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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 27
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Saturday, July 26–Monday, July 28

Blomkvist picked up Salander by her front door on Lundagatan at 10:00 and drove her to the Norra crematorium. He stayed at her side during the ceremony. For a long time they were the only mourners along with the pastor, but when the funeral began Armansky slipped in. He nodded curtly to Blomkvist and stood behind Salander, gently putting a hand on her shoulder. She nodded without looking at him, as if she knew who was standing there. Then she ignored them both.
Salander had told him nothing about her mother, but the pastor had apparently spoken to someone at the nursing home where she died, and Blomkvist understood that the cause of death was a cerebral haemorrhage. Salander did not say a word during the ceremony. The pastor lost her train of thought twice when she turned directly to her. Salander looked her straight in the eye without expression. When it was over she turned on her heel and left without saying thank you or goodbye. Blomkvist and Armansky took a deep breath and looked at each other.
“She’s feeling really bad,” Armansky said.
“I know that,” Blomkvist said. “It was good of you to come.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
Armansky fixed Blomkvist with his gaze.
“If you two are driving back north, keep an eye on her.”
He promised to do that. They said goodbye, and to the pastor, at the church door. Salander was already in the car, waiting.
She had to go back with him to Hedestad to get her motorcycle and the equipment she had borrowed from Milton Security. Not until they had passed Uppsala did she break her silence and ask how the trip to Australia had gone. Blomkvist had landed at Arlanda late the night before and had slept only a few hours. During the drive he told her Harriet Vanger’s story. Salander sat in silence for half an hour before she opened her mouth.
“Bitch,” she said.
“Harriet Fucking Vanger. If she had done something in 1966, Martin Vanger couldn’t have kept killing and raping for thirty-seven years.”
“Harriet knew about her father murdering women, but she had no idea that Martin had anything to do with it. She fled from a brother who raped her and then threatened to reveal that she had drowned her father if she didn’t do what he said.”
After that they sat in silence all the way to Hedestad. Blomkvist was late for his appointment and dropped her at the turnoff to Hedeby Island; he asked if she would please be there when he came back.
“Are you thinking of staying overnight?” she said.
“I think so.”
“Do you want me to be here?”
He climbed out of the car and went around and put his arms around her. She pushed him away, almost violently. Blomkvist took a step back.
“Lisbeth, you’re my friend.”
“Do you want me to stay here so you’ll have somebody to fuck tonight?”
Blomkvist gave her a long look. Then he turned and got into the car and started the engine. He wound down the window. Her hostility was palpable.
“I want to be your friend,” he said. “If you want otherwise, then you don’t need to be here when I get home.”
Henrik Vanger was sitting up, dressed, when Dirch Frode let him into the hospital room.
“They’re thinking of letting me out for Martin’s funeral tomorrow.”
“How much has Dirch told you?”
Henrik looked down at the floor.
“He told me about what Martin and Gottfried got up to. This is far, far worse than I could have imagined.”
“I know what happened to Harriet.”
“Tell me: how did she die?”
“She didn’t die. She’s still alive. And if you like, she really wants to see you.”
Both men stared at him as if their world had just been turned upside down.
“It took a while to convince her to come, but she’s alive, she’s doing fine, and she’s here in Hedestad. She arrived this morning and can be here in an hour. If you want to see her, that is.”
Blomkvist had to tell the story from beginning to end. A couple of times Henrik interrupted with a question or asked him to repeat something. Frode said not a word.
When the story was done, Henrik sat in silence. Blomkvist had been afraid that it would be too much for the old man, but Henrik showed no sign of emotion, except that his voice might have been a bit thicker when he broke his silence
“Poor, poor Harriet. If only she had come to me.”
Blomkvist glanced at the clock. It was five minutes to four.
“Do you want to see her? She’s still afraid that you won’t want to after you found out what she did.”
“What about the flowers?” Henrik said.
“I asked her that on the plane coming home. There was one person in the family, apart from Anita, whom she loved, and that was you. She, of course, was the one who sent the flowers. She said that she hoped you would understand that she was alive and that she was doing fine, without having to make an appearance. But since her only channel of information was Anita, who moved abroad as soon as she finished her studies and never visited Hedestad, Harriet’s awareness about what went on here was limited. She never knew how terribly you suffered or that you thought it was her murderer taunting you.”
