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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 9
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Monday, January 6–Wednesday, January 8

Blomkvist kept reading until the small hours and did not get up until late on Epiphany Day. A navy blue, late-model Volvo was parked outside Vanger’s house. Even as he reached for the door handle, the door was opened by a man on his way out. They almost collided. The man seemed to be in a hurry.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
“I’m here to see Henrik Vanger,” Blomkvist said.
The man’s eyes brightened. He smiled and stuck out his hand. “You must be Mikael Blomkvist, the one who’s going to help Henrik with the family chronicle, right?”
They shook hands. Vanger had apparently begun spreading Blomkvist’s cover story. The man was overweight—the result, no doubt, of too many years of negotiating in offices and conference rooms—but Blomkvist noticed at once the likeness, the similarity between his face and Harriet Vanger’s.
“I’m Martin Vanger,” the man said. “Welcome to Hedestad.”
“Thank you.”
“I saw you on TV a while ago.”
“Everybody seems to have seen me on TV.”
“Wennerstr?m is…not very popular in this house.”
“Henrik mentioned that. I’m waiting to hear the rest of the story.”
“He told me a few days ago that he’d hired you.” Martin Vanger laughed. “He said it was probably because of Wennerstr?m that you took the job up here.”
Blomkvist hesitated before deciding to tell the truth. “That was one important reason. But to be honest, I needed to get away from Stockholm, and Hedestad cropped up at the right moment. At least I think so. I can’t pretend that the court case never happened. And anyway, I’m going to have to go to prison.”
Martin Vanger nodded, suddenly serious. “Can you appeal?”
“It won’t do any good.”
Vanger glanced at his watch.
“I have to be in Stockholm tonight, so I must hurry away. I’ll be back in a few days. Come over and have dinner. I’d really like to hear what actually went on during that trial. Henrik is upstairs. Go right in.”
Vanger was sitting on a sofa in his office where he had the Hedestad Courier, Dagens Industri, Svenska Dagbladet, and both national evening papers on the coffee table.
“I ran into Martin outside.”
“Rushing off to save the empire,” Vanger said. “Coffee?”
“Yes, please.” Blomkvist sat down, wondering why Vanger looked so amused.
“You’re mentioned in the paper.”
Vanger shoved across one of the evening papers, open at a page with the headline “Media Short Circuit.” The article was written by a columnist who had previously worked for Monopoly Financial Magazine, making a name for himself as one who cheerfully ridiculed everyone who felt passionate about any issue or who stuck their neck out. Feminists, antiracists, and environmental activists could all reckon on receiving their share. The writer was not known for espousing a single conviction of his own. Now, several weeks after the trial in the Wennerstr?m affair, he was bringing his fire to bear on Mikael Blomkvist, whom he described as a complete idiot. Erika Berger was portrayed as an incompetent media bimbo:

A rumour is circulating that Millennium is on the verge of collapse in spite of the fact that the editor in chief is a feminist who wears mini-skirts and pouts her lips on TV. For several years the magazine has survived on the image that has been successfully marketed by the editors—young reporters who undertake investigative journalism and expose the scoundrels of the business world. This advertising trick may work with young anarchists who want to hear just such a message, but it doesn’t wash in the district court. As Kalle Blomkvist recently found out.

Blomkvist switched on his mobile and checked to see if he had any calls from Berger. There were no messages. Vanger waited without saying anything. Blomkvist realised that the old man was allowing him to break the silence.
“He’s a moron,” Blomkvist said.
Vanger laughed, but he said: “That may be. But he’s not the one who was sentenced by the court.”
“That’s true. And he never will be. He never says anything original; he always just jumps on the bandwagon and casts the final stone in the most damaging terms he can get away with.”
“I’ve had many enemies over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never engage in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back.”
“Thank you for your wisdom, Henrik. Now I’d like you to tell me about your family.” He set the tape recorder between them on the table and pressed the record button.
“What do you want to know?”
“I’ve read through the first binder, about the disappearance and the searches, but there are so many Vangers mentioned that I need your help identifying them all.”
For nearly ten minutes Salander stood in the empty hall with her eyes fixed on the brass plaque that said “Advokat N. E. Bjurman” before she rang the bell. The lock on the entry door clicked.
It was Tuesday. It was their second meeting, and she had a bad feeling about it.
She was not afraid of Bjurman—Salander was rarely afraid of anyone or anything. On the other hand, she felt uncomfortable with this new guardian. His predecessor, Advokat Holger Palmgren, had been of an entirely different ilk: courteous and kind. But three months ago Palmgren had had a stroke, and Nils Erik Bjurman had inherited her in accordance with some bureaucratic pecking order.
In the twelve years that Salander had been under social and psychiatric guardianship, two of those years in a children’s clinic, she had never once given the same answer to the simple question: “So, how are you today?”
When she turned thirteen, the court had decided, under laws governing the guardianship of minors, that she should be entrusted to the locked ward at St. Stefan’s Psychiatric Clinic for Children in Uppsala. The decision was primarily based on the fact that she was deemed to be emotionally disturbed and dangerously violent towards her classmates and possibly towards herself.
All attempts by a teacher or any authority figure to initiate a conversation with the girl about her feelings, emotional life, or the state of her health were met, to their great frustration, with a sullen silence and a great deal of intense staring at the floor, ceiling, and walls. She would fold her arms and refuse to participate in any psychological tests. Her resistance to all attempts to measure, weigh, chart, analyse, or educate her applied also to her school work—the authorities could have her carried to a classroom and could chain her to the bench, but they could not stop her from closing her ears and refusing to lift a pen to write anything. She completed the nine years of compulsory schooling without a certificate.
This had consequently become associated with the great difficulty of even diagnosing her mental deficiencies. In short, Lisbeth Salander was anything but easy to handle.
By the time she was thirteen, it was also decided that a trustee should be assigned to take care of her interests and assets until she came of age. This trustee was Advokat Palmgren who, in spite of a rather difficult start, had succeeded where psychiatrists and doctors had failed. Gradually he won not only a certain amount of trust but also a modest amount of warmth from the girl.
When she turned fifteen, the doctors had more or less agreed that she was not, after all, dangerously violent, nor did she represent any immediate danger to herself. Her family had been categorised as dysfunctional, and she had no relatives who could look after her welfare, so it was decided that Lisbeth Salander should be released from the psychiatric clinic for children in Uppsala and eased back into society by way of a foster family.
That had not been an easy journey. She ran away from the first foster family after only two weeks. The second and third foster families fell by the wayside in quick succession. At that point Palmgren had a serious discussion with her, explaining bluntly that if she persisted on this path she would be institutionalised again. This threat had the effect that she accepted foster family number four—an elderly couple who lived in Midsommarkransen.
But it did not mean, however, that she behaved herself. At the age of seventeen, Salander was arrested by the police on four occasions; twice she was so intoxicated that she ended up in the emergency room, and once she was plainly under the influence of narcotics. On one of these occasions she was found dead drunk, with her clothes in disarray, in the back seat of a car parked at S?der M?larstrand. She was with an equally drunk and much older man.
The last arrest occurred three weeks before her eighteenth birthday, when she, perfectly sober, kicked a male passenger in the head inside the gates of the Gamla Stan tunnelbana station. She was charged with assault and battery. Salander claimed that the man had groped her, and her testimony was supported by witnesses. The prosecutor dismissed the case. But her background was such that the district court ordered a psychiatric evaluation. Since she refused, as was her custom, to answer any questions or to participate in the examinations, the doctors consulted by the National Board of Health and Welfare handed down an opinion based on “observations of the patient.” It was unclear precisely what could be observed when it was a matter of a silent young woman sitting on a chair with her arms folded and her lower lip stuck out. The only determination made was that she must suffer from some kind of emotional disturbance, whose nature was of the sort that could not be left untreated. The medical/legal report recommended care in a closed psychiatric institution. An assistant head of the social welfare board wrote an opinion in support of the conclusions of the psychiatric experts.
With regard to her personal record, the opinion concluded that there was grave risk of alcohol and drug abuse, and that she lacked self-awareness. By then her casebook was filled with terms such as introverted, socially inhibited, lacking in empathy, ego-fixated, psychopathic and asocial behaviour, difficulty in cooperating, and incapable of assimilating learning. Anyone who read her casebook might be tempted to conclude that Salander was seriously retarded. Another mark against her was that the social services street patrol had on several occasions observed her “with various men” in the area around Mariatorget. She was once stopped and frisked in Tantolunden, again with a much older man. It was feared that Salander was possibly operating as, or ran the risk of becoming, a prostitute.
When the district court—the institution that would determine her future—met to decide on the matter, the outcome seemed a foregone conclusion. She was obviously a problem child, and it was unlikely that the court would come to any decision other than to accept the recommendations of both the psychiatric and the social inquiries.
On the morning the court hearing was to take place, Salander was brought from the psychiatric clinic for children where she had been confined since the incident in Gamla Stan. She felt like a prisoner from a concentration camp: she had no hope of surviving the day. The first person she saw in the courtroom was Palmgren, and it took a while for her to realise that he was not there in the role of a trustee but rather as her legal representative.
To her surprise, he was firmly in her corner, and he made a powerful appeal against institutionalisation. She did not betray with so much as a raised eyebrow that she was surprised, but she listened intently to every word that was said. Palmgren was brilliant during the two hours in which he cross-examined the physician, a Dr. Jesper H. L?derman, who had signed his name to the recommendation that Salander be locked away in an institution. Every detail of the opinion was scrutinised, and the doctor was required to explain the scientific basis for each statement. Eventually it became clear that since the patient had refused to complete a single test, the basis for the doctor’s conclusions was in fact nothing more than guesswork.
At the end of the hearing, Palmgren intimated that compulsory institutionalisation was in all probability not only contrary to Parliament’s decisions in similar situations, but in this particular case it might in addition be the subject of political and media reprisals. So it was in everyone’s interest to find an appropriate alternative solution. Such language was unusual for negotiations in this type of situation, and the members of the court had squirmed nervously.
The solution was also a compromise. The court concluded that Lisbeth Salander was indeed emotionally disturbed, but that her condition did not necessarily warrant internment. On the other hand, the social welfare director’s recommendation of guardianship was taken under consideration. The chairman of the court turned, with a venomous smile, to Holger Palmgren, who up until then had been her trustee, and inquired whether he might be willing to take on the guardianship. The chairman obviously thought that Palmgren would back away and try to push the responsibility on to someone else. On the contrary, Palmgren declared that he would be happy to take on the job of serving as Fr?ken Salander’s guardian—but on one condition: “that Fr?ken Salander must be willing to trust me and accept me as her guardian.”
He turned to face her. Lisbeth Salander was somewhat bewildered by the exchange that had gone back and forth over her head all day. Until now no-one had asked for her opinion. She looked at Holger Palmgren for a long time and then nodded once.
Palmgren was a peculiar mixture of jurist and social worker, of the old school. At first he had been a politically appointed member of the social welfare board, and he had spent nearly all his life dealing with problem youths. A reluctant sense of respect, almost bordering on friendship, had in time formed between Palmgren and his ward, who was unquestionably the most difficult he had ever had to deal with.
Their relationship had lasted eleven years, from her thirteenth birthday until the previous year, when a few weeks before Christmas she had gone to see Palmgren at home after he missed one of their scheduled monthly meetings.
When he did not open the door even though she could hear sounds coming from his apartment, she broke in by climbing up a drainpipe to the balcony on the fourth floor. She found him lying on the floor in the hall, conscious but unable to speak or move. She called for an ambulance and accompanied him to S?der Hospital with a growing feeling of panic in her stomach. For three days she hardly left the corridor outside the intensive care unit. Like a faithful watchdog, she kept an eye on every doctor and nurse who went in or out of the door. She wandered up and down the corridor like a lost soul, fixing her eyes on every doctor who came near. Finally a doctor whose name she never discovered took her into a room to explain the gravity of the situation. Herr Palmgren was in critical condition following a severe cerebral haemorrhage. He was not expected to regain consciousness. He was only sixty-four years old. She neither wept nor changed her expression. She stood up, left the hospital, and did not return.
Five weeks later the Guardianship Agency summoned Salander to the first meeting with her new guardian. Her initial impulse was to ignore the summons, but Palmgren had imprinted in her consciousness that every action has its consequences. She had learned to analyse the consequences and so she had come to the conclusion that the easiest way out of this present dilemma was to satisfy the Guardianship Agency by behaving as if she cared about what they had to say.
Thus, in December—taking a break from her research on Mikael Blomkvist—she arrived at Bjurman’s office on St. Eriksplan, where an elderly woman representing the board had handed over Salander’s extensive file to Advokat Bjurman. The woman had kindly asked Salander how things were going, and she seemed satisfied with the stifled silence she received in reply. After about half an hour she left Salander in the care of Advokat Bjurman.
Salander decided that she did not like Advokat Bjurman. She studied him furtively as he read through her casebook. Age: over fifty. Trim body. Tennis on Tuesdays and Fridays. Blond. Thinning hair. A slight cleft in his chin. Hugo Boss aftershave. Blue suit. Red tie with a gold tiepin and ostentatious cufflinks with the initials NEB. Steel-rimmed glasses. Grey eyes. To judge by the magazines on the side table, his interests were hunting and shooting.
During the years she had known Palmgren, he had always offered her coffee and chatted with her. Not even her worst escapes from foster homes or her regular truancy from school had ever ruffled his composure. The only time Palmgren had been really upset was when she had been charged with assault and battery after that scumbag had groped her in Gamla Stan. Do you understand what you’ve done? You have harmed another human being, Lisbeth. He had sounded like an old teacher, and she had patiently ignored every word of his scolding.
Bjurman did not have time for small talk. He had immediately concluded that there was a discrepancy between Palmgren’s obligations, according to the regulations of guardianship, and the fact that he had apparently allowed the Salander girl to take charge of her own household and finances. Bjurman started in on a sort of interrogation: How much do you earn? I want a copy of your financial records. Who do you spend time with? Do you pay your rent on time? Do you drink? Did Palmgren approve of those rings you have on your face? Are you careful about hygiene?
Fuck you.
Palmgren had become her trustee right after All The Evil had happened. He had insisted on meetings with her at least once a month, sometimes more often. After she moved back to Lundagatan, they were also practically neighbours. He lived on Hornsgatan, a couple of blocks away, and they would run into each other and go for coffee at Giffy’s or some other café nearby. Palmgren had never tried to impose, but a few times he had visited her, bringing some little gift for her birthday. She had a standing invitation to visit him whenever she liked, a privilege that she seldom took advantage of. But when she moved to S?der, she had started spending Christmas Eve with him after she went to see her mother. They would eat Christmas ham and play chess. She had no real interest in the game, but after she learned the rules, she never lost a match. He was a widower, and Salander had seen it as her duty to take pity on him on those lonely holidays.
She considered herself in his debt, and she always paid her debts.
It was Palmgren who had sublet her mother’s apartment on Lundagatan for her until Salander needed her own place to live. The apartment was about 500 square feet, shabby and unrenovated, but at least it was a roof over her head.
Now Palmgren was gone, and another tie to established society had been severed. Nils Bjurman was a wholly different sort of person. No way she would be spending Christmas Eve at his house. His first move had been to put in place new rules on the management of her account at Handelsbanken. Palmgren had never had any problems about bending the conditions of his guardianship so as to allow her to take care of her own finances. She paid her bills and could use her savings as she saw fit.
Prior to the meeting with Bjurman the week before Christmas she had prepared herself; once there, she had tried to explain that his predecessor had trusted her and had never been given occasion to do otherwise. Palmgren had let her take care of her own affairs and not interfered in her life.
“That’s one of the problems,” Bjurman said, tapping her casebook. He then made a long speech about the rules and government regulations on guardianship.
“He let you run free, is that it? I wonder how he got away with it.”
Because he was a crazy social democrat who had worked with troubled kids all his life.
“I’m not a child any more,” Salander said, as if that were explanation enough.
“No, you’re not a child. But I’ve been appointed your guardian, and as long as I have that role, I am legally and financially responsible for you.”
He opened a new account in her name, and she was supposed to report it to Milton’s personnel office and use it from now on. The good old days were over. In future Bjurman would pay her bills, and she would be given an allowance each month. He told her that he expected her to provide receipts for all her expenses. She would receive 1,400 kronor a week—“for food, clothing, film tickets, and such like.”
Salander earned more than 160,000 kronor a year. She could double that by working full-time and accepting all the assignments Armansky offered her. But she had few expenses and did not need much money. The cost of her apartment was about 2,000 kronor a month, and in spite of her modest income, she had 90,000 kronor in her savings account. But she no longer had access to it.
“This has to do with the fact that I’m responsible for your money,” he said. “You have to put money aside for the future. But don’t worry; I’ll take care of all that.”
I’ve taken care of myself since I was ten, you creep!
“You function well enough in social terms that you don’t need to be institutionalised, but this society is responsible for you.”
He questioned her closely about what kind of work assignments she was given at Milton Security. She had instinctively lied about her duties. The answer she gave him was a description of her very first weeks at Milton. Bjurman got the impression that she made coffee and sorted the post—suitable enough tasks for someone who was a little slow—and seemed satisfied.
She did not know why she had lied, but she was sure it was a wise decision.
Blomkvist had spent five hours with Vanger, and it took much of the night and all of Tuesday to type up his notes and piece together the genealogy into a comprehensible whole. The family history that emerged was a dramatically different version from the one presented as the official image of the family. Every family had a few skeletons in their cupboards, but the Vanger family had an entire gallimaufry of them.
Blomkvist had had to remind himself several times that his real assignment was not to write a biography of the Vanger family but to find out what had happened to Harriet Vanger. The Vanger biography would be no more than playing to the gallery. After a year he would receive his preposterous salary—the contract drawn up by Frode had been signed. His true reward, he hoped, would be the information about Wennerstr?m that Vanger claimed to possess. But after listening to Vanger, he began to see that the year did not have to be a waste of time. A book about the Vanger family had significant value. It was, quite simply, a terrific story.
The idea that he might light upon Harriet Vanger’s killer never crossed his mind—assuming she had been murdered, that is, and did not just die in some freak accident. Blomkvist agreed with Vanger that the chances of a sixteen-year-old girl going off of her own accord and then staying hidden for thirty-six years, despite the oversight of all the government bureaucracy, were nonexistent. On the other hand, he did not exclude the possibility that Harriet Vanger had run away, maybe heading for Stockholm, and that something had befallen her subsequently—drugs, prostitution, an assault, or an accident pure and simple.
Vanger was convinced, for his part, that Harriet had been murdered and that a family member was responsible—possibly in collaboration with someone else. His argument was based on the fact that Harriet had disappeared during the confusion in the hours when the island was cut off and all eyes were directed at the accident.
Berger had been right to say that his taking the assignment was beyond all common sense if the goal was to solve a murder mystery. But Blomkvist was beginning to see that Harriet’s fate had played a central role in the family, and especially for Henrik Vanger. No matter whether he was right or wrong, Vanger’s accusation against his relatives was of great significance in the family’s history. The accusation had been aired openly for more than thirty years, and it had coloured the family gatherings and given rise to poisonous animosities that had contributed to destabilising the corporation. A study of Harriet’s disappearance would consequently function as a chapter all on its own, as well as provide a red thread through the family history—and there was an abundance of source material. One starting point, whether Harriet Vanger was his primary assignment or whether he made do with writing a family chronicle, would be to map out the gallery of characters. That was the gist of his first long conversation that day with Vanger.
The family consisted of about a hundred individuals, counting all the children of cousins and second cousins. The family was so extensive that he was forced to create a database in his iBook. He used the NotePad programme (, one of those full-value products that two men at the Royal Technical College had created and distributed as shareware for a pittance on the Internet. Few programmes were as useful for an investigative journalist. Each family member was given his or her own document in the database.
The family tree could be traced back to............
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