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Saturday, November 1–Tuesday, November 25
Salander was surfing through Wennerström’s cyber-empire. She had been staring at her computer screen
for almost eleven hours. The idea that had materialised in some unexplored nook of her brain during the
last week at Sandhamn had grown into a manic preoccupation. For four weeks she had isolated herself in
her apartment and ignored any communication from Armansky. She had spent twelve hours a day in front
of her computer, some days more, and the rest of her waking hours she had brooded over the same problem.
During the past month she had had intermittent contact with Blomkvist. He too was preoccupied, busy
at the Millennium offices. They had conferred by telephone a couple of times each week, and she had kept him updated on Wennerström’s correspondence and other activities.
For the hundredth time she went over every detail. She was not afraid that she had missed anything, but
she was not sure that she had understood how every one of the intricate connections fitted together.
This much-discussed empire was like a living, formless, pulsating organism that kept changing shape. It
consisted of options, bonds, shares, partnerships, loan interest, income interest, deposits, bank accounts, payment transfers, and thousands of other elements. An incredibly large proportion of the assets was deposited in post-office-box companies that owned one another.
The financial pundits’ most inflated analyses of the Wennerström Group estimated its value at more than
900 billion kronor. That was a bluff, or at least a figure that was grossly exaggerated. Obviously Wennerström himself was by no means poor. She calculated the real assets to be worth between 90 and
100 billion kronor, which was nothing to sneeze at. A thorough audit of the entire corporation would take
years. All in all Salander had identified close to three thousand separate accounts and bank holdings all
over the world. Wennerström was devoting himself to fraud that was so extensive it was no longer merely
criminal—it was business.
Somewhere in the Wennerström organism there was also substance. Three assets kept showing up in the
hierarchy. The fixed Swedish assets were unassailable and genuine, available to public scrutiny, balance
sheets, and audits. The American firm was solid, and a bank in New York served as the base for all liquid
capital. The story was in the business with the post-office-box companies in places such as Gibraltar and
Cyprus and Macao. Wennerström was like a clearing house for the illegal weapons trade, money laundering for suspect enterprises in Colombia, and extremely unorthodox businesses in Russia.
An anonymous account in the Cayman Islands was unique; it was personally controlled by Wennerström
but was not connected to any companies. A few hundredths of a percent of every deal that Wennerström
made would be siphoned into the Cayman Islands via the post-office-box companies.
Salander worked in a trance-like state. The account— click—email— click—balance sheets— click.
She noted down the latest transfers. She tracked a small transaction in Japan to Singapore and on via Luxembourg to the Cayman Islands. She understood how it worked. It was as if she were part of the impulses in cyberspace. Small changes. The latest email. One brief message of somewhat peripheral interest was sent at 10:00 p.m. The PGP encryption programme (rattle, rattle) was a joke for anyone who
was already inside his computer and could read the message in plain text:
Berger has stopped arguing about the ads. Has she given up or does she have something cooking?
Your source at the editorial offices assured us that they were on the brink of ruin, but it sounds as if
they just hired a new person. Find out what’s happening. Blomkvist has been working at Sandhamn
for the past few weeks, but no-one knows what he’s writing. He’s been seen at the editorial offices
the past few days. Can you arrange for an advance copy of the next issue?/HEW/
Nothing dramatic. Let him worry. Your goose is cooked, old man.
At 5:30 in the morning she turned off her computer and got out a new pack of cigarettes. She had drunk
four, no, five Cokes during the night, and now she got out a sixth and went to sit on the sofa. She was wearing only knickers and a washed-out camouflage shirt advertising Soldier of Fortune magazine, with the slogan KILL THEM ALL AND LET GOD SORT THEM OUT. She realised that she was cold, so she reached for a blanket, which she wrapped around herself.
She felt high, as if she had consumed some inappropriate and presumably illegal substance. She focused her gaze on the street lamp outside the window and sat still while her brain worked at top speed.
Mamma— click—sister— click—Mimmi— click—Holger Palmgren. Evil Fingers. And Armansky. The job. Harriet Vanger. Click. Martin Vanger. Click. The golf club. Click. The lawyer Bjurman. Click. Every single fucking detail that she couldn’t forget even if she tried.
She wondered whether Bjurman would ever take his clothes off in front of a woman again, and if he
did, how was he going to explain the tattoos on his stomach? And the next time he went to the doctor how
would he avoid taking off his clothes?
And Mikael Blomkvist. Click.
She considered him to be a good person, possibly with a Practical Pig complex that was sometimes a
little too apparent. And he was unbearably naive with regard to certain elementary moral issues. He had
an indulgent and forgiving personality that looked for explanations and excuses for the way people behaved, and he would never get it that the raptors of the world understood only one language. She felt
almost awkwardly protective whenever she thought of him.
She did not remember falling asleep, but she woke up at 9:00 a.m. with a crick in her neck and with her
head leaning against the wall behind the sofa. She tottered to the bedroom and fell back to sleep.
It was without a doubt the biggest story of their lives. For the first time in a year and a half, Berger was happy in the way that only an editor who has a spectacular scoop in the oven can be. She and Blomkvist
were polishing the article one last time when Salander called him on his mobile.
“I forgot to say that Wennerström is starting to get worried about what you’ve been doing lately, and he’s asked for an advance copy of the next issue.”
“How do you know . . . ah, forget that. Any idea what he plans to do?”
“Nix. Just one logical guess.”
Blomkvist thought for a few seconds. “The printer,” he exclaimed.
Berger raised her eyebrows.
“If you’re keeping a lid on the editorial offices, there aren’t many other possibilities. Provided none of his thugs is planning to pay you a nighttime visit.”
Blomkvist turned to Berger. “Book a new printer for this issue. Now. And call Dragan Armansky—I want security here at night for the next week.” Back to Salander. “Thanks.”
“What’s it worth?”
“What do you mean?”
“What’s the tip worth?”
“What would you like?”
“I’d like to discuss it over coffee. Right now.”
They met at Kaffebar on Hornsgatan. Salander looked so serious when Blomkvist sat down on the bench
next to her that he felt a pang of concern. As usual, she came straight to the point.
“I need to borrow some money.”
Blomkvist gave her one of his most foolish grins and reached for his wallet.
“Sure. How much?”
“Steady, steady.” He put his wallet away.
“I’m not kidding. I need to borrow 120,000 kronor for . . . let’s say six weeks. I have a chance to make
an investment, but I don’t have anyone else to turn to. You’ve got roughly 140,000 kronor in your current
account right now. You’ll get your money back.”
No point commenting on the fact that Salander had hacked his bank password.
“You don’t have to borrow the money from me,” he replied. “We haven’t discussed your share yet, but
it’s more than enough to cover what you want to borrow.”
“Lisbeth, I have an insane fee to cash in from Henrik Vanger, and we’re going to finalise the deal at the
end of the year. Without you, there wouldn’t be a me and Millennium would have gone under. I’m planning to split the fee with you. Fifty-fifty.”
Salander gave him a searching look. A frown had appeared on her brow. Blomkvist was used to her silences. Finally she shook her head.
“I don’t want your money.”
“But . . .”
“I don’t want one single krona from you, unless it comes in the form of presents on my birthday.”
“Come to think of it, I don’t even know when your birthday is.”
“You’re a journalist. Check it out.”
“I’m serious, Lisbeth. About splitting the money.”
“I’m serious too. I only want to borrow it, and I need it tomorrow.”
She didn’t even ask how much her share would be. “I’ll be happy to go to the bank with you today and lend you the amount you need. But at the end of the year let’s have another talk about your share.” He held up his hand. “And by the way, when is your birthday?”
“On Walpurgis Night,” she replied. “Very fitting, don’t you think? That’s when I gad around with a broom between my legs.”
She landed in Zürich at 7:30 in the evening and took a taxi to the Matterhorn Hotel. She had booked a room under the name of Irene Nesser, and she identified herself using a Norwegian passport in that name.
Irene Nesser had shoulder-length blonde hair. Salander had bought a wig in Stockholm and used 10,000
kronor of what she had borrowed from Blomkvist to buy two passports through one of the contacts in Plague’s international network.
She went to her room, locked the door, and got undressed. She lay on the bed and looked up at the ceiling in the room that cost 1,600 kronor per night. She felt empty. She had already run through half the sum she’d borrowed, and even though she had added in every krona of her own savings, she was still on a
tight budget. She stopped thinking and fell asleep almost at once.
She awoke just after 5:00 in the morning. She showered and spent a long time masking the tattoo on her
neck with a thick layer of skin-coloured lotion and powder over it. The second item on her checklist was
to make an appointment at the beauty salon in the lobby of a significantly more expensive hotel for 6:30
that morning. She bought another blonde wig, this one in a page-boy style, and then she had a manicure,
getting pink nails attached to her own chewed ones. She also got false eyelashes, more powder, rouge, and finally lipstick and other make-up. No change from 8,000 kronor.
She paid with a credit card in the name of Monica Sholes, and she showed them her British passport
with that name.
Next stop was Camille’s House of Fashion down the street. After an hour she came out wearing black
boots, a sand-coloured skirt with matching blouse, black tights, a waist-length jacket, and a beret. Every item bore an expensive designer label. She had let the sales girl make the selection. She had also chosen
an exclusive leather briefcase and a small Samsonite suitcase. The crowning touches were discreet earrings and a simple gold chain around her neck. The credit card had been debited 44,000 kronor.
For the first time in her life Salander had a bustline that made her—when she glanced at herself in the
full-length mirror—catch her breath. The breasts were as fake as Monica Sholes’ identity. They were made of latex and had been bought in Copenhagen where the transvestites shopped.
She was ready for battle.
Just after 9:00 she walked two blocks to the venerable Zimmertal Hotel, where she booked a room in
Monica Sholes’ name. She gave a generous tip to a boy who carried up her suitcase (which contained her
travel bag). The suite was a small one, costing 22,000 kronor a day. She had booked it for one night.
When she was alone she took a look around. She had a dazzling view of Lake Zürich, which didn’t interest her in the least. But she did spend close to five minutes examining herself in the mirror. She saw a total stranger. Big-busted Monica Sholes in a blonde page-boy wig, wearing more make-up than Lisbeth
Salander dreamed of using in a whole month. She looked . . . different.
At 9:30 she had breakfast in the hotel bar: two cups of coffee and a bagel with jam. The cost was 210
kronor. Are these people soft in the head?
Just before 10:00 Monica Sholes set down her coffee cup, opened her mobile, and punched in the number
of a modem uplink in Hawaii. After three rings, the handshaking tone began. The modem was connected.
Monica Sholes replied by punching in a six-digit code on her mobile and texting a message containing instructions to start a programme that Salander had written especially for this purpose.
In Honolulu the programme came to life on an anonymous home page on a server that was officially located at the university. The programme was simple. Its only function was to send instructions to start another programme in another server, which in this case was a perfectly ordinary commercial ISP offering
Internet services in Holland. The function of that programme, in turn, was to look for the mirrored hard
drive belonging to Hans-Erik Wennerström and take command of the programme that showed the contents
of his approximately 3,000 bank accounts around the world.
There was only one account of any interest. Salander had noted that Wennerström looked at the account
a couple of times each week. If he turned on his computer and looked at that particular file, everything would appear to be normal. The programme showed small changes, which were to be expected, based on
normal fluctuations in the account during the past six months. If during the next forty-eight hours Wennerström should go in and ask to have the funds paid out or moved from the account, the programme
would dutifully report that it had been done. In reality, the change would have occurred only on the mirrored hard drive in Holland.
Monica Sholes switched off her mobile the moment she heard four short tones confirming that the programme had started.
She left the Zimmertal Hotel and walked over to Bank Hauser General, across the street, where she had
made an appointment to see Herr Wagner, the general manager, at 10:00. She was there three minutes ahead of schedule, and she spent the waiting time posing in front of the surveillance camera, which took
her picture as she walked into the department with offices for discreet private consultations.
“I need some assistance with a number of transactions,” she said in Oxford English. When she opened
her briefcase, she let drop a pen from the Zimmertal Hotel, and Herr Wagner politely retrieved it for her.
She gave him an arch smile and wrote an account number on the notepad on the desk in front of her.
Herr Wagner pigeonholed her as the spoiled daughter, or possibly mistress, of some bigshot.
“There are a number of accounts at the Bank of Kroenenfeld in the Cayman Islands. Automatic transfer
can be done by sequential clearing codes,” she said.
“Fräulein Sholes, naturally you have all the required clearing codes?” he asked.
“Aber natürlich,” she replied with such a heavy accent that it was obvious she had only school-level German.
She started reciting several series of sixteen-digit numbers without once referring to any papers. Herr
Wagner saw that it was going to be a long morning, but for a 4 percent commission on the transactions, he
was prepared to skip lunch, and he was going to have to revise his pigeonhole for Fräulein Sholes.
She did not leave Bank Hauser General until just past noon, slightly later than planned, and she walked
back to the Zimmertal. She put in an appearance at the front desk before she went up to her room and took
off the clothes she had bought. She kept on the latex breasts but replaced the page-boy wig with Irene Nesser’s shoulder-length blonde hair. She put on more familiar clothes: boots with stiletto heels, black trousers, a simple shirt, and a nice black leather jacket from Malungsboden in Stockholm. She studied herself in the mirror. Not unkempt by any means, but she was no longer an heiress. Before Irene Nesser
left the room, she sorted through a number of bonds, which she placed inside a thin portfolio.
At 1:05, a few minutes behind schedule, she went into Bank Dorffmann, about seventy yards away from
Bank Hauser General. Irene Nesser had made an appointment in advance with a Herr Hasselmann. She apologised for being late. She spoke impeccable German with a Norwegian accent.
“No problem at all, Fräulein,” Herr Hasselmann said. “How can I be of service?”
“I would like to open an account. I have a number of private bonds that I’d like to convert.”
Irene Nesser placed her portfolio on the desk in front of him.
Herr Hasselmann examined the contents, hastily at first, and then more slowly. He raised an eyebrow
and smiled politely.
She opened five numbered accounts, which she could access via the Internet and which were owned by
an apparently anonymous post-office-box company in Gibraltar. A broker had set them up for her for 50,000 kronor of the money she had borrowed from Blomkvist. She cashed in fifty of the bonds and deposited the money in the accounts. Each bond was worth the equivalent of one million kronor.
Her business at the Bank Dorffmann also took more time than expected, so now she was even more behind
on her schedule. She had no chance to take care of her final transactions before the banks closed for the
day. So Irene Nesser returned to the Matterhorn Hotel, where she spent an hour hanging around to establish her presence. But she had a headache and went to bed early. She bought some aspirin at the front desk and ordered a wake-up call for 8:00 a.m. Then she went back to her room.
It was close to 5:00 p.m., and all the banks in Europe were closed for business. But the banks in North
and South America were open. She booted up her PowerBook and uplinked to the Net through her mobile.
She spent an hour emptying the numbered accounts she had opened at Bank Dorffmann earlier in the day.
She divided the money up into small amounts and used it to pay invoices for a large number of fictional
companies around the world. When she was done, the money had strangely enough been transferred back
to the Bank of Kroenenfeld in the Cayman Islands, but this time to an entirely different account than the
one from which it had been withdrawn earlier that day.
Irene Nesser considered this first stage to be secure and almost impossible to trace. She made one payment from the account: the sum of nearly one million kronor was deposited into an account linked to a
credit card that she had in her wallet. The account was owned by Wasp Enterprises, registered in Gibraltar.
Several minutes later a girl with blonde page-boy hair left the Matterhorn by a door into the hotel bar.
