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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 16
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Sunday, June 1–Tuesday, June 10

After six months of fruitless cogitation, the case of Harriet Vanger cracked open. In the first week of June, Blomkvist uncovered three totally new pieces of the puzzle. Two of them he found himself. The third he had help with.
After Berger’s visit in May, he had studied the album again, sitting for three hours, looking at one photograph after another, as he tried to rediscover what it was that he had reacted to. He failed again, so he put the album aside and went back to work on the family chronicle instead.
One day in June he was in Hedestad, thinking about something altogether different, when his bus turned on to J?rnv?gsgatan and it suddenly came to him what had been germinating in the back of his mind. The insight struck him like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. He felt so confused that he stayed on the bus all the way to the last stop by the railway station. There he took the first bus back to Hedeby to check whether he had remembered correctly.
It was the first photograph in the album, the last picture taken of Harriet Vanger on that fateful day on J?rnv?gsgatan in Hedestad, while she had been watching the Children’s Day parade.
The photograph was an odd one to have included in the album. It was put there because it was taken the same day, but it was the only one of the photographs not of the accident on the bridge. Each time Blomkvist and (he supposed) everyone else had looked at the album, it was the people and the details in the pictures of the bridge that had captured their attention. There was no drama in the picture of a crowd at the Children’s Day parade, several hours earlier.
Vanger must have looked at the photograph a thousand times, a sorrowful reminder that he would never see her again.
But that was not what Blomkvist had reacted to.
It was taken from across the street, probably from a first-floor window. The wide-angle lens had caught the front of one of the floats. On the flatbed were women wearing glittering bathing suits and harem trousers, throwing sweets to the crowd. Some of them were dancing. Three clowns were jumping about in front of the float.
Harriet was in the front row of the crowd standing on the pavement. Next to her were three girls, clearly her classmates, and around and behind them were at least a hundred other spectators.
This is what Blomkvist had noticed subconsciously and which suddenly rose to the surface when the bus passed the exact same spot.
The crowd behaved as an audience should. Their eyes always follow the ball in a tennis match or the puck in an ice hockey rink. The ones standing at the far left of the photograph were looking at the clowns right in front of them. The ones closer to the float were all looking at the scantily clad girls. The expressions on their faces were calm. Children pointed. Some were laughing. Everyone looked happy.
All except one.
Harriet Vanger was looking off to the side. Her three friends and everyone else in her vicinity were looking at the clowns. Harriet’s face was turned almost 30° to 35° to her right. Her gaze seemed fixed on something across the street, but beyond the left-hand edge of the photograph.
Mikael took the magnifying glass and tried to make out the details. The photograph was taken from too great a distance for him to be entirely sure, but unlike all those around her, Harriet’s face lacked excitement. Her mouth was a thin line. Her eyes were wide open. Her hands hung limply at her sides. She looked frightened. Frightened or furious.
Mikael took the print out of the album, put it in a stiff plastic binder, and went to wait for the next bus back into Hedestad. He got off at J?rnv?gsgatan and stood under the window from which the picture must have been taken. It was at the edge of what constituted Hedestad’s town centre. It was a two-storey wooden building that housed a video store and Sundstr?m’s Haberdashery, established in 1932 according to a plaque on the front door. He went in and saw that the shop was on two levels; a spiral staircase led to the upper floor.
At the top of the spiral staircase two windows faced the street.
“May I help you?” said an elderly salesman when Blomkvist took out the binder with the photograph. There were only a few people in the shop.
“Well, I just wanted to see where this picture was taken from. Would it be OK if I opened the window for a second?”
The man said yes. Blomkvist could see exactly the spot where Harriet had stood. One of the wooden buildings behind her in the photograph was gone, replaced by an angular brick building. The other wooden building had been a stationery store in 1966; now it was a health food store and tanning salon. Blomkvist closed the window, thanked the man, and apologised for taking up his time.
He crossed the street and stood where Harriet had stood. He had good landmarks between the window of the upper floor of the haberdashery and the door of the tanning salon. He turned his head and looked along Harriet’s line of sight. As far as he could tell, she had been looking towards the corner of the building that housed Sundstr?m’s Haberdashery. It was a perfectly normal corner of a building, where a cross street vanished behind it. What did you see there, Harriet?
Blomkvist put the photograph in his shoulder bag and walked to the park by the station. There he sat in a pavement café and ordered a latte. He suddenly felt shaken.
In English they call it “new evidence,” which has a very different sound from the Swedish term, “new proof material.” He had seen something entirely new, something no-one else had noticed in an investigation that had been marking time for thirty-seven years.
The problem was that he wasn’t sure what value his new information had, if indeed it could have any at all. And yet he felt it was going to prove significant.
The September day when Harriet disappeared had been dramatic in a number of ways. It had been a day of celebration in Hedestad with crowds of several thousand in the streets, young and old. It had been the family’s annual assembly on Hedeby Island. These two events alone represented departures from the daily routine of the area. The crash on the bridge had overshadowed everything else.
Inspector Morell, Henrik Vanger, and everyone else who had brooded about Harriet’s disappearance had focused on the events at Hedeby Island. Morell had even written that he could not rid himself of the suspicion that the accident and Harriet’s disappearance were related. Blomkvist was now convinced that this notion was wrong.
The chain of events had started not on Hedeby Island but in Hedestad several hours earlier. Harriet Vanger had seen something or someone to frighten her and prompt her to go home, go straight to her uncle, who unhappily did not have time to listen to her. Then the accident on the bridge happened. Then the murderer struck.
Blomkvist paused. It was the first time he had consciously formulated the assumption that Harriet had been murdered. He accepted Vanger’s belief. Harriet was dead and he was hunting for a killer.
He went back to the police report. Among all the thousands of pages only a fraction dealt with the events in Hedestad. Harriet had been with three of her classmates, all of whom had been interviewed. They had met at the park by the station at 9:00. One of the girls was going to buy some jeans, and her friends went with her. They had coffee in the EPA department store cafeteria and then went up to the sports field and strolled around among the carnival booths and fishing ponds, where they ran into some other friends from school. At noon they wandered back into town to watch the parade. Just before 2:00 in the afternoon Harriet suddenly told them that she had to go home. They said goodbye at a bus stop near J?rnv?gsgatan.
None of her friends had noticed anything unusual. One of them was Inger Stenberg, the one who had described Harriet’s transformation over the past year by saying that she had become “impersonal.” She said that Harriet had been taciturn that day, which was usual, and mostly she just followed the others.
Inspector Morell had talked to all of the people who had encountered Harriet that day, even if they had only said hello in the grounds of the family party. A photograph of her was published in the local newspapers while the search was going on. After she went missing, several residents of Hedestad had contacted the police to say that they thought they had seen her during the day of the parade, but no-one had reported anything out of the ordinary.
The next morning Blomkvist found Vanger at his breakfast table.
“You said that the Vanger family still has an interest in the Hedestad Courier.”
“That’s right.”
“I’d like to have access to their photographic archive. From 1966.”
Vanger set down his glass of milk and wiped his upper lip.
“Mikael, what have you discovered?”
He looked the old man straight in the eye.
“Nothing solid. But I think we may have made a mistake about the chain of events.”
He showed Vanger the photograph and told him what he was thinking. Vanger sat saying nothing for a long time.
“If I’m right, we have to look as far as we still can at what happened in Hedestad that day, not just at what happened on Hedeby Island,” Blomkvist said. “I don’t know how to go about it after such a long time, but a lot of photographs must have been taken of the Children’s Day celebrations which were never published. Those are the ones I want to look at.”
Vanger used the telephone in the kitchen. He called Martin, explained what he wanted, and asked who the pictures editor was these days. Within ten minutes the right people had been located and access had been arranged.
The pictures editor of the Hedestad Courier was Madeleine Blomberg, called Maja. She was the first woman pictures editor Blomkvist had met in journalism, where photography was still primarily a male art form.
Since it was Saturday, the newsroom was empty, but Maja Blomberg turned out to live only five minutes away, and she met Blomkvist at the office entrance. She had worked at the Hedestad Courier for most of her life. She started as a proof-reader in 1964, changed to photo-finisher and spent a number of years in the darkroom, while occasionally being sent out as a photographer when the usual resources were insufficient. She had gained the position of editor, earned a full-time post on the picture desk, and ten years ago, when the old pictures editor retired, she took over as head of the department.
Blomkvist asked how the picture archive was arranged.
“To tell you the truth, the archive is rather a mess. Since we got computers and digital photographs, the current archive is on CDs. We’ve had an intern here who spent some time scanning in important older pictures, but only a small percentage of what’s in the stacks have been catalogued. Older pictures are arranged by date in negative folders. They’re either here in the newsroom or in the attic storeroom.”
“I’m interested in photographs taken of the Children’s Day parade in 1966, but also in any photographs that were taken that week.”
Fr?ken Blomberg gave him a quizzical look.
“You mean the week that Harriet Vanger disappeared?”
“You know the story?”
“You couldn’t work at the Courier your whole life without knowing about it, and when Martin Vanger calls me early in the morning on my day off, I draw my own conclusions. Has something new turned up?”
Blomberg had a nose for news. Blomkvist shook his head with a little smile and gave her his cover story.
“No, and I don’t suppose anyone will ever find the solution to that puzzle. It’s rather confidential, but the fact is that I’m ghostwriting Henrik Vanger’s autobiography. The story of the missing girl is an odd topic, but it’s also a chapter that can’t really be ignored. I’m looking for something that hasn’t been used before that might illustrate that day—of Harriet and her friends.”
Blomberg looked dubious, but the explanation was reasonable and she was not going to question his story, given his role.
A photographer at a newspaper takes between two and ten rolls of film a day. For big events, it can be double that. Each roll contains thirty-six negatives; so it’s not unusual for a local newspaper to accumulate over three hundred-plus images each day, of which only a very few are published. A well-organised department cuts up the rolls of film and places the negatives in six-frame sleeves. A roll takes up about one page in a negative binder. A binder holds about 110 rolls. In a year, about twenty-five binders are filled up. Over the years a huge number of binders is accumulated, which generally lack any commercial value and overflow the shelves in the photographic department. On the other hand, every photographer and pictures department is convinced that the pictures contain a historical docume............
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