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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 21
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CHAPTER 21
Thursday, July 3–Thursday, July 10


Salander was up before Blomkvist, around 6:00. She put on some water for coffee and went to take a shower. When Blomkvist woke at 7:30, she was reading his summary of the Harriet Vanger case on his iBook. He came out to the kitchen with a towel round his waist, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“There’s coffee on the stove,” she said.
He looked over her shoulder.
“That document was password protected, dammit,” he said.
She turned and peered up at him.
“It takes thirty seconds to download a programme from the Net that can crack Word’s encryption protection.”
“We need to have a talk on the subject of what’s yours and what’s mine,” he said, and went to take a shower.
When he came back, Salander had turned off his computer and put it back in its place in his office. She had booted up her own PowerBook. Blomkvist felt sure that she had already transferred the contents of his computer to her own.
Salander was an information junkie with a delinquent child’s take on morals and ethics.
He had just sat down to breakfast when there was a knock at the front door. Martin Vanger looked so solemn that for a second Blomkvist thought he had come to bring the news of his uncle’s death.
“No, Henrik’s condition is the same as yesterday. I’m here for a quite different reason. Could I come in for a moment?”
Blomkvist let him in, introducing him to “my research assistant” Lisbeth Salander. She gave the captain of industry barely a glance and a quick nod before she went back to her computer. Martin Vanger greeted her automatically but looked so distracted that he hardly seemed to notice her. Blomkvist poured him a cup of coffee and invited him to have a seat.
“What’s this all about?”
“You don’t subscribe to the Hedestad Courier?”
“No. But sometimes I see it at Susanne’s Bridge Café.”
“Then you haven’t read this morning’s paper.”
“You make it sound as if I ought to.”
Martin Vanger put the day’s paper on the table in front of him. He had been given two columns on the front page, continued on page four. “Convicted Libel Journalist Hiding Here.” A photograph taken with a telephoto lens from the church hill on the other side of the bridge showed Blomkvist coming out of the cottage.
The reporter, Torsson, had cobbled together a scurrilous piece. He recapitulated the Wennerstr?m affair and explained that Blomkvist had left Millennium in disgrace and that he had recently served a prison term. The article ended with the usual line that Blomkvist had declined to comment to the Hedestad Courier. Every self-respecting resident of Hedestad was put on notice that an Olympic-class shit from Stockholm was skulking around the area. None of the claims in the article was libellous, but they were slanted to present Blomkvist in an unflattering light; the layout and type style was of the kind that such newspapers used to discuss political terrorists. Millennium was described as a magazine with low credibility “bent on agitation,” and Blomkvist’s book on financial journalism was presented as a collection of “controversial claims” about other more respected journalists.
“Mikael…I don’t have words to express what I felt when I read this article. It’s repulsive.”
“It’s a put-up job,” Blomkvist said calmly.
“I hope you understand that I didn’t have the slightest thing to do with this. I choked on my morning coffee when I read it.”
“Then who did?”
“I made some calls. This Torsson is a summer work experience kid. He did the piece on orders from Birger.”
“I thought Birger had no say in the newsroom. After all, he is a councillor and political figure.”
“Technically he has no influence. But the editor in chief of the Courier is Gunnar Karlman, Ingrid’s son, who’s part of the Johan Vanger branch of the family. Birger and Gunnar have been close for many years.”
“I see.”
“Torsson will be fired forthwith.”
“How old is he?”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I’ve never met him.”
“Don’t fire him. When he called me he sounded like a very young and inexperienced reporter.”
“This can’t be allowed to pass without consequences.”
“If you want my opinion, the situation seems a bit absurd, when the editor in chief of a publication owned by the Vanger family goes on the attack against another publication in which Henrik Vanger is a part owner and on whose board you sit. Your editor, Karlman, is attacking you and Henrik.”
“I see what you mean, and I ought to lay the blame where it belongs. Karlman is a part owner in the corporation and has always taken pot-shots at me, but this seems more like Birger’s revenge because you had a run-in with him at the hospital. You’re a thorn in his side.”
“I believe it. That’s why I think Torsson is the last person to blame. It takes a lot for an intern to say no when the boss instructs him to write something in a certain way.”
“I could demand that you be given an apology tomorrow.”
“Better not. It would just turn into a long, drawn-out squabble that would make the situation worse.”
“So you don’t think I should do anything?”
“It wouldn’t be any use. Karlman would kick up a fuss and in the worst case you’d be painted as a villain who, in his capacity as owner, is trying to stamp on the freedom of expression.”
“Pardon me, Mikael, but I don’t agree with you. As a matter of fact, I also have the right to express my opinion. My view is that this article stinks—and I intend to make my own point of view clear. However reluctantly, I’m Henrik’s replacement on Millennium’s board, and in that role I am not going to let an offensive article like this one pass unchallenged.”
“Fair enough.”
“So I’m going to demand the right to respond. And if I make Karlman look like an idiot, he has only himself to blame.”
“You must do what you believe is right.”
“For me, it’s also important that you absolutely understand that I have nothing whatsoever to do with this vitriolic attack.”
“I believe you,” Blomkvist said.
“Besides—I didn’t really want to bring this up now, but this just serves to illustrate what we’ve already discussed. It’s important to re-install you on Millennium’s editorial board so that we can show a united front to the world. As long as you’re away, the gossip will continue. I believe in Millennium, and I’m convinced that we can win this fight together.”
“I see your point, but now it’s my turn to disagree with you. I can’t break my contract with Henrik, and the fact is that I wouldn’t want to break it. You see, I really like him. And this thing with Harriet…”
“Yes?”
“I know it’s a running sore for you and I realise that Henrik has been obsessed with it for many years.”
“Just between the two of us—I do love Henrik and he is my mentor—but when it comes to Harriet, he’s almost off his rocker.”
“When I started this job I couldn’t help thinking that it was a waste of time. But I think we’re on the verge of a breakthrough and that it might now be possible to know what really happened.”
Blomkvist read doubt in Martin Vanger’s eyes. At last he made a decision.
“OK, in that case the best thing we can do is to solve the mystery of Harriet as quickly as possible. I’ll give you all the support I can so that you finish the work to your satisfaction—and, of course, Henrik’s—and then return to Millennium.”
“Good. So I won’t have to fight with you too.”
“No, you won’t. You can ask for my help whenever you run into a problem. I’ll make damn sure that Birger won’t put any sort of obstacles in your way. And I’ll try to talk to Cecilia, to calm her down.”
“Thank you. I need to ask her some questions, and she’s been resisting my attempts at conversation for a month now.”
Martin Vanger laughed. “Perhaps you have other issues to iron out. But I won’t get involved in that.”
They shook hands.




Salander had listened to the conversation. When Martin Vanger left she reached for the Hedestad Courier and scanned the article. She put the paper down without making any comment.
Blomkvist sat in silence, thinking. Gunnar Karlman was born in 1948 and would have been eighteen in 1966. He was one of the people on the island when Harriet disappeared.
 
After breakfast he asked his research assistant to read through the police report. He gave her all the photographs of the accident, as well as the long summary of Vanger’s own investigations.
Blomkvist then drove to Frode’s house and asked him kindly to draw up an agreement for Salander as a research assistant for the next month.
By the time he returned to the cottage, Salander had decamped to the garden and was immersed in the police report. Blomkvist went in to heat up the coffee. He watched her through the kitchen window. She seemed to be skimming, spending no more than ten or fifteen seconds on each page. She turned the pages mechanically, and Blomkvist was amazed at her lack of concentration; it made no sense, since her own report was so meticulous. He took two cups of coffee and joined her at the garden table.
“Your notes were done before you knew we were looking for a serial killer.”
“That’s true. I simply wrote down questions I wanted to ask Henrik, and some other things. It was quite unstructured. Up until now I’ve really been struggling in the dark, trying to write a story—a chapter in the autobiography of Henrik Vanger.”
“And now?”
“In the past all the investigations focused on Hedeby Island. Now I’m sure that the story, the sequence of events that ended in her disappearance, started in Hedestad. That shifts the perspective.”
Salander said: “It was amazing what you discovered with the pictures.”
Blomkvist was surprised. Salander did not seem the type to throw compliments around, and he felt flattered. On the other hand—from a purely journalistic point of view—it was quite an achievement.
“It’s your turn to fill in the details. How did it go with that picture you were chasing up in Norsj??”
“You mean you didn’t check the images in my computer?”
“There wasn’t time. I needed to read the résumés, your situation reports to yourself.”
Blomkvist started his iBook and clicked on the photograph folder.
“It’s fascinating. The visit to Norsj? was a sort of progress, but it was also a disappointment. I found the picture, but it doesn’t tell us much.
“That woman, Mildred Berggren, had saved all her holiday pictures in albums. The picture I was looking for was one of them. It was taken on cheap colour film and after thirty-seven years the print was incredibly faded—with a strong yellow tinge. But, would you believe, she still had the negative in a shoebox. She let me borrow all the negatives from Hedestad and I’ve scanned them in. This is what Harriet saw.”
He clicked on an image which now had the filename HARRIET/bd-19.eps.
Salander immediately understood his dismay. She saw an unfocused image that showed clowns in the foreground of the Children’s Day parade. In the background could be seen the corner of Sundstr?m’s Haberdashery. About ten people were standing on the pavement in front of Sundstr?m’s.
“I think this is the person she saw. Partly because I tried to triangulate what she was looking at, judging by the angle that her face was turned—I made a drawing of the crossroads there—and partly because this is the only person who seems to be looking straight into the camera. Meaning that—perhaps—he was staring at Harriet.”
What Salander saw was a blurry figure standing a little bit behind the spectators, almost in the side street. He had on a dark padded jacket with a red patch on the shoulders and dark trousers, possibly jeans. Blomkvist zoomed in so that the figure from the waist up filled the screen. The photograph became instantly fuzzier still.
“It’s a man. He’s about five-foot eleven, normal build. He has dark-blond, semi-long hair and is clean-shaven. But it’s impossible to make out his facial features or even estimate his age. He could be anywhere between his teens and middle age.
“You could manipulate the image…”
“I have manipulated the image, dammit. I even sent a copy to the image processing wizard at Millennium.” Blomkvist clicked up a new shot. “This is the absolute best I can get out of it. The camera is si............
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