Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 19
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
Thursday, June 19–Sunday, June 29

While he waited for word on whether Vanger was going to pull through or not, Blomkvist spent the days going over his materials. He kept in close touch with Frode. On Thursday evening Frode brought him the news that the immediate crisis seemed to be over.
“I was able to talk to him for a while today. He wants to see you as soon as possible.”
So it was that, around 1:00 on the afternoon of Midsummer Eve, Blomkvist drove to Hedestad Hospital and went in search of the ward. He encountered an angry Birger Vanger, who blocked his way. Henrik could not possibly receive visitors, he said.
“That’s odd,” Blomkvist said, “Henrik sent word saying that he expressly wanted to see me today.”
“You’re not a member of the family; you have no business here.”
“You’re right. I’m not a member of the family. But I’m working for Henrik Vanger, and I take orders only from him.”
This might have led to a heated exchange if Frode had not at that moment come out of Vanger’s room.
“Oh, there you are. Henrik has been asking after you.”
Frode held open the door and Blomkvist walked past Birger into the room.
Vanger looked to have aged ten years. He was lying with his eyes half closed, an oxygen tube in his nose, and his hair more dishevelled than ever. A nurse stopped Blomkvist, putting a hand firmly on his arm.
“Two minutes. No more. And don’t upset him.” Blomkvist sat on a visitor’s chair so that he could see Vanger’s face. He felt a tenderness that astonished him, and he stretched out his hand to gently squeeze the old man’s hand.
“Any news?” The voice was weak.
Blomkvist nodded.
“I’ll give you a report as soon as you’re better. I haven’t solved the mystery yet, but I’ve found more new stuff and I’m following up a number of leads. In a week, perhaps two, I’ll be able to tell the results.”
The most Vanger could manage was to blink, indicating that he understood.
“I have to be away for a few days.”
Henrik raised his eyebrows.
“I’m not jumping ship. I have some research to do. I’ve reached an agreement with Dirch that I should report to him. Is that OK with you?”
“Dirch is…my man…in all matters.”
Blomkvist squeezed Vanger’s hand again.
“Mikael…if I don’t…I want you to…finish the job.”
“I will finish the job.”
“Dirch has…full…”
“Henrik, I want you to get better. I’d be furious with you if you went and died after I’ve made such progress.”
“Two minutes,” the nurse said.
“Next time we’ll have a long talk.”
Birger Vanger was waiting for him when he came out. He stopped him by laying a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t want you bothering Henrik any more. He’s very ill, and he’s not supposed to be upset or disturbed.”
“I understand your concern, and I sympathise. And I’m not going to upset him.”
“Everyone knows that Henrik hired you to poke around in his little hobby…Harriet. Dirch said that Henrik became very upset after a conversation you had with him before he had the heart attack. He even said that you thought you had caused the attack.”
“I don’t think so any more. Henrik had severe blockages in his arteries. He could have had a heart attack just by having a pee. I’m sure you know that by now.”
“I want full disclosure into this lunacy. This is my family you’re mucking around in.”
“I told you, I work for Henrik, not for the family.”
Birger Vanger was apparently not used to having anyone stand up to him. For a moment he stared at Blomkvist with an expression that was presumably meant to instil respect, but which made him look more like an inflated moose. Birger turned and went into Vanger’s room.
Blomkvist restrained the urge to laugh. This was no place for laughter, in the corridor outside Vanger’s sickbed, which might also turn out to be his deathbed. But he thought of a verse from Lennart Hyland’s rhyming alphabet. It was the letter M. And all alone the moose he stood, laughing in a shot-up wood.
In the hospital lobby he ran into Cecilia Vanger. He had tried calling her mobile a dozen times since she came back from her interrupted holiday, but she had never answered or returned his calls. And she was never home at her place on Hedeby Island whenever he walked past and knocked on the door.
“Hi, Cecilia,” he said. “I’m so sorry about all this with Henrik.”
“Thanks,” she said.
“We need to talk.”
“I’m sorry that I’ve shut you out like this. I can understand that you must be cross, but I’m not having an easy time of it these days.”
Mikael put his hand on her arm and smiled at her.
“Wait, you’ve got it wrong, Cecilia. I’m not cross at all. I am still hoping that we can be friends. Can we have a cup of coffee?” He nodded in the direction of the hospital cafeteria.
Cecilia Vanger hesitated. “Not today. I need to go and see Henrik.”
“OK, but I still need to talk to you. It’s purely professional.”
“What does that mean?” She was suddenly alert.
“Do you remember the first time we met, when you came to the cottage in January? I said that we were talking off the record, and that if I needed to ask you any real questions, I would tell you. It has to do with Harriet.”
Cecilia Vanger’s face was suddenly flushed with anger.
“You really are the fucking pits.”
“Cecilia, I’ve found some things that I really do have to talk to you about.”
She took a step away from him.
