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Part II Chapter 8
PART 2
Consequence Analyses
JANUARY 3–MARCH 17
Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man.
 
CHAPTER 8
Friday, January 3–Sunday, January 5


When Blomkvist alighted from his train in Hedestad for the second time, the sky was a pastel blue and the air icy cold. The thermometer on the wall of the station said 0°F. He was wearing unsuitable walking shoes. Unlike on his previous visit, there was no Herr Frode waiting with a warm car. Blomkvist had told them which day he would arrive, but not on which train. He assumed there was a bus to Hedeby, but he did not feel like struggling with two heavy suitcases and a shoulder bag, so he crossed the square to the taxi stand.
It had snowed massively all along the Norrland coast between Christmas and New Year’s, and judging by the ridges and piles of snow thrown up by the ploughs, the road teams had been out in full force in Hedestad. The taxi driver, whose name, according to his ID posted on the window, was Hussein, nodded when Blomkvist asked whether they had been having rough weather. In the broadest Norrland accent, he reported that it had been the worst snowstorm in decades, and he bitterly regretted not taking his holiday in Greece over the Christmas period.
Blomkvist directed him to Henrik Vanger’s newly shovelled courtyard, where he lifted his suitcases on to the cobblestones and watched the taxi head back towards Hedestad. He suddenly felt lonely and uncertain.
He heard the door open behind him. Vanger was wrapped up in a heavy fur coat, thick boots, and a cap with earflaps. Blomkvist was in jeans and a thin leather jacket.
“If you’re going to live up here, you need to learn to dress more warmly for this time of year.” They shook hands. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay in the main house? No? Then I think we’d better start getting you settled into your new lodgings.”
One of the conditions in his negotiations with Vanger and Dirch Frode had been that he have living quarters where he could do his own housekeeping and come and go as he pleased. Vanger led Blomkvist back along the road towards the bridge and then turned to open the gate to another newly shovelled courtyard in front of a small timbered house close to the end of the bridge. The house was not locked. They stepped into a modest hallway where Blomkvist, with a sigh of relief, put down his suitcases.
“This is what we call our guest house. It’s where we usually put people up who are going to stay for a longer period of time. This was where you and your parents lived in 1963. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the village, but it’s been modernised. I asked Nilsson, my caretaker, to light the fire this morning.”
The house consisted of a large kitchen and two smaller rooms, totalling about 500 square feet. The kitchen took up half the space and was quite modern, with an electric stove and a small refrigerator. Against the wall facing the front door stood an old cast-iron stove in which a fire had indeed been lit earlier in the day.
“You don’t need to use the woodstove unless it gets bitterly cold. The firewood bin is there in the hallway, and you’ll find a woodshed at the back. The house has been unlived-in this autumn. The electric heaters are usually sufficient. Just make sure you don’t hang any clothes on them, or it may start a fire.”
Blomkvist looked around. Windows faced three different directions, and from the kitchen table he had a view of the bridge, about a hundred feet away. The furnishings in the kitchen included three big cupboards, some kitchen chairs, an old bench, and a shelf for newspapers. On top was an issue of See from 1967. In one corner was a smaller table that could be used as a desk.
Two narrow doors led to smaller rooms. The one on the right, closest to the outside wall, was hardly more than a cubbyhole with a desk, a chair, and some shelves along the wall. The other room, between the hallway and the little office, was a very small bedroom with a narrow double bed, a bedside table, and a wardrobe. On the walls hung landscape paintings. The furniture and wallpaper in the house were all old and faded, but the place smelled nice and clean. Someone had worked over the floor with a dose of soap. The bedroom had another door to the hallway, where a storeroom had been converted into a bathroom with a shower.
“You may have a problem with the water,” Vanger said. “We checked it this morning, but the pipes aren’t buried very deep, and if this cold hangs on for long they may freeze. There’s a bucket in the hallway so come up and get water from us if you need to.”
“I’ll need a telephone,” Blomkvist said.
“I’ve already ordered one. They’ll be here to install it the day after tomorrow. So, what do you think? If you change your mind, you would be welcome in the main house at any time.”
“This will be just fine,” Blomkvist said.
“Excellent. We have another hour or so of daylight left. Shall we take a walk so you can familiarise yourself with the village? Might I suggest that you put on some heavy socks and a pair of boots? You’ll find them by the front door.” Blomkvist did as he suggested and decided that the very next day he would go shopping for long underwear and a pair of good winter shoes.
