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Saturday, July 12
Martin Vanger bent down and went through Mikael’s pockets. He took the key.
“Smart of you to change the lock,” he said. “I’m going to take care of your girlfriend when she gets back.”
Blomkvist reminded himself that Martin was a negotiator experienced from many industrial battles. He
had already seen through one bluff.
“Why all of this?” Blomkvist gestured vaguely at the space around him.
Martin bent down and put one hand under Blomkvist’s chin, lifting his head so their eyes met.
“Because it’s so easy,” he said. “Women disappear all the time. Nobody misses them. Immigrants.
Whores from Russia. Thousands of people pass through Sweden every year.”
He let go of Blomkvist’s head and stood up.
Martin’s words hit Blomkvist like a punch in the face.
Christ Almighty. This is no historical mystery. Martin Vanger is murdering women today. And I wandered right into it . . .
“As it happens, I don’t have a guest right now. But it might amuse you to know that while you and Henrik sat around babbling this winter and spring, there was a girl down here. Irina from Belarus. While
you sat and ate dinner with me, she was locked up in the cage down here. It was a pleasant evening as I
Martin perched on the table, letting his legs dangle. Blomkvist shut his eyes. He suddenly felt acid in
his throat and he swallowed hard. The pain in his gut and in his ribs seemed to swell.
“What do you do with the bodies?”
“I have my boat at the dock right below here. I take them a long way out to sea. Unlike my father, I don’t leave traces. But he was smart too. He spread his victims out all over Sweden.”
The puzzle pieces were falling into place.
Gottfried Vanger. From 1949 until 1965. Then Martin Vanger, starting in 1966 in Uppsala.
“You admire your father.”
“He was the one who taught me. He initiated me when I was fourteen.”
“Uddevalla. Lea Persson.”
“Aren’t you clever? Yes, I was there. I only watched, but I was there.”
“1964. Sara Witt in Ronneby.”
“I was sixteen. It was the first time I had a woman. My father taught me. I was the one who strangled
He’s bragging. Good Lord, what a revoltingly sick family.
“You can’t have any notion of how demented this is.”
“You are a very ordinary little person, Mikael. You would not be able to understand the godlike feeling
of having absolute control over someone’s life and death.”
“You enjoy torturing and killing women, Martin.”
“I don’t think so really. If I do an intellectual analysis of my condition, I’m more of a serial rapist than a serial murderer. In fact, most of all I’m a serial kidnapper. The killing is a natural consequence, so to speak, because I have to hide my crime.
“Of course my actions aren’t socially acceptable, but my crime is first and foremost a crime against the
conventions of society. Death doesn’t come until the end of my guests’ visits here, after I’ve grown weary of them. It’s always so fascinating to see their disappointment.”
“Exactly. Disappointment. They imagine that if they please me, they’ll live. They adapt to my rules.
They start to trust me and develop a certain camaraderie with me, hoping to the very end that this camaraderie means something. The disappointment comes when it finally dawns on them that they’ve been
well and truly screwed.”
Martin walked around the table and leaned against the steel cage.
“You with your bourgeois conventions would never grasp this, but the excitement comes from planning
a kidnapping. They’re not done on impulse—those kinds of kidnappers invariably get caught. It’s a science with thousands of details that I have to weigh. I have to identify my prey, map out her life, who is she, where does she come from, how can I make contact with her, what do I have to do to be alone with
my prey without revealing my name or having it turn up in any future police investigation?”
Shut up, for God’s sake, Blomkvist thought.
“Are you really interested in all this, Mikael?”
He bent down and stroked Blomkvist’s cheek. The touch was almost tender.
“You realise that this can only end one way? Will it bother you if I smoke?”
“You could offer me a cigarette,” he said.
Martin lit two cigarettes and carefully placed one of them between Blomkvist’s lips, letting him take a
“Thanks,” Blomkvist said, automatically.
Martin Vanger laughed again.
“You see. You’ve already started to adapt to the submission principle. I hold your life in my hands, Mikael. You know that I can dispatch you at any second. You pleaded with me to improve your quality of
life, and you did so by using reason and a little good manners. And you were rewarded.”
Blomkvist nodded. His heart was pounding so hard it was almost unbearable.
At 11:15 Lisbeth Salander drank the rest of the water from her PET bottle as she turned the pages. Unlike
Blomkvist, who earlier in the day had choked on his coffee, she didn’t get the water down the wrong way.
On the other hand, she did open her eyes wide when she made the connection.