Monica Sholes walked to the Zimmertal Hotel, nodded politely to the desk clerk, and took the lift up to
There she took her time putting on Monica Sholes’ combat uniform, touching up her make-up, and applying an extra layer of skin cream to the tattoo before she went down to the hotel restaurant and had an insanely delicious fish dinner. She ordered a bottle of vintage wine that she had never heard of before though it cost 1,200 kronor, drank one glass, and nonchalantly left the rest before she went into the hotel bar. She left absurd tips, which certainly made the staff notice her.
She spent quite a while allowing herself to be picked up by a drunk young Italian with an aristocratic
name which she did not bother to remember. They shared two bottles of champagne, of which she drank
almost one glass.
Around 11:00 her intoxicated suitor leaned forward and boldly squeezed her breast. She moved his hand down to the table, feeling pleased. He did not seem to have noticed that he was squeezing soft latex.
At times they were so loud that they caused a certain amount of irritation among the other guests. Just before midnight, when Monica Sholes noticed that a hall porter was keeping a stern eye on them, she helped her Italian boyfriend up to his room.
When he went to the bathroom, she poured one last glass of wine. She opened a folded piece of paper
and spiked the wine with a crushed Rohypnol sleeping tablet. He passed out in a miserable heap on the
bed within a minute after she drank a toast with him. She loosened his tie, pulled off his shoes, and drew a cover over him. She wiped the bottle clean, then washed the glasses in the bathroom and wiped them off
too before going back to her room.
Monica Sholes had breakfast in her room at 6:00 and checked out of the Zimmertal at 6:55. Before leaving her room, she spent five minutes wiping off fingerprints from the door handles, wardrobes, toilet, telephone, and other objects in the room that she had touched.
Irene Nesser checked out of the Matterhorn around 8:30, shortly after the wake-up call. She took a taxi
and left her luggage in a locker at the railway station. Then she spent the next few hours visiting nine private banks, where she distributed some of the private bonds from the Cayman Islands. By 3:00 in the
afternoon she had converted about 10 percent of the bonds into cash, which she deposited in thirty numbered accounts. The rest of the bonds she bundled up and put in a safe-deposit box.
Irene Nesser would need to make several more visits to Zürich, but there was no immediate hurry.
At 4:30 that afternoon Irene Nesser took a taxi to the airport, where she went into the ladies’ room and cut up Monica Sholes’ passport into little pieces, flushing them down the toilet. The credit card she also cut up and put the bits in five different rubbish bins, and the scissors too. After September 11 it was not a good idea to attract attention by having any sharp objects in your baggage.
Irene Nesser took Lufthansa flight GD890 to Oslo and caught the airport bus to the Oslo train station,
where she went into the ladies’ room and sorted through her clothes. She placed all items belonging to the Monica Sholes persona—the page-boy wig and the designer clothes—in three plastic bags and tossed them into three different rubbish containers and wastebaskets in the train station. She put the empty Samsonite suitcase in an unlocked locker. The gold chain and earrings were designer jewellery that could
be traced; they disappeared down a drain in the street outside the station.
After a moment of anxious hesitation, Irene Nesser decided to keep the fake latex breasts.
By then she did not have much time and took on some fuel in the form of a hamburger from McDonald’s
while she transferred the contents of the luxury leather briefcase to her travel bag. When she left, the empty briefcase remained under the table. She bought a latte to go at a kiosk and ran to catch the night train to Stockholm. She arrived as the doors were closing. She had booked a private sleeping berth.
When she locked the door to her compartment, she could feel that for the first time in two days, her adrenaline levels had returned to normal. She opened the compartment window and defied the no-smoking
regulations. She stood there sipping at her coffee as the train rolled out of Oslo.
She ran through her checklist to be sure that she had forgotten no detail. After a moment she frowned
and rummaged through her jacket pockets. She took out the complimentary pen from the Zimmertal Hotel
and studied it for several minutes before she tossed it out of the window.
After fifteen minutes she crept into bed and fell asleep.
EPILOGUE: FINAL AUDIT
Thursday, November 27–
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