 
The old man started the tour by explaining that Blomkvist’s neighbour across the road was Gunnar Nilsson, the assistant whom Vanger insisted on calling “the caretaker.” But Blomkvist soon realised that he was more of a superintendent for all the buildings on Hedeby Island, and he also had responsibility for several buildings in Hedestad.
“His father was Magnus Nilsson, who was my caretaker in the sixties, one of the men who helped out at the accident on the bridge. Magnus is retired and lives in Hedestad. Gunnar lives here with his wife, whose name is Helena. Their children have moved out.”
Vanger paused for a moment to shape what he would say next, which was: “Mikael, the official explanation for your presence here is that you’re going to help me write my autobiography. That will give you an excuse for poking around in all the dark corners and asking questions. The real assignment is strictly between you and me and Dirch Frode.”
“I understand. And I’ll repeat what I said before: I don’t think I’m going to be able to solve the mystery.”
“All I ask is that you do your best. But we must be careful what we say in front of anyone else. Gunnar is fifty-six, which means that he was nineteen when Harriet disappeared. There’s one question that I never got answered—Harriet and Gunnar were good friends, and I think some sort of childish romance went on between them. He was pretty interested in her, at any rate. But on the day she disappeared, he was in Hedestad; he was one of those stranded on the mainland. Because of their relationship, he came under close scrutiny. It was quite unpleasant for him. He was with some friends all day, and he didn’t get back here until evening. The police checked his alibi and it was airtight.”
“I assume that you have a list of everyone who was on the island and what everybody was doing that day.”
“That’s correct. Shall we go on?”
They stopped at the crossroads on the hill, and Vanger pointed down towards the old fishing harbour, now used for small boats.
“All the land on Hedeby Island is owned by the Vanger family—or by me, to be more precise. The one exception is the farmland at ?sterg?rden and a few houses here in the village. The cabins down there at the fishing harbour are privately owned, but they’re summer cottages and are mostly vacant during the winter. Except for that house farthest away—you can see smoke coming from the chimney.”
Blomkvist saw the smoke rising. He was frozen to the bone.
“It’s a miserably draughty hovel that functions as living quarters year-round. That’s where Eugen Norman lives. He’s in his late seventies and is a painter of sorts. I think his work is kitsch, but he’s rather well known as a landscape painter. You might call him the obligatory eccentric in the village.”
Vanger guided Blomkvist out towards the point, identifying one house after the other. The village consisted of six buildings on the west side of the road and four on the east. The first house, closest to Blomkvist’s guest house and the Vanger estate, belonged to Henrik Vanger’s brother Harald. It was a rectangular, two-storey stone building which at first glance seemed unoccupied. The curtains were drawn and the path to the front door had not been cleared; it was covered with a foot and a half of snow. On second glance, they could see the footprints of someone who had trudged through the snow from the road up to the door.
“Harald is a recluse. He and I have never seen eye to eye. Apart from our disagreements over the firm—he’s a shareholder—we’ve barely spoken to each other in nearly 60 years. He’s ninety-two now, and the only one of my four brothers still alive. I’ll tell you the details later, but he trained to be a doctor and spent most of his professional life in Uppsala. He moved back to Hedeby when he turned seventy.”
“You don’t care much for each other, and yet you’re neighbours.”
“I find him detestable, and I would have rather he’d stayed in Uppsala, but he owns this house. Do I sound like a scoundrel?”
“You sound like someone who doesn’t much like his brother.”
“I spent the first twenty-five years of my life apologising for people like Harald because we’re family. Then I discovered that being related is no guarantee of love and I had few reasons to defend Harald.”
The next house belonged to Isabella, Harriet Vanger’s mother.
“She’ll be seventy-five this year, and she’s still as stylish and vain as ever. She’s also the only one in the village who talks to Harald, and occasionally visits him, but they don’t have much in common.”
“How was her relationship with Harriet?”
“Good question. The women have to be included among the suspects. I told you that she mostly left the children to their own devices. I can’t be sure, but I think her heart was in the right place; she just wasn’t capable of taking responsibility. She and Harriet were never close, but they weren’t enemies either. Isabella can be tough, but sometimes she’s not all there. You’ll see what I mean when you meet her.”
Isabella’s neighbour was Cecilia Vanger, the daughter of Harald.
“She was married once and lived in Hedestad, but she and her husband separated some twenty years ago. I own the house and offered to let her move in. She is a teacher, and in many ways she’s the direct opposite of her father. I might add that she and her father speak to each other only when necessary.”
“How old is she?”
