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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 10
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Thursday, January 9-Friday, January 31

According to the Hedestad Courier, Blomkvist’s first month out in the country was the coldest in recorded memory, or (as Vanger informed him) at least since the wartime winter of 1942. After only a week in Hedeby he had learned all about long underwear, woolly socks, and double undershirts.
He had several miserable days in the middle of the month when the temperature dropped to -35°F. He had experienced nothing like it, not even during the year he spent in Kiruna in Lapland doing his military service.
One morning the water pipes froze. Nilsson gave him two big plastic containers of water for cooking and washing, but the cold was paralysing. Ice flowers formed on the insides of the windows, and no matter how much wood he put in the stove, he was still cold. He spent a long time each day splitting wood in the shed next to the house.
At times he was on the brink of tears and toyed with taking the first train heading south. Instead he would put on one more sweater and wrap up in a blanket as he sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading old police reports.
Then the weather changed and the temperature rose steadily to a balmy 14°F.

Mikael was beginning to get to know people in Hedeby. Martin Vanger kept his promise and invited him for a meal of moose steak. His lady friend joined them for dinner. Eva was a warm, sociable, and entertaining woman. Blomkvist found her extraordinarily attractive. She was a dentist and lived in Hedestad, but she spent the weekends at Martin’s home. Blomkvist gradually learned that they had known each other for many years but that they had not started going out together until they were middle-aged. Evidently they saw no reason to marry.
“She’s actually my dentist,” said Martin with a laugh.
“And marrying into this crazy family isn’t really my thing,” Eva said, patting Martin affectionately on the knee.
Martin Vanger’s villa was furnished in black, white, and chrome. There were expensive designer pieces that would have delighted the connoisseur Christer Malm. The kitchen was equipped to a professional chef’s standard. In the living room there was a high-end stereo with an impressive collection of jazz records from Tommy Dorsey to John Coltrane. Martin Vanger had money, and his home was both luxurious and functional. It was also impersonal. The artwork on the walls was reproductions and posters, of the sort found in IKEA. The bookshelves, at least in the part of the house that Blomkvist saw, housed a Swedish encyclopedia and some coffee table books that people might have given him as Christmas presents, for want of a better idea. All in all, he could discern only two personal aspects of Martin Vanger’s life: music and cooking. His 3,000 or so LPs spoke for the one and the other could be deduced from the fact of Martin’s stomach bulging over his belt.
The man himself was a mixture of simplicity, shrewdness, and amiability. It took no great analytical skill to conclude that the corporate CEO was a man with problems. As they listened to “Night in Tunisia,” the conversation was devoted to the Vanger Corporation, and Martin made no secret of the fact that the company was fighting for survival. He was certainly aware that his guest was a financial reporter whom he hardly knew, yet he discussed the internal problems of his company so openly that it seemed reckless. Perhaps he assumed that Blomkvist was one of the family since he was working for his great-uncle; and like the former CEO, Martin took the view that the family members only had themselves to blame for the situation in which the company found itself. On the other hand, he seemed almost amused by his family’s incorrigible folly. Eva nodded but passed no judgement of her own. They had obviously been over the same ground before.
Martin accepted the story that Blomkvist had been hired to write a family chronicle, and he inquired how the work was going. Blomkvist said with a smile that he was having the most trouble remembering the names of all the relatives. He asked if he might come back to do an interview in due course. Twice he considered turning the conversation to the old man’s obsession with Harriet’s disappearance. Vanger must have pestered her brother with his theories, and Martin must realise that if Blomkvist was going to write about the Vangers, he could not ignore the fact that one family member had vanished in dramatic circumstances. But Martin showed no sign of wanting to discuss the subject.
The evening ended, after several rounds of vodka, at 2:00 in the morning. Blomkvist was fairly drunk as he skidded the three hundred yards to the guest house. It had been a pleasant evening.
One afternoon during Blomkvist’s second week in Hedeby there was a knock on the door. He put aside the binder from the police report that he had just opened—the sixth in the series—and closed the door to his office before he opened the front door to a blonde woman well wrapped up against the cold.
“Hi. I just thought I’d come and say hello. I’m Cecilia Vanger.”
They shook hands and he got out the coffee cups. Cecilia, daughter of Harald Vanger, appeared to be an open and engaging woman. Blomkvist remembered that Vanger had spoken of her appreciatively; he had also said that she was not on speaking terms with her father, her next-door neighbour. They chatted for a while before she brought up the reason for her visit.
“I understand that you’re writing a book about the family,” she said. “I’m not sure that I care for the idea. I wanted to see what sort of person you are.”
“Well, Henrik Vanger hired me. It’s his story, so to speak.”
“And our good Henrik isn’t exactly neutral in his attitude towards the family.”
Blomkvist studied her, unsure what she was getting at. “You’re opposed to having a book written about the Vanger family?”
“I didn’t say that. And it doesn’t really matter what I think. But by now you must have realised that it hasn’t always been plain sailing to be part of this family.”
Blomkvist had no idea what Vanger had said or how much Cecilia knew about his assignment. He threw out his hands.
“I’m contracted by your uncle to write a family chronicle. He has some very colourful views about members of the family, but I’ll be sticking strictly to what can be documented.”
Cecilia Vanger smiled but without warmth. “What I want to know is: will I have to go into exile or emigrate when the book comes out?”
“I don’t expect so,” Blomkvist said. “People will be able to tell the sheep from the goats.”
“Like my father, for instance?”
“Your father the famous Nazi?” Blomkvist said.
Cecilia Vanger rolled her eyes. “My father is crazy. I only see him a few times a year.”
“Why don’t you want to see him?”
“Wait a minute—before you start in asking a lot of questions…Are you planning to quote anything I say? Or can I carry on a normal conversation with you?”
“My job is to write a book starting with Alexandre Vangeersad’s arrival in Sweden with Bernadotte and going up to the present. It’s to cover the business empire over many decades, but it will also discuss why the empire is in difficulty and it will touch on the animosity that exists within the family. In such a survey it’s impossible to avoid having some dirty linen float to the surface. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to set out to present a malicious portrait of anyone. For example, I’ve met Martin Vanger; he seems to me a very sympathetic person, and that’s how I’m going to describe him.”
Cecilia Vanger did not reply.
“What I know about you is that you’re a teacher…”
“It’s actually worse than that—I’m the headmistress of Hedestad preparatory school.”
“I’m sorry. I know that your uncle is fond of you, that you’re married but separated…and that’s about all so far. So do please go ahead and talk to me without fear of being quoted. I’m sure I’ll come knocking on your door some day soon. Then it will be an official interview, and you can choose whether you want to answer my questions or not.”
“So I can talk to you then or now…off the record, as they say?”
“Of course.”
“And this is off the record?”
“Of course. This is a social visit after all.”
“OK. Then can I ask you something?”
“How much of this book is going to deal with Harriet?”
Blomkvist bit his lip and then said as casually as he could: “To be honest, I have no idea. It might fill a chapter. It was a dramatic event that has cast a shadow over your uncle, at the very least.”
“But you’re not here to look into her disappearance?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, the fact that Nilsson lugged four massive boxes over here. That could be Henrik’s private investigations over the years. I looked in Harriet’s old room, where Henrik keeps it, and it was gone.”
Cecilia Vanger was no fool.
“You’ll have to take the matter up with Henrik, not with me,” Blomkvist said. “But it won’t surprise you to know that Henrik has talked a lot about the girl’s disappearance, and I thought it would be interesting to read through what had been collected.”
Cecilia gave him another of her joyless smiles. “I wonder sometimes who’s crazier, my father or my uncle. I must have listened to him on Harriet’s disappearance a thousand times.”
“What do you think happened to her?”
“Is this an interview question?”
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just curious.”
“What I’m curious about is whether you’re a nut case too. Whether you’ve swallowed Henrik’s conviction or whether in fact you’re the one who’s egging him on.”