“I assume it was Anita who posted the flowers.”
“She worked for an airline and flew all over the world. She posted them from wherever she happened to be.”
“But how did you know Anita was the one who helped her?”
“She was the one in Harriet’s window.”
“But she could have been mixed up in…she could have been the murderer instead. How did you find out that Harriet was alive?”
Blomkvist gave Henrik a long look. Then he smiled for the first time since he had returned to Hedestad.
“Anita was involved in Harriet’s disappearance, but she couldn’t have killed her.”
“How could you be sure of that?”
“Because this isn’t some damned locked-room mystery novel. If Anita had murdered Harriet, you would have found the body years ago. So the only logical thing was that she helped Harriet escape and hide. Do you want to see her?”
“Of course I want to see her.”
Blomkvist found Harriet by the lift in the lobby. At first he did not recognise her. Since they had parted at Arlanda Airport the night before she had dyed her hair brown again. She was dressed in black trousers, a white blouse, and an elegant grey jacket. She looked radiant, and Blomkvist bent down to give her an encouraging hug.
Henrik got up from his chair when Mikael opened the door. She took a deep breath.
“Hi, Henrik,” she said.
The old man scrutinised her from top to toe. Then Harriet went over and kissed him. Blomkvist nodded to Frode and closed the door.
Salander was not in the cottage when Blomkvist returned to Hedeby Island. The video equipment and her motorcycle were gone, as well as the bag with her extra clothes and her sponge bag. The cottage felt empty. It suddenly seemed alien and unreal. He looked at the stacks of paper in the office, which he would have to pack up in boxes and carry back to Henrik’s house. But he could not face starting the process. He drove to Konsum and bought bread, milk, cheese, and something for supper. When he returned he put on water for coffee, sat in the garden, and read the evening papers without thinking of anything else.
At 5:30 a taxi drove across the bridge. After three minutes it went back the way it came. Blomkvist caught a glimpse of Isabella Vanger in the back seat.
Around 7:00 he had dozed off in the garden chair when Frode woke him up.
“How’s it going with Henrik and Harriet?” he said.
“This unhappy cloud has its silver lining,” Frode said with a restrained smile. “Isabella, would you believe, came rushing into Henrik’s hospital room. She’d obviously seen that you’d come back and was completely beside herself. She screamed at him that there had to be an end to this outrageous fuss about her Harriet, adding that you were the one who drove her son to his death with your snooping.”
“Well, she’s right, in a way.”
“She commanded Henrik to dismiss you forthwith and run you off the property for good. And would he, once and for all, stop searching for ghosts.”
“She didn’t even glance at the woman sitting beside the bed talking to Henrik. She must have thought it was one of the staff. I will never forget the moment when Harriet stood up and said, ‘Hello, Mamma.’”
“What happened?”
“We had to call a doctor to check Isabella’s vital signs. Right now she’s refusing to believe that it’s Harriet. You are accused of dragging in an impostor.”
Frode was on his way to visit Cecilia and Alexander to give them the news that Harriet had risen from the dead. He hurried away, leaving Blomkvist to his solitary musings.
Salander stopped and filled her tank at a petrol station north of Uppsala. She had been riding doggedly, staring straight ahead. She paid quickly and got back on her bike. She started it up and rode to the exit, where she stopped, undecided.
She was still in a terrible mood. She was furious when she left Hedeby, but her rage had slowly dissolved during the ride. She could not make up her mind why she was so angry with Blomkvist, or even if he was the one she was angry with.
She thought of Martin Vanger and Harriet Fucking Vanger and Dirch Fucking Frode and the whole damned Vanger clan sitting in Hedestad reigning over their little empire and plotting against each other. They had needed her help. Normally they wouldn’t even have said hello to her in the street, let alone entrust her with their repellent secrets.
Fucking riff-raff.
She took a deep breath and thought about her mother, whom she had consigned to ashes that very morning. She would never be able to mend things. Her mother’s death meant that the wound would never heal, since she would never now get an answer to the questions she had wanted to ask.