For two hours she had been wading through the staff newsletters from all points of the compass. The
main newsletter was Company Information. It bore the Vanger logo—a Swedish banner fluttering in the wind, with the point forming an arrow. The publication was presumably put together by the firm’s advertising department, and it was filled with propaganda that was supposed to make the employees feel
that they were members of one big family.
In association with the winter sports holiday in February 1967, Henrik Vanger, in a magnanimous gesture, had invited fifty employees from the main office and their families to a week’s skiing holiday in Härjedalen. The company had made record profits during the previous year. The PR department went too
and put together a picture report.
Many of the pictures with amusing captions were from the slopes. Some showed groups in the bar, with
laughing employees hoisting beer mugs. Two photographs were of a small morning function when Henrik
Vanger proclaimed Ulla-Britt Mogren to be the Best Office Worker of the Year. She was given a bonus of
five hundred kronor and a glass bowl.
The ceremony was held on the terrace of the hotel, clearly right before people were thinking of heading
back to the slopes. About twenty people were in the picture.
On the far right, just behind Henrik Vanger, stood a man with long blond hair. He was wearing a dark
padded jacket with a distinctive patch at the shoulder. Since the publication was in black-and-white, the
colour wasn’t identifiable, but Salander was willing to bet her life that the shoulder patch was red.
The caption explained the connection . . . far right, Martin Vanger (19), who is studying in Uppsala.
He is already being discussed as someone with a promising future in the company’s management.
“Gotcha,” Salander said in a low voice.
She switched off the desk lamp and left the newsletters in piles all over the desk— something for that
slut Lindgren to take care of tomorrow.
She went out to the car park through a side door. As it closed behind her, she remembered that she had
promised to tell the night watchman when she left. She stopped and let her eyes sweep over the car park.
The watchman’s office was on the other side of the building. That meant that she would have to walk all
the way round to the other side. Let sleeping dogs lie, she decided.
Before she put on her helmet, she turned on her mobile and called Blomkvist’s number. She got a message saying that the subscriber could not be reached. But she also saw that he had tried to call her no fewer than thirteen times between 3:30 and 9:00. In the last two hours, no call.
Salander tried the cottage number, but there was no answer. She frowned, strapped on her computer, put
on her helmet, and kick-started the motorcycle. The ride from the main office at the entrance to Hedestad’s industrial district out to Hedeby Island took ten minutes. A light was on in the kitchen.
Salander looked around. Her first thought was that Blomkvist had gone to see Frode, but from the bridge she had already noticed that the lights were off in Frode’s house on the other side of the water. She looked at her watch: 11:40.
She went into the cottage, opened the wardrobe, and took out the two PCs that she was using to store
the surveillance pictures from the cameras she had installed. It took her a while to run up the sequence of events.
At 15:32 Blomkvist entered the cabin.
At 16:03 he took his coffee cup out to the garden. He had a folder with him, which he studied. He made
three brief telephone calls during the hour he spent out in the garden. The three calls corresponded exactly to calls she had not answered.
At 17:21 Blomkvist left the cottage. He was back less than fifteen minutes later.
At 18:20 he went to the gate and looked in the direction of the bridge.
At 21:03 he went out. He had not come back.
Salander fast-forwarded through the pictures from the other PC, which photographed the gate and the
road outside the front door. She could see who had gone past during the day.
At 19:12 Nilsson came home.
At 19:42 the Saab that belonged to Östergården drove towards Hedestad.
At 20:02 the Saab was on its way back.
At 21:00 Martin Vanger’s car went by. Three minutes later Blomkvist left the house.
At 21:50, Martin Vanger appeared in the camera’s viewfinder. He stood at the gate for over a minute,
looking at the house, then peering through the kitchen window. He went up to the porch and tried the door, taking out a key. He must have discovered that they had put in a new lock. He stood still for a moment
before he turned on his heel and left the house.
Salander felt an ice-cold fear in her gut.
Martin Vanger once again left Blomkvist alone. He was still in his uncomfortable position with his hands
behind his back and his neck fastened by a thin chain to an eyelet in the floor. He fiddled with the handcuffs, but he knew that he would not be able to get them off. The cuffs were so tight that his hands
He had no chance. He shut his eyes.
He did not know how much time had passed when he heard Martin’s footsteps again. He appeared in
Blomkvist’s field of vision. He looked worried.
“Uncomfortable?” he said.
“Very,” said Blomkvist.
“You’ve only got yourself to blame. You should have gone back to Stockholm.”