“Born in 1946. So she was twenty when Harriet disappeared. And yes, she was one of the guests on the island that day. Cecilia may seem flighty, but in fact she’s shrewder than most. Don’t underestimate her. If anyone’s going to ferret out what you’re up to, she’s the one. I might add that she’s one of my relatives for whom I have the highest regard.”
“Does that mean that you don’t suspect her?”
“I wouldn’t say that. I want you to ponder the matter without any constraints, regardless of what I think or believe.”
The house closest to Cecilia’s was also owned by Henrik Vanger, but it was leased to an elderly couple formerly part of the management team of the Vanger companies. They had moved to Hedeby Island in the eighties, so they had nothing to do with Harriet’s disappearance. The next house was owned by Birger Vanger, Cecilia’s brother. The house had been empty for many years since Birger moved to a modern house in Hedestad.
Most of the buildings lining the road were solid stone structures from the early twentieth century. The last house was of a different type, a modern, architect-designed home built of white brick with black window frames. It was in a beautiful situation, and Blomkvist could see that the view from the top floor must be magnificent, facing the sea to the east and Hedestad to the north.
“This is where Martin lives—Harriet’s brother and the Vanger Corporation CEO. The parsonage used to be here, but that building was destroyed by a fire in the seventies, and Martin built this house in 1978 when he took over as CEO.”
In the last building on the east side of the road lived Gerda Vanger, widow of Henrik’s brother Greger, and her son, Alexander.
“Gerda is sickly. She suffers from rheumatism. Alexander owns a small share of the Vanger Corporation, but he runs a number of his own businesses, including restaurants. He usually spends a few months each year in Barbados, where he has invested a considerable sum in the tourist trade.”
Between Gerda’s and Henrik’s houses was a plot of land with two smaller, empty buildings. They were used as guest houses for family members. On the other side of Henrik’s house stood a private dwelling where another retired employee lived with his wife, but it was empty in the winter when the couple repaired to Spain.
They returned to the crossroads, and with that the tour was over. Dusk was beginning to fall. Blomkvist took the initiative.
“Henrik, I’ll do what I’ve been hired to do. I’ll write your autobiography, and I’ll humour you by reading all the material about Harriet as carefully and critically as I can. I just want you to realise that I’m not a private detective.”
“I expect nothing.”
“Fine.”
“I’m a night owl,” Vanger said. “So I’m at your disposal any time after lunch. I’ll arrange for you to have an office up here, and you can make use of it whenever you like.”
“No, thank you. I have an office in the guest house, and that’s where I’ll do my work.”
“As you wish.”
“If I need to talk to you, we’ll do it in your office, but I’m not going to start throwing questions at you tonight.”
“I understand.” The old man seemed improbably timid.
“It’s going to take a couple of weeks to read through the papers. We’ll work on two fronts. We’ll meet for a few hours each day so that I can interview you and gather material for your biography. When I start having questions about Harriet which I need to discuss with you, I’ll let you know.”
“That sounds sensible.”
“I’m going to require a free hand to do my work, and I won’t have any set work hours.”
“You decide for yourself how the work should be done.”
“I suppose you’re aware that I have to spend a couple of months in prison. I don’t know exactly when, but I’m not going to appeal. It’ll probably be sometime this year.”
Vanger frowned. “That’s unfortunate. We’ll have to solve that problem when it comes up. You can always request a postponement.”
“If it’s permitted and I have enough material, I might be able to work on your book in prison. One more thing: I’m still part owner of Millennium and as of now it’s a magazine in crisis. If something happens that requires my presence in Stockholm, I would have to drop what I’m doing and go there.”
“I didn’t take you on as a serf. I want you to do a thorough job on the assignment I’ve given you, but, of course, you can set your own schedule and do the work as you see fit. If you need to take some time off, feel free to do it, but if I find out that you’re not doing the work, I’ll consider that a breach of contract.”
Vanger looked over towards the bridge. He was a gaunt man, and Blomkvist thought that he looked at that moment like a melancholy scarecrow.
“As far as Millennium is concerned, we ought to have a discussion about what kind of crisis it’s in and whether I can help in some way.”
“The best assistance you can offer is to give me Wennerstr?m’s head on a platter right here and now.”
“Oh no, I’m not thinking of doing that.” The old man gave Blomkvist a hard look. “The only reason you took this job was because I promised to expose Wennerstr?m. If I give you the information now, you could stop work on the job whenever you felt like it. I’ll give you the information a year from now.”
“Henrik, forgive me for saying this, but I can’t be sure that a year from now you’ll be alive.”