She thought about Armansky standing behind her at the crematorium. She should have said something to him. At least given him some sign that she knew he was there. But if she did that, he would have taken it as a pretext for trying to structure her life. If she gave him her little finger he’d take her whole arm. And he would never understand.
She thought about the lawyer, Bjurman, who was still her guardian and who, at least for the time being, had been neutralised and was doing as he was told.
She felt an implacable hatred and clenched her teeth.
And she thought about Mikael Blomkvist and wondered what he would say when he found out that she was a ward of the court and that her entire life was a fucking rats’ nest.
It came to her that she really was not angry with him. He was just the person on whom she had vented her anger when what she had wanted most of all was to murder somebody, several people. Being angry with him was pointless.
She felt strangely ambivalent towards him.
He stuck his nose in other people’s business and poked around in her life and…but…she had also enjoyed working with him. Even that was an odd feeling—to work with somebody. She wasn’t used to that, but it had been unexpectedly painless. He did not mess with her. He did not try to tell her how to live her life.
She was the one who had seduced him, not vice versa.
And besides, it had been satisfying.
So why did she feel as if she wanted to kick him in the face?
She sighed and unhappily raised her eyes to see an inter-continental roar past on the E4.

Blomkvist was still in the garden at 8:00 when he was roused by the rattle of the motorcycle crossing the bridge and saw Salander riding towards the cottage. She put her bike on its stand and took off her helmet. She came up to the garden table and felt the coffeepot, which was empty and cold. Blomkvist stood up, gazing at her in surprise. She took the coffeepot and went into the kitchen. When she came back out she had taken off her leathers and sat down in jeans and a T-shirt with the slogan I CAN BE A REGULAR BITCH. JUST TRY ME.
“I thought you’d be in Stockholm by now,” he said.
“I turned round in Uppsala.”
“Quite a ride.”
“I’m sore.”
“Why did you turn around?”
No answer. He waited her out while they drank coffee. After ten minutes she said, reluctantly, “I like your company.”
Those were words that had never before passed her lips.
“It was…interesting to work with you on this case.”
“I enjoyed working with you too,” he said.
“The fact is, I’ve never worked with such a brilliant researcher. OK, I know you’re a hacker and hang out in suspect circles in which you can set up an illegal wiretap in London in twenty-four hours, but you get results.”
She looked at him for the first time since she had sat at the table. He knew so many of her secrets.
“That’s just how it is. I know computers. I’ve never had a problem with reading a text and absorbing what it said.”
“Your photographic memory,” he said softly.
“I admit it. I just have no idea how it works. It’s not only computers and telephone networks, but the motor in my bike and TV sets and vacuum cleaners and chemical processes and formulae in astrophysics. I’m a nut case, I admit it: a freak.”
Blomkvist frowned. He sat quietly for a long time.
Asperger’s syndrome, he thought. Or something like that. A talent for seeing patterns and understanding abstract reasoning where other people perceive only white noise.
Salander was staring down at the table.
“Most people would give an eye tooth to have such a gift.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“We’ll drop it. Are you glad you came back?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was a mistake.”
“Lisbeth, can you define the word friendship for me?”
“It’s when you like somebody.”
“Sure, but what is it that makes you like somebody?”
She shrugged.
“Friendship—my definition—is built on two things,” he said. “Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.”
She was still silent.
“I understand that you don’t want to discuss yourself with me, but someday you’re going to have to decide whether you trust me or not. I want us to be friends, but I can’t do it all by myself.”
“I like having sex with you.”
“Sex has nothing to do with friendship. Sure, friends can have sex, but if I had to choose between sex and friendship when it comes to you, there’s no doubt which I would pick.”
“I don’t get it. Do you want to have sex with me or not?”
“You shouldn’t have sex with people you’re working with,” he muttered. “It just leads to trouble.”
“Did I miss something here, or isn’t it true that you and Erika Berger fuck every time you get the chance? And she’s married.”
“Erika and I…have a history that started long before we started working together. The fact that she’s married is none of your business.”
“Oh, I see, all of a sudden you’re the one who doesn’t want to talk about yourself. And there I was, learning that friendship is a matter of trust.”
