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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 20
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Tuesday, July 1–Wednesday, July 2

The first thing Blomkvist did the morning he returned to Hedestad was to go to Frode’s house to ask about Vanger’s condition. He learned to his delight that the old man had improved quite a bit during the past week. He was weak still, and fragile, but now he could sit up in bed. His condition was no longer regarded as critical.
“Thank God,” he said. “I realised that I actually like him.”
Frode said: “I know that. And Henrik likes you too. How was Norrland?”
“Successful yet unsatisfying. I’ll explain a little later. Right now I have a question.”
“Go ahead.”
“What realistically will happen to your interest in Millennium if Henrik dies?”
“Nothing at all. Martin will take his place on the board.”
“Is there any risk, hypothetically speaking, that Martin might create problems for Millennium if I don’t put a stop to the investigation of Harriet’s disappearance?”
Frode gave him a sharp look.
“What’s happened?”
“Nothing, actually.” Mikael told him about the conversation he had had with Martin Vanger on Midsummer Eve. “When I was in Norsj? Erika told me that Martin had called her and said that he thought I was very much needed back at the office.”
“I understand. My guess is that Cecilia was after him. But I don’t think that Martin would put pressure on you like that on his own. He’s much too savvy. And remember, I’m also on the board of the little subsidiary we formed when we bought into Millennium.”
“But what if a ticklish situation came up—how would you act then?”
“Contracts exist to be honoured. I work for Henrik. Henrik and I have been friends for forty-five years, and we are in complete agreement in such matters. If Henrik should die it is in point of fact I—not Martin—who would inherit Henrik’s share in the subsidiary. We have a contract in which we have undertaken to back Millennium for three years. Should Martin wish to start any mischief—which I don’t believe he will—then theoretically he could put the brakes on a small number of new advertisers.”
“The lifeblood of Millennium’s existence.”
“Yes, but look at it this way—worrying about such trivia is a waste of time. Martin is presently fighting for his industrial survival and working fourteen hours a day. He doesn’t have time for anything else.”
“May I ask—I know it’s none of my business—what is the general condition of the corporation?”
Frode looked grave.
“We have problems.”
“Yes, even a common financial reporter like myself can see that. I mean, how serious is it?”
“Off the record?”
“Between us.”
“We’ve lost two large orders in the electronics industry in the past few weeks and are about to be ejected from the Russian market. In September we’re going to have to lay off 1,600 employees in ?rebro and Trollh?ttan. Not much of a reward to give to people who’ve worked for the company for many years. Each time we shut down a factory, confidence in the company is further undermined.”
“Martin is under pressure.”
“He’s pulling the load of an ox and walking on eggshells.”
Blomkvist went back to his cottage and called Berger. She was not at the office, so he spoke to Malm.
“Here’s the deal: Erika called when I was in Norsj?. Martin Vanger has been after her and has, how shall I put it, encouraged her to propose that I start to take on editorial responsibility.”
“I think you should too,” Malm said.
“I know that. But the thing is, I have a contract with Henrik Vanger that I can’t break, and Martin is acting on behalf of someone up here who wants me to stop what I am doing and leave town. So his proposal amounts to an attempt to get rid of me.”
“I see.”
“Say hi to Erika and tell her I’ll come back to Stockholm when I’m finished here. Not before.”
“I understand. You’re stark raving mad, of course, but I’ll give her the message.”
“Christer. Something is going on up here, and I have no intention of backing out.”
Blomkvist knocked on Martin Vanger’s door. Eva Hassel opened it and greeted him warmly.
“Hi. Is Martin home?”
As if in reply to the question, Martin Vanger came walking out with a briefcase in his hand. He kissed Eva on the cheek and said hello to Mikael.
“I’m on my way to the office. Do you want to talk to me?”
“We can do it later if you’re in a hurry.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“I won’t be going back to Millennium’s editorial board before I’m finished with the assignment that Henrik gave me. I’m informing you of this now so that you won’t count on me being on the board before New Year’s.”
Martin Vanger teetered back and forth for a bit.
“I see. You think I want to get rid of you.” He paused. “Mikael, we’ll have to talk about this later. I don’t really have time to devote to my hobby on Millennium’s board, and I wish I’d never agreed to Henrik’s proposal. But believe me—I’m going to do my best to make sure that Millennium survives.”
“I’ve never had any doubt about that,” Blomkvist said.
“If we make an appointment for sometime next week we can go over the finances and I can give you my views on the matter. But my basic attitude is that Millennium cannot actually afford to have one of its key people sitting up here on Hedeby Island twiddling his thumbs. I like the magazine and I think we can make it stronger together, but you’re crucial to that task. I’ve wound up in a conflict of loyalties here. Either I follow Henrik’s wishes or carry out my job on Millennium’s board.”
Blomkvist changed into his tracksuit and went for a run out to the Fortress and down to Gottfried’s cabin before he headed home at a slower pace along the water. Frode was sitting at the garden table. He waited patiently as Mikael drank a bottle of water and towelled the sweat from his face.
“That doesn’t look so healthy in this heat.”
“Oh, come on,” Blomkvist said.
“I was wrong. Cecilia isn’t the main person who’s after Martin. It’s Isabella. She’s busy mobilising the Vanger clan to tar and feather you and possibly burn you at the stake too. She’s being backed up by Birger.”
“She’s a malicious, petty woman who doesn’t like other people in general. Right now it seems that she detests you in particular. She’s spreading stories that you’re a swindler who duped Henrik into hiring you, and that you got him so worked up that he had a heart attack.”
“I hope no-one believes that?”
“There’s always someone willing to believe malicious rumours.”
“I’m trying to work out what happened to her daughter—and she hates me. If Harriet were my daughter, I would have reacted a bit differently.”
At 2:00 in the afternoon, his mobile rang.
“Hello, my name is Conny Torsson and I work at the Hedestad Courier. Do you have time to answer a few questions? We got a tip that you’re living here in Hedeby.”
“Well, Herr Torsson, your tip machine is a little slow. I’ve been living here since the first of the year.”
“I didn’t know that. What are you doing in Hedestad?”
“Writing. And taking a sort of sabbatical.”
“What are you working on?”
“You’ll find out when I publish it.”
“You were just released from prison…”
“Do you have a view on journalists who falsify material?”
“Journalists who falsify material are idiots.”
“So in your opinion you’re an idiot?”
“Why should I think that? I’ve never falsified material.”
“But you were convicted of libel.”
Torsson hesitated long enough that Blomkvist had to give him a push.
“I was convicted of libel, not of falsifying material.”
“But you published the material.”
“If you’re calling to discuss the judgement against me, I have no comment.”
“I’d like to come out and do an interview with you.”
“I have nothing to say to you on this topic.”
“So you don’t want to discuss the trial?”
“That’s correct,” he said, and hung up. He sat thinking for a long time before he went back to his computer.
Salander followed the instructions she had received and drove her Kawasaki across the bridge to Hedeby Island. She stopped at the first little house on the left. She was really out in the sticks. But as long as her employer was paying, she did not mind if she went to the North Pole. Besides, it was great to give her bike its head on a long ride up the E4. She put the bike on its stand and loosened the strap that held her overnight duffel bag in place.
Blomkvist opened the door and waved to her. He came out and inspected her motorcycle with obvious astonishment.
He whistled. “You’re riding a motorbike!”
Salander said nothing, but she watched him intently as he touched the handlebars and tried the accelerator. She did not like anyone touching her stuff. Then she saw his childlike, boyish smile, which she took for a redeeming feature. Most people who were into motorcycles usually laughed at her lightweight bike.
“I had a motorbike when I was nineteen,” he said, turning to her. “Thanks for coming up. Come in and let’s get you settled.”
He had borrowed a camp bed from the Nilssons. Salander took a tour around the cabin, looking suspicious, but she seemed to relax when she could find no immediate signs of any insidious trap. He showed her where the bathroom was.
“In case you want to take a shower and freshen up.”
“I have to change. I am not going to wander around in my leathers.”
“OK, while you change I’ll make dinner.”
He sautéed lamb chops in red wine sauce and set the table outdoors in the afternoon sun while Salander showered and changed. She came out barefoot wearing a black camisole and a short, worn denim skirt. The food smelled good, and she put away two stout helpings. Fascinated, Blomkvist sneaked a look at the tattoos on her back.
“Five plus three,” Salander said. “Five cases from your Harriet’s list and three cases that I think should have been on the list.”
“Tell me.”
“I’ve only been on this for eleven days, and I haven’t had a chance to dig up all the reports. In some cases the police reports had been put in the national archive, and in others they’re still stored in the local police district. I made three day trips to different police districts, but I didn’t have time to get to all of them. The five are identified.”
Salander put a solid heap of paper on the kitchen table, around 500 pages. She quickly sorted the material into different stacks.
“Let’s take them in chronological order.” She handed Blomkvist a list.
1949—REBECKA JACOBSSON, Hedestad (30112)
1954—MARI HOLMBERG, Kalmar (32018)
1957—RAKEL LUNDE, Landskrona (32027)
1960—(MAGDA) LOVISA SJ?BERG, Karlstad (32016)
1960—LIV GUSTAVSSON, Stockholm (32016)
1962—LEA PERSSON, Uddevalla (31208)
1964—SARA WITT, Ronneby (32109)
1966—LENA ANDERSSON, Uppsala (30112)
“The first case in this series is Rebecka Jacobsson, 1949, the details of which you already know. The next case I found was Mari Holmberg, a thirty-two-year-old prostitute in Kalmar who was murdered in her apartment in October 1954. It’s not clear exactly when she was killed, since her body wasn’t found right away, probably nine or ten days later.”
“And how do you connect her to Harriet’s list?”
“She was tied up and badly abused, but the cause of death was strangulation. She had a sanitary towel down her throat.”
Blomkvist sat in silence for a moment before he looked up the verse that was Leviticus 20:18.
“If a man lies with a woman having her sickness, and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood; both of them shall be cut off from among their people.&rdq............
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