Vanger sighed and cast a thoughtful gaze over the fishing harbour.
“Fair enough. I’ll talk to Frode and see if we can work something out. But as far as Millennium is concerned, I might be able to help in another way. As I understand it, the advertisers have begun to pull out.”
“The advertisers are the immediate problem, but the crisis goes deeper than that. It’s a matter of trust. It doesn’t matter how many advertisers we have if no-one wants to buy the magazine.”
“I realise that. I’m still on the board of directors of quite a large corporation, albeit in a passive role. We have to place advertisements somewhere. Let’s discuss the matter at some stage. Would you like to have dinner…”
“No. I want to get settled, buy some groceries, and take a look around. Tomorrow I’ll go to Hedestad and shop for winter clothes.”
“Good idea.”
“I’d like the files about Harriet to be moved over to my place.”
“They need to be handled…”
“With great care—I understand.”
Blomkvist returned to the guest house. His teeth were chattering by the time he got indoors. The thermometer outside the window said 5°F, and he couldn’t remember ever feeling so cold as after that walk, which had lasted barely twenty minutes.
He spent an hour settling himself into what was to be his home for the coming year. He put his clothes in the wardrobe in the bedroom, his toiletries went in the bathroom cabinet. His second suitcase was actually a trunk on wheels. From it he took books, CDs and a CD player, notebooks, a Sanyo tape recorder, a Microtek scanner, a portable ink-jet printer, a Minolta digital camera, and a number of other items he regarded as essential kit for a year in exile.
He arranged the books and the CDs on the bookshelf in the office alongside two binders containing research material on Hans-Erik Wennerstr?m. The material was useless, but he could not let it go. Somehow he had to turn those two folders into building blocks for his continuing career.
Finally he opened his shoulder bag and put his iBook on the desk in the office. Then he stopped and looked about him with a sheepish expression. The benefits of living in the countryside, forsooth. There was nowhere to plug in the broadband cable. He did not even have a telephone jack to connect an old dial-up modem.
Blomkvist called the Telia telephone company from his mobile. After a slight hassle, he managed to get someone to find the order that Vanger had placed for the guest house. He wanted to know whether the connection could handle ADSL and was told that it would be possible by way of a relay in Hedeby, and that it would take several days.
 
It was after 4:00 by the time Blomkvist was done. He put on a pair of thick socks and the borrowed boots and pulled on an extra sweater. At the front door he stopped short; he had been given no keys to the house, and his big-city instincts rebelled at the idea of leaving the front door unlocked. He went back to the kitchen and began opening drawers. Finally he found a key hanging from a nail in the pantry.
The temperature had dropped to -1°F. He walked briskly across the bridge and up the hill past the church. The Konsum store was conveniently located about three hundred yards away. He filled two paper bags to overflowing with supplies and then carried them home before returning across the bridge. This time he stopped at Susanne’s Bridge Café. The woman behind the counter was in her fifties. He asked whether she was Susanne and then introduced himself by saying that he was undoubtedly going to be a regular customer. He was for the time being the only customer, and Susanne offered him coffee when he ordered sandwiches and bought a loaf of bread. He picked up a copy of the Hedestad Courier from the newspaper rack and sat at a table with a view of the bridge and the church, its facade now lit up. It looked like a Christmas card. It took him about four minutes to read the newspaper. The only news of interest was a brief item explaining that a local politician by the name of Birger Vanger (Liberal) was going to invest in “IT TechCent”—a technology development centre in Hedestad. Mikael sat there until the café closed at 6:00.
At 7:30 he called Berger, but was advised that the party at that number was not available. He sat on the kitchen bench and tried to read a novel which, according to the back cover text, was the sensational debut of a teenage feminist. The novel was about the author’s attempt to get a handle on her sex life during a trip to Paris, and Blomkvist wondered whether he could be called a feminist if he wrote a novel about his own sex life in the voice of a high-school student. Probably not. He had bought the book because the publisher had hailed the first-time novelist as “a new Carina Rydberg.” He quickly ascertained that this was not the case in either style or content. He put the book aside for a while and instead read a Hopalong Cassidy story in an issue of Rekordmagasinet from the mid-fifties.
Every half hour he heard the curt, muted clang of the church bell. Lights were visible in the windows at the home of the caretaker across the road, but Blomkvist could not see anyone inside the house. Harald Vanger’s house was dark. Around 9:00 a car drove across the bridge and disappeared towards the point. At midnight the lights on the facade of the church were turned off. That was apparently the full extent of the entertainment in Hedeby on a Friday night in early January. It was............
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