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Chapter 7
Friday, January 3


Erika set her coffee cup on the table and stood by the window looking out at the view of Gamla Stan. It was 9:00 in the morning. All the snow had been washed away by the rain over New Year’s.
“I’ve always loved this view,” she said. “An apartment like this would make me give up living in Saltsj?baden.”
“You’ve got the keys. You can move over from your upper-class reserve any time you want,” Blomkvist said. He closed the suitcase and put it by the front door.
Berger turned and gave him a disbelieving look. “You can’t be serious, Mikael,” she said. “We’re in our worst crisis and you’re packing to go and live in Tjottahejti.”
“Hedestad. A couple of hours by train. And it’s not for ever.”
“It might as well be Ulan Bator. Don’t you see that it will look as if you’re slinking off with your tail between your legs?”
“That’s precisely what I am doing. Besides, I have to do some gaol time too.”
Christer Malm was sitting on the sofa. He was uncomfortable. It was the first time since they founded Millennium that he had seen Berger and Blomkvist in such disagreement. Over all the years they had been inseparable. Sometimes they had furious clashes, but their arguments were always about business matters, and they would invariably resolve all those issues before they hugged each other and went back to their corners. Or to bed. Last autumn had not been fun, and now it was as if a great gulf had opened up between them. Malm wondered if he was watching the beginning of the end of Millennium.
“I don’t have a choice,” Blomkvist said. “We don’t have a choice.”
He poured himself a coffee and sat at the kitchen table. Berger shook her head and sat down facing him.
“What do you think, Christer?” she said.
He had been expecting the question and dreading the moment when he would have to take a stand. He was the third partner, but they all knew that it was Blomkvist and Berger who were Millennium. The only time they asked his advice was when they could not agree.
“Honestly,” Malm said, “you both know perfectly well it doesn’t matter what I think.”
He shut up. He loved making pictures. He loved working with graphics. He had never considered himself an artist, but he knew he was a damned good designer. On the other hand, he was helpless at intrigue and policy decisions.
Berger and Blomkvist looked at each other across the table. She was cool and furious. He was thinking hard.
This isn’t an argument, Malm thought. It’s a divorce.
“OK, let me present my case one last time,” Blomkvist said. “This does not mean I’ve given up on Millennium. We’ve spent too much time working our hearts out for that.”
“But now you won’t be at the office—Christer and I will have to carry the load. Can’t you see that? You’re the one marching into self-imposed exile.”
“That’s the second thing. I need a break, Erika. I’m not functioning anymore. I’m burned out. A paid sabbatical in Hedestad might be exactly what I need.”
“The whole thing is idiotic, Mikael. You might as well take a job in a circus.”
“I know. But I’m going to get 2.4 million for sitting on my backside for a year, and I won’t be wasting my time. That’s the third thing. Round One with Wennerstr?m is over, and he knocked me out. Round Two has already started—he’s going to try to sink Millennium for good because he knows that the staff here will always know what he’s been up to, for as long as the magazine exists.”
“I know what he’s doing. I’ve seen it in the monthly ad sales figures for the last six months.”
“That’s exactly why I have to get out of the office. I’m like a red rag waving at him. He’s paranoid as far as I’m concerned. As long as I’m here, he’ll just keep on coming. Now we have to prepare ourselves for Round Three. If we’re going to have the slightest chance against Wennerstr?m, we have to retreat and work out a whole new strategy. We have to find something to hammer him with. That’ll be my job this year.”
“I understand all that,” Berger said. “So go ahead and take a holiday. Go abroad, lie on a beach for a month. Check out the love life on the Costa Brava. Relax. Go out to Sandhamn and look at the waves.”
“And when I come back nothing will be different. Wennerstr?m is going to crush Millennium unless he is appeased by my having stood down. You know that. The only thing which might otherwise stop him is if we get something on him that we can use.”
“And you think that’s what you will find in Hedestad?”
“I checked the cuttings. Wennerstr?m did work at the Vanger company from 1969 to 1972. He was in management and was responsible for strategic placements. He left in a hurry. Why should we rule out the possibility that Henrik Vanger does have something on him?”
“But if what he did happened thirty years ago, it’s going to be hard to prove it today.”
“Vanger promised to set out in detail what he knows. He’s obsessed with this missing girl—it seems to be the only thing he’s interested in, and if this means he has to burn Wennerstr?m then I think there’s a good chance he’ll do it. We certainly can’t ignore the opportunity—he’s the first person who’s said he’s willing to go on record with evidence against Wennerstr?m.”
“We couldn’t use it even if you came back with incontrovertible proof that it was Wennerstr?m who strangled the girl. Not after so many years. He’d massacre us in court.”
“The thought had crossed my mind, but it’s no good: he was plugging away at the Stockholm School of Economics and had no co............
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