“You think that Henrik’s a nut case?”
“Don’t get me wrong. He’s one of the warmest and most thoughtful people I know. I’m very fond of him. But on this particular topic, he’s obsessive.”
“But Harriet really did disappear.”
“I’m just so damn sick of the whole story. It’s poisoned our lives for decades, and it doesn’t stop doing so.” She got up abruptly and put on her fur coat. “I have to go. You seem like a pleasant sort. Martin thinks so too, but his judgement isn’t always reliable. You’re welcome to come for coffee at my house whenever you like. I’m almost always home in the evening.”
“Thank you,” Blomkvist said. “You didn’t answer the question that wasn’t an interview question.”
She paused at the door and replied without looking at him.
“I have no idea. I think it was an accident that has such a simple explanation that it will astonish us if we ever find out.”
She turned to smile at him—for the first time with warmth. Then she was gone.
If it had been an agreeable first meeting with Cecilia Vanger, the same could not be said of his first encounter with Isabella. Harriet’s mother was exactly as Henrik Vanger had warned: she proved to be an elegant woman who reminded him vaguely of Lauren Bacall. She was thin, dressed in a black Persian lamb coat with matching cap, and she was leaning on a black cane when Blomkvist ran into her one morning on his way to Susanne’s. She looked like an ageing vampire—still strikingly beautiful but as venomous as a snake. Isabella Vanger was apparently on her way home after taking a walk. She called to him from the crossroad.
“Hello there, young man. Come here.”
The commanding tone was hard to mistake. Blomkvist looked around and concluded that he was the one summoned. He did as instructed.
“I am Isabella Vanger,” the woman said.
“Hello. My name is Mikael Blomkvist.” He stuck out his hand, which she ignored.
“Are you that person who’s been snooping around in our family affairs?”
“Well, if you mean am I the person that Henrik Vanger has put under contract to help him with his book about the Vanger family, then yes.”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Which? The fact that Henrik Vanger offered me a contract or the fact that I accepted?”
“You know perfectly well what I mean. I don’t care for people poking around in my life.”
“I won’t poke around in your life. The rest you’ll have to discuss with Henrik.”
Isabella raised her cane and pressed the handle against Mikael’s chest. She did not use much force, but he took a step back in surprise.
“Just you keep away from me,” she said, and turned on her heel and walked unsteadily towards her house. Blomkvist went on standing where he was, looking like a man who has just met a real live comic-book character. When he looked up he saw Vanger in the window of his office. In his hand he was holding a cup, which he raised in an ironic salute.
The only travelling that Blomkvist did during that first month was a drive to a bay on Lake Siljan. He borrowed Frode’s Mercedes and drove through a snowy landscape to spend the afternoon with Detective Superintendent Morell. Blomkvist had tried to form an impression of Morell based on the way he came across in the police report. What he found was a wiry old man who moved softly and spoke even more slowly.
Blomkvist brought with him a notebook with ten questions, mainly ideas that had cropped up while he was reading the police report. Morell answered each question put to him in a schoolmasterly way. Finally Blomkvist put away his notes and explained that the questions were simply an excuse for a meeting. What he really wanted was to have a chat with him and ask one crucial question: was there any single thing in the investigation that had not been included in the written report? Any hunches, even, that the inspector might be willing to share with him?
Because Morell, like Vanger, had spent thirty-six years pondering the mystery, Blomkvist had expected a certain resistance—he was the new man who had come in and started tramping around in the thicket where Morell had gone astray. But there was not a hint of hostility. Morell methodically filled his pipe and lit it before he replied.
“Well yes, obviously I had my own ideas. But they’re so vague and fleeting that I can hardly put them into words.”
“What do you think happened?”
“I think Harriet was murdered. Henrik and I agree on that. It’s the only reasonable explanation. But we never discovered what the motive might have been. I think she was murdered for a very specific reason—it wasn’t some act of madness or a rape or anything like that. If we had known the motive, we’d have known who killed her.” Morell stopped to think for a moment. “The murder may have been committed spontaneously. By th............
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