“What I mean is that I don’t discuss a friend behind her back. I’d be breaking her trust. I wouldn’t discuss you with Erika behind your back either.”
Salander thought about that. This had become an awkward conversation. She did not like awkward conversations.
“I do like having sex with you,” she said.
“I like it too…but I’m still old enough to be your father.”
“I don’t give a shit about your age.”
“No, you can’t ignore our age difference. It’s no sort of basis for a lasting relationship.”
“Who said anything about lasting?” Salander said. “We just finished up a case in which men with fucked-up sexuality played a prominent role. If I had to decide, men like that would be exterminated, every last one of them.”
“Well, at least you don’t compromise.”
“No,” she said, giving him her crooked non-smile. “But at least you’re not like them.” She got up. “Now I’m going in to take a shower, and then I think I’ll get into your bed naked. If you think you’re too old, you’ll have to go and sleep on the camp bed.”
Whatever hang-ups Salander had, modesty certainly was not one of them. He managed to lose every argument with her. After a while he washed up the coffee things and went into the bedroom.
They got up at 10:00, took a shower together, and ate breakfast out in the garden. At 11:00 Dirch Frode called and said that the funeral would take place at 2:00 in the afternoon, and he asked if they were planning to attend.
“I shouldn’t think so,” said Mikael.
Frode asked if he could come over around 6:00 for a talk. Mikael said that would be fine.
He spent a few hours sorting the papers into the packing crates and carrying them over to Henrik’s office. Finally he was left with only his own notebooks and the two binders about the Hans-Erik Wennerstr?m affair that he hadn’t opened in six months. He sighed and stuffed them into his bag.
Frode rang to say he was running late and did not reach the cottage until 8:00. He was still in his funeral suit and looked harried when he sat down on the kitchen bench and gratefully accepted the cup of coffee that Salander offered him. She sat at the side table with her computer while Blomkvist asked how Harriet’s reappearance had been received by the family as a whole.
“You might say that it has overshadowed Martin’s demise. Now the media have found out about her too.”
“And how are you explaining the situation?”
“Harriet talked with a reporter from the Courier. Her story is that she ran away from home because she didn’t get along with her family, but that she obviously has done well in the world since she’s the head of a very substantial enterprise.”
Blomkvist whistled.
“I discovered that there was money in Australian sheep, but I didn’t know the station was doing that well.”
“Her sheep station is going superbly, but that isn’t her only source of income. The Cochran Corporation is in mining, opals, manufacturing, transport, electronics, and a lot of other things too.”
“Wow! So what’s going to happen now?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. People have been turning up all day, and the family has been together for the first time in years. They’re here from both Fredrik and Johan Vanger’s sides, and quite a few from the younger generation too—the ones in their twenties and up. There are probably around forty Vangers in Hedestad this evening. Half of them are at the hospital wearing out Henrik; the other half are at the Grand Hotel talking to Harriet.”
“Harriet must be the big sensation. How many of them know about Martin?”
“So far it’s just me, Henrik, and Harriet. We had a long talk together. Martin and…your uncovering of his unspeakable life, it’s overshadowing just about everything for us at the moment. It has brought an enormous crisis for the company to a head.”
“I can understand that.”
“There is no natural heir, but Harriet is staying in Hedestad for a while. The family will work out who owns what, how the inheritance is to be divided and so on. She actually has a share of it that would have been quite large if she had been here the whole time. It’s a nightmare.”
Mikael laughed. Frode was not laughing at all.
“Isabella had a collapse at the funeral. She’s in the hospital now. Henrik says he won’t visit her.”
“Good for Henrik.”
“However, Anita is coming over from London. I am to call a family meeting for next week. It will be the first time in twenty-five years that she’s participated.”
“Who will be the new CEO?”
“Birger is after the job, but he’s out of the question. What’s going to happen is that Henrik will step in as CEO pro tem from his sickbed until we hire either someone from outside or someone from within the family…”
Blomkvist raised his eyebrows.
“Harriet? You can’t be serious.”
“Why not? We’re talking about an exceptionally competent and respected businesswoman.”
“She has a company in Australia to look after.”
“True, but her son Jeff Cochran is minding the store in her absence.”
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