“Don’t you realise that this bloody hunt for that cursed Harriet is just occupational therapy for Henrik? Don’t you see that he might be up there dying, and that the very last thing he needs is to get upset again and be filled with false hopes and…”
“It may be a hobby for Henrik, but there is now more material to go on than anyone has had to work with in a very long time. There are questions that do now need to be answered.”
“If Henrik dies, that investigation is going to be over awfully damned fast. Then you’ll be out on your grubby, snivelling investigative backside,” Cecilia said, and she walked away.
Everything was closed. Hedestad was practically deserted, and the inhabitants seemed to have retreated to their Midsummer poles at their summer cottages. Blomkvist made for the Stadshotel terrace, which was actually open, and there he was able to order coffee and a sandwich and read the evening papers. Nothing of importance was happening in the world.
He put the paper down and thought about Cecilia Vanger. He had told no-one—apart from the Salander girl—that she was the one who had opened the window in Harriet’s room. He was afraid that it would make her a suspect, and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt her. But the question was going to have to be asked, sooner or later.
He sat on the terrace for an hour before he decided to set the whole problem aside and devote Midsummer Eve to something other than the Vanger family. His mobile was silent. Berger was away amusing herself somewhere with her husband, and he had no-one to talk to.
He went back to Hedeby Island at around 4:00 in the afternoon and made another decision—to stop smoking. He had been working out regularly ever since he did his military service, both at the gym and by running along S?der M?larstrand, but had fallen out of the habit when the problems with Wennerstr?m began. It was at Rull?ker Prison that he had starting pumping iron again, mostly as therapy. But since his release he had taken almost no exercise. It was time to start again. He put on his tracksuit and set off at a lazy pace along the road to Gottfried’s cabin, turned off towards the Fortress, and took a rougher course cross country. He had done no orienteering since he was in the military, but he had always thought it was more fun to run through a wooded terrain than on a flat track. He followed the fence around ?sterg?rden back to the village. He was aching all over and out of breath by the time he took the last steps up to the guest house.
At 6:00 he took a shower. He boiled some potatoes and had open sandwiches of pickled herring in mustard sauce with chives and egg on a rickety table outside the cottage, facing the bridge. He poured himself a shot of aquavit and drank a toast to himself. After that he opened a crime novel by Val McDermid entitled The Mermaids Singing.
At around 7:00 Frode drove up and sat heavily in the chair across from him. Blomkvist poured him a shot of Sk?ne aquavit.
“You stirred up some rather lively emotions today,” Frode said.
“I could see that.”
“Birger is a conceited fool.”
“I know that.”
“But Cecilia is not a conceited fool, and she’s furious.”
Mikael nodded.
“She has instructed me to see that you stop poking around in the family’s affairs.”
“I see. And what did you say to her?”
Frode looked at his glass of Sk?ne and downed the liquor in one gulp.
“My response was that Henrik has given me clear instructions about what he wants you to do. As long as he doesn’t change those instructions, you will continue to be employed under the terms of your contract. I expect you to do your best to fulfil your part of the contract.”
Blomkvist looked up at the sky, where rain clouds had begun to gather.
“Looks like a storm is brewing,” Frode said. “If the winds get too strong, I’ll have to back you up.”
“Thank you.”
They sat in silence for a while.
“Could I have another drink?”

Only minutes after Frode had gone home, Martin Vanger drove up and parked his car by the road in front of the cottage. He came over and said hello. Mikael wished him a happy Midsummer and asked if he’d like a drink.
“No, it’s better if I don’t. I’m just here to change my clothes and then I’m going to drive back to town to spend the evening with Eva.”
Blomkvist waited.
“I’ve talked to Cecilia. She’s a little traumatised just now—she and Henrik have always been close. I hope you’ll forgive her if she says anything…unpleasant.”
“I’m very fond of Cecilia.”
“I know that. But she can be difficult. I just want you to know that she’s very much against your going on digging into our past.”
Blomkvist sighed. Everyone in Hedestad seemed to know why Vanger had hired him.
“What’s your feeling?”
“This thing with Harriet has been Henrik’s obsession for decades. I don’t know…Harriet was my sister, but somehow it feels all so far away. Dirch says that you have a contract that only Henrik can break, and I’m afraid that in his present condition it would do more harm than good.”
“So you want me to continue?”
“Have you made any progress?”
“I’m sorry, Martin, but it would be a breach of that contract if I told you anything without Henrik’s permission.”
“I understand.” Suddenly he smiled. “Henrik is a bit of a conspiracy fanatic. But above all, I don’t want you to get his hopes up unnecessarily.”
“I won’t do that.”
“Good…By the way, to change the subject, we now have another contract to consider as well. Given that Henrik is ill and can’t in the short term fulfil his obligations on the Millennium board, it’s my responsibility to take his place.”
Mikael waited.
“I suppose we should have a board meeting to look at the situation.”
“That’s a good idea. But as far as I know, it’s been decided that the next board meeting won’t be held until August.”
“I know that, but maybe we should hold it earlier.”
Blomkvist smiled politely.