“Why do you kill, Martin?”
“It’s a choice that I made. I could discuss the moral and intellectual aspects of what I do; we could talk all night, but it wouldn’t change anything. Try to look at it this way: a human being is a shell made of skin keeping the cells, blood, and chemical components in place. Very few end up in the history books. Most
people succumb and disappear without a trace.”
“You kill women.”
“Those of us who murder for pleasure—I’m not the only one with this hobby—we live a complete life.”
“But why Harriet? Your own sister?”
In a second Martin grabbed him by the hair.
“What happened to her, you little bastard? Tell me.”
“What do you mean?” Blomkvist gasped. He tried to turn his head to lessen the pain in his scalp. The
chain tightened round his neck.
“You and Salander. What have you come up with?”
“Let go, for heaven’s sake. We’re talking.”
Martin Vanger let go of his hair and sat cross-legged in front of Blomkvist. He took a knife from his jacket and opened it. He set the point against the skin just below Blomkvist’s eye. Blomkvist forced himself to meet Martin’s gaze.
“What the hell happened to her, bastard?”
“I don’t understand. I thought you killed her.”
Martin Vanger stared at Blomkvist for a long moment. Then he relaxed. He got up and wandered around
the room, thinking. He threw the knife on the floor and laughed before he came back to face Blomkvist.
“Harriet, Harriet, always Harriet. We tried . . . to talk to her. Gottfried tried to teach her. We thought that she was one of us and that she would accept her duty, but she was just an ordinary . . . cunt. I had her under control, or so I thought, but she was planning to tell Henrik, and I realised that I couldn’t trust her.
Sooner or later she was going to tell someone about me.”
“You killed her.”
“I wanted to kill her. I thought about it, but I arrived too late. I couldn’t get over to the island.”
Blomkvist’s brain was with difficulty trying to absorb this information, but it felt as if a message had
popped up with the words INFORMATION OVERLOAD. Martin Vanger did not know what had happened to his sister.
All of a sudden Martin pulled his mobile telephone out of his pocket, glanced at the display, and put it
on the chair next to the pistol.
“It’s time to stop all this. I have to dispose of your anorexic bitch tonight too.”
He took out a narrow leather strap from a cupboard and slipped it around Blomkvist’s neck, like a noose. He loosened the chain that held him shackled to the floor, hauled him to his feet, and shoved him
towards the wall. He slipped the leather strap through a loop above Blomkvist’s head and then tightened it so that he was forced to stand on tiptoes.
“Is that too tight? Can you breathe?” He loosened it a notch and locked the other end of the strap in place, further down the wall. “I don’t want you to suffocate all at once.”
The noose was cutting so hard into Blomkvist’s throat that he was incapable of uttering a word. Martin
looked at him attentively.
Abruptly he unzipped Blomkvist’s trousers and tugged them down, along with his boxer shorts. As he
pulled them off, Blomkvist lost his foothold and dangled for a second from the noose before his toes again made contact with the floor. Martin went over to a cupboard and took out a pair of scissors. He cut off
Blomkvist’s T-shirt and tossed the bits on the floor. Then he took up a position some distance away from
Mikael and regarded his victim.
“I’ve never had a boy in here,” Martin said in a serious voice. “I’ve never touched another man, as a
matter of fact . . . except for my father. That was my duty.”
Blomkvist’s temples were pounding. He could not put his weight on his feet without being strangled.
He tried to use his fingers to get a grip on the concrete wall behind him, but there was nothing to hold on to.
“It’s time,” Martin Vanger said.
He put his hand on the strap and pulled down. Blomkvist instantly felt the noose cutting into his neck.
“I’ve always wondered how a man tastes.”
He increased the pressure on the noose and leaned forward to kiss Blomkvist on the lips at the same
time that a cold voice cut through the room.
“Hey, you fucking creep, in this shithole I’ve got a monopoly on that one.”
Blomkvist heard Salander’s voice through a red fog. He managed to focus his eyes enough to see her standing in the doorway. She was looking at Martin Vanger without expression.
“No . . . run,” he croaked.
He could not see the look on Martin’s face, but he could almost physically feel the shock when he turned around. For a second, time stood still. Then Martin reached for the pistol he had left on the chair.
Salander took three swift strides forward and swung a golf club she had hidden at her side. The iron
flew in a wide arc and hit Martin on the collarbone near his shoulder. The blow had a terrible force, and
Blomkvist heard something snap. Martin howled.
“Do you like pain, creep?” Salander said.
Her voice was as rough as sandpaper. As long as Blomkvist lived, he would never forget her face as
she went on the attack. Her teeth were bared like a beast of prey. Her eyes were glittering, black as coal.
She moved with the lightning speed of a tarantula and seemed totally focused on her prey as she swung the
club again, striking Martin in the ribs.
He stumbled over the chair and fell. The pistol tumbled to the floor at Salander’s feet. She kicked it away.
Then she struck for the third time, just as Martin Vanger was trying to get to his feet. She hit him with a loud smack on the hip. A horrible cry issued from Martin’s throat. The fourth blow struck him from behind, between the shoulder blades.
“Lis . . . uuth . . .” Blomkvist gasped.
He was about to pass out, and the pain in his temples was almost unbearable.
She turned to him and saw that his face was the colour of a tomato, his eyes were open wide, and his
tongue was popping out of his mouth.
She looked about her and saw the knife on the floor. Then she spared a glance at Martin Vanger, who
was trying to crawl away from her, one arm hanging. He would not be making any trouble for the next few
seconds. She let go of the golf club and picked up the knife. It had a sharp point but a dull edge. She stood
on her toes and frantically sawed at the leather strap to get it off. It took several seconds before Blomkvist sank to the floor. But the noose was pulled tighter round his neck.
Salander looked again at Martin Vanger. He was on his feet but doubled over. She tried to dig her fingers under the noose. At first she did not dare cut it, but finally she slipped the point of the knife underneath, scoring Blomkvist’s neck as she tried to expand the noose. At last it loosened and Blomkvist
took several shaky, wheezing breaths.
For a moment Blomkvist had a sensation of his body and soul uniting. He had perfect vision and could
make out every speck of dust in the room. He had perfect hearing and registered every breath, every rustle of clothing, as if they were entering his ears through a headset, and he was aware of the odour of Salander’s sweat and the smell of leather from her jacket. Then the illusion burst as blood began streaming to his head.
Salander turned her head just as Martin Vanger disappeared out the door. She got up, grabbed the pistol, checked the magazine and flicked off the safety. She looked around and focused on the keys to the
handcuffs, which lay in plain sight on the table.
“I’m going to take him,” she said, running for the door. She grabbed the keys as she passed the table and
tossed them backhanded to the floor next to Blomkvist.
He tried to shout to her to wait, but he managed only a rasping sound and by then she had vanished.
Salander had not forgotten that Martin Vanger had a rifle somewhere, and she stopped, holding the pistol
ready to fire in front of her, as she came upstairs to the passageway between the garage and the kitchen.
She listened, but she could hear no sound telling her where her prey was. She moved stealthily towards
the kitchen, and she was almost there when she heard a car starting up in the courtyard.
From the drive she saw a pair of tail lights passing Henrik Vanger’s house and turning down to the bridge, and she ran as fast as her legs could carry her. She stuffed the pistol in her jacket pocket and did not bother with the helmet as she started her motorcycle. Seconds later she was crossing the bridge.
He had maybe a ninety-second start when she came into the roundabout at the entrance to the E4. She
could not see his car. She braked and turned off the motor to listen.
The sky was filled with heavy clouds. On the horizon she saw a hint of the dawn. Then she heard the
sound of an engine and caught a glimpse of tail lights on the E4, going south. Salander kicked the motorcycle, put it into gear, and raced under the viaduct. She was doing 40 miles per hour as she took the curve of the entrance ramp. She saw no traffic and accelerated to full speed and flew forward. When the
road began to curve along a ridge, she was doing 90 mph, which was about the fastest her souped-up lightweight bike could manage going downhill. After two minutes she saw the lights about 650 yards ahead.
Analyse consequences. What do I do now?
She decelerated to a more reasonable seventy-five and kept pace with him. She lost sight of him for several seconds when they took several bends. Then they came on to a long straight; she was only two hundred yards behind him.
He must have seen the headlight from her motorcycle, and he sped up when they took a long curve. She
accelerated again but lost ground on the bends.
She saw the headlights of a truck approaching. Martin Vanger did too. He increased his speed again and
drove straight into the oncoming lane. Salander saw the truck swerve and flash its lights, but the collision was unavoidable. Martin Vanger drove straight into the truck and the sound of the crash was terrible.
Salander braked. She saw the trailer start to jackknife across her lane. At the speed she was going, it
took two seconds for her to cover the distance up to the accident site. She accelerated and steered on to
the hard shoulder, avoiding the hurtling back of the truck by two yards as she flew past. Out of the corner of her eye she saw flames coming from the front of the truck.
She rode on, braking and thinking, for another 150 yards before she stopped and turned around. She saw the driver of the truck climb out of his cab on the passenger side. Then she accelerated again. At Åkerby, about a mile south, she turned left and took the old road back north, parallel to the E4. She went up a hill past the scene of the crash. Two cars had stopped. Big flames were boiling out of the wreckage
of Martin’s car, which was wedged underneath the truck. A man was spraying the flames with a small fire
She was soon rolling across the bridge at a low speed. She parked outside the cottage and walked back
to Martin Vanger’s house.
Mikael was still fumbling with the handcuffs. His hands were so numb that he could not get a grip on the
key. Salander unlocked the cuffs for him and held him tight as the blood began to circulate in his hands
“Martin?” he said in a hoarse voice.
“Dead. He drove slap into the front of a truck a couple of miles south on the E4.”
Blomkvist stared at her. She had only been gone a few minutes.
“We have to . . . call the police,” he whispered. He began coughing hard.
“Why?” Salander said.
For ten minutes Blomkvist was incapable of standing up. He was still on the floor, naked, leaning against
the wall. He massaged his neck and lifted the water bottle with clumsy fingers. Salander waited patiently
until his sense of touch started to return. She spent the time thinking.
“Put your trousers on.”
She used Blomkvist’s cut-up T-shirt to wipe fingerprints from the handcuffs, the knife, and the golf club.
She picked up her PET bottle.
“What are you doing?”
“Get dressed and hurry up. It’s getting light outside.”
Blomkvist stood on shaky legs and managed to pull on his boxers and jeans. He slipped on his trainers.
Salander stuffed his socks into her jacket pocket and then stopped him.
“What exactly did you touch down here?”
Blomkvist looked around. He tried to remember. At last he said that he had touched nothing except the
door and the keys. Salander found the keys in Martin Vanger’s jacket, which he had hung over the chair.
She wiped the door handle and the switch and turned off the light. She helped Blomkvist up the basement
stairs and told him to wait in the passageway while she put the golf club back in its proper place. When
she came back she was carrying a dark T-shirt that belonged to Martin Vanger.
“Put this on. I don’t want anyone to see you scampering about with a bare chest tonight.”
Blomkvist realised that he was in a state of shock. Salander had taken charge, and passively he obeyed
her instructions. She led him out of Martin’s house. She held on to him the whole time. As soon as they
stepped inside the cottage, she stopped him.
“If anyone sees us and asks what we were doing outside tonight, you and I went out to the point for a
nighttime walk, and we had sex out there.”
“Lisbeth, I can’t . . .”
“Get in the shower. Now.”
She helped him off with his clothes and propelled him to the bathroom. Then she put on water for coffee and made half a dozen thick sandwiches on rye bread with cheese and liver sausage and dill pickles. She sat down at the kitchen table and was thinking hard when he came limping back into the room. She studied the bruises and scrapes on his body. The noose had been so tight that he had a dark red
mark around his neck, and the knife had made a bloody gash in his skin on the left side.
“Get into bed,” she said.
She improvised bandages and covered the wound with a makeshift compress. Then she poured the coffee and handed him a sandwich.
“I’m really not hungry,” he said.
“I don’t give a damn if you’re hungry. Just eat,” Salander commanded, taking a big bite of her own cheese sandwich.
Blomkvist closed his eyes for a moment, then he sat up and took a bite. His throat hurt so much that he
could scarcely swallow.
Salander took off her leather jacket and from the bathroom brought a jar of Tiger Balm from her sponge
“Let the coffee cool for a while. Lie face down.”
She spent five minutes massaging his back and rubbing him with the liniment. Then she turned him over
and gave him the same treatment on the front.
“You’re going to have some serious bruises for a while.”
“Lisbeth, we have to call the police.”
“No,” she replied with such vehemence that Blomkvist opened his eyes in surprise. “If you call the police, I’m leaving. I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Martin Vanger is dead. He died in a car accident. He was alone in the car. There are witnesses. Let the police or someone else discover that fucking torture chamber. You and I are just as ignorant about its existence as everyone else in this village.”
She ignored him and started massaging his aching thighs.
“Lisbeth, we can’t just . . .”
“If you go on nagging, I’ll drag you back to Martin’s grotto and chain you up again.”
As she said this, Blomkvist fell asleep, as suddenly as if he had fainted.
Saturday, July 12–
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