accepted because she knew Cilla Norén. She met Cilla in her late teens when, at Palmgren’s insistence, she was trying to get the school certificate she had failed to complete at Komvux. Cilla had plum-red hair streaked with black, black leather trousers, a ring in her nose, and as many rivets on her belt as Salander. They had glared suspiciously at each other during the first class.
For some reason Salander did not understand, they had started hanging out together. Salander was not
the easiest person to be friends with, and especially not during those years, but Cilla ignored her silences and took her along to the bar. Through Cilla, she had become a member of “Evil Fingers,” which had started as a suburban band consisting of four teenage girls in Enskede who were into hard rock. Ten years
later, they were a group of friends who met at Kvarnen on Tuesday nights to talk trash about boys and discuss feminism, the pentagram, music, and politics while they drank large quantities of beer. They also
lived up to their name.
Salander found herself on the fringe of the group and rarely contributed to the talk, but she was accepted for who she was. She could come and go as she pleased and was allowed to sit in silence over
her beer all evening. She was also invited to birthday parties and Christmas glögg celebrations, though she usually didn’t go.
During the five years she hung out with “Evil Fingers,” the girls began to change. Their hair colour became less extreme, and the clothing came more often from the H&M boutiques rather than from funky
Myrorna. They studied or worked, and one of the girls became a mother. Salander felt as if she were the
only one who had not changed a bit, which could also be interpreted as that she was simply marking time
and going nowhere.
But they still had fun. If there was one place where she felt any sort of group solidarity, it was in the
company of the “Evil Fingers” and, by extension, with the guys who were friends with the girls.
“Evil Fingers” would listen. They would also stand up for her. But they had no clue that Salander had a
district court order declaring her non compos mentis. She didn’t want them to be eyeing her the wrong way, too. Not an option.
Apart from that, she did not have a single ex-classmate in her address book. She had no network or support group or political contacts of any kind. So who could she turn to and tell about her problems?
There might be one person. She deliberated for a long time about whether she should confide in Dragan
Armansky. He had told her that if she needed help with anything, she should not hesitate to come to him.
And she was sure that he meant it.
Armansky had groped her one time too, but it had been a friendly groping, no ill intentions, and not a
demonstration of power. But to ask him for help went against the grain. He was her boss, and it would put
her in his debt. Salander toyed with the idea of how her life would take shape if Armansky were her guardian instead of Bjurman. She smiled. The idea was not unpleasant, but Armansky might take the assignment so seriously that he would smother her with attention. That was . . . well, possibly an option.
Even though she was well aware of what a women’s crisis centre was for, it never occurred to her to
turn to one herself. Crisis centres existed, in her eyes, for victims, and she had never regarded herself as a victim. Consequently, her only remaining option was to do what she had always done—take matters in her
own hands and solve her problems on her own. That was definitely an option.
And it did not bode well for Herr Advokat Nils Bjurman.
Thursday, February 20–
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