“You’re really talking to the wrong person. At the moment I’m not on the board. I left in December. You should get in touch with Erika Berger. She knows that Henrik has been taken ill.”
Martin Vanger had not expected this response.
“You’re right, of course. I’ll talk to her.” He patted Blomkvist on the shoulder to say goodbye and was gone.
Nothing concrete had been said, but the threat hung in the air. Martin Vanger had set Millennium on the balance tray. After a moment Blomkvist poured himself another drink and picked up his Val McDermid.
The mottled brown cat came to say hello and rubbed on his leg. He lifted her up and scratched behind her ears.
“The two of us are having a very boring Midsummer Eve, aren’t we?” he said.
When it started to rain, he went inside and went to bed. The cat preferred to stay outdoors.
Salander got out her Kawasaki on Midsummer Eve and spent the day giving it a good overhaul. A lightweight 125cc might not be the toughest bike in the world, but it was hers, and she could handle it. She had restored it, one nut at a time, and she had souped it up just a bit over the legal limit.
In the afternoon she put on her helmet and leather suit and drove to ?ppelviken Nursing Home, where she spent the evening in the park with her mother. She felt a pang of concern and guilt. Her mother seemed more remote than ever before. During three hours they exchanged only a few words, and when they did speak, her mother did not seem to know who she was talking to.
Blomkvist wasted several days trying to identify the car with the AC plates. After a lot of trouble and finally by consulting a retired mechanic in Hedestad, he came to the conclusion that the car was a Ford Anglia, a model that he had never heard of before. Then he contacted a clerk at the motor vehicle department and enquired about the possibility of getting a list of all the Ford Anglias in 1966 that had a licence plate beginning AC3. He was eventually told that such an archaeological excavation in the records presumably could be done, but that it would take time and it was beyond the boundaries of what could be considered public information.
Not until several days after Midsummer did Blomkvist get into his borrowed Volvo and drive north on the E4. He drove at a leisurely pace. Just short of the H?rn?sand Bridge he stopped to have coffee at the Vesterlund pastry shop.
The next stop was Ume?, where he pulled into an inn and had the daily special. He bought a road atlas and continued on to Skellefte?, where he turned towards Norsj?. He arrived around 6:00 in the evening and took a room in the Hotel Norsj?.
He began his search early the next morning. The Norsj? Carpentry Shop was not in the telephone book. The Polar Hotel desk clerk, a girl in her twenties, had never heard of the business.
“Who should I ask?”
The clerk looked puzzled for a few seconds until her face lit up and she said that she would call her father. Two minutes later she came back and explained that the Norsj? Carpentry Shop closed in the early eighties. If he needed to talk to someone who knew more about the business, he should go and see a certain Burman, who had been the foreman and who now lived on a street called Solv?ndan.
Norsj? was a small town with one main street, appropriately enough called Storgatan, that ran through the whole community. It was lined with shops with residential side streets off it. At the east end there was a small industrial area and a stable; at the western end stood an uncommonly beautiful wooden church. Blomkvist noted that the village also had a Missionary church and a Pentecostal church. A poster on a bulletin board at the bus station advertised a hunting museum and a skiing museum. A leftover flyer announced that Veronika would sing at the fair-grounds at Midsummer. He could walk from one end of the village to the other in less than twenty minutes.
The street called Solv?ndan consisted of single-family homes and was about five minutes from the hotel. There was no answer when Blomkvist rang the bell. It was 9:30, and he assumed that Burman had left for work or, if he was retired, was out on an errand.
His next stop was the hardware store on Storgatan. He reasoned that anyone living in Norsj? would sooner or later pay a visit to the hardware store. There were two sales clerks in the shop. Blomkvist chose the older one, maybe fifty or so.
“Hi. I’m looking for a couple who probably lived in Norsj? in the sixties. The man might have worked for the Norsj? Carpentry Shop. I don’t know their name, but I have two pictures that were taken in 1966.”
The clerk studied the photographs for a long time but finally shook his head, saying he could not recognise either the man or the woman.
At lunchtime he had a burger at a hot-dog stand near the bus station. He had given up on the shops and had made his way through the municipal office, the library, and the pharmacy. The police station was empty, and he had started approaching older people at random. Early in the afternoon he asked two young women: they did not recognise the couple in the photographs, but they did have a good idea.
“If the pictures were taken in 1966, the people would have to be in their sixties today. Why don’t you go over to the retirement home on Solbacka and ask there?”
Blomkvist introduced himself to a woman at the front desk of the retirement home, explaining what he wanted to know. She glared at him suspiciously but finally allowed herself to be persuaded. She led him to the day room, where he spent half an hour showing the pictures to a group of elderly people. They were very helpful, but none of them could identify the couple.
At 5:00 he went back to Solv?ndan and knocked on Burman’s door. This time he had better luck. The Burmans, both the man and the wife, were retired, and they had been out all day. They invited Blomkvist into their kitchen, where his wife promptly made coffee while Mikael explained his errand. As with all his other attempts th............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved