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HOME > Classical Novels > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo > CHAPTER 28
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Tuesday, July 29–Friday, October 24

Blomkvist had been poring over Salander’s computer printouts for three days—boxes full of papers. The problem was that the subjects kept changing all the time. An option deal in London. A currency deal in Paris through an agent. A company with a post-office box in Gibraltar. A sudden doubling of funds in an account at the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.
And then all those puzzling question marks: a trading company with 200,000 kronor in an untouched account registered five years earlier in Santiago, Chile—one of nearly thirty such companies in twelve different countries—and not a hint of what type of activity was involved. A dormant company? Waiting for what? A front for some other kind of activity? The computer gave no clue as to what was going on in Wennerstr?m’s mind or what may have been perfectly obvious to him and so was never formulated in an electronic document.
Salander was persuaded that most of these questions would never be answered. They could see the message, but without a key they would never be able to interpret the meaning. Wennerstr?m’s empire was like an onion from which one layer after another could be removed; a labyrinth of enterprises owned by one another. Companies, accounts, funds, securities. They reckoned that nobody—perhaps not even Wennerstr?m himself—could have a complete overview. Wennerstr?m’s empire had a life of its own.
But there was a pattern, or at least a hint of a pattern. A labyrinth of enterprises owned by each other. Wennerstr?m’s empire was variously valued at between 100 and 400 billion kronor, depending on whom you asked and how it was calculated. But if companies own each other’s assets—what then would be their value?
They had left Hedeby Island in great haste early in the morning after Salander dropped the bomb that was now occupying every waking moment of Blomkvist’s life. They drove to Salander’s place and spent two days in front of her computer while she guided him through Wennerstr?m’s universe. He had plenty of questions. One of them was pure curiosity.
“Lisbeth, how are you able to operate his computer, from a purely practical point of view?”
“It’s a little invention that my friend Plague came up with. Wennerstr?m has an IBM laptop that he works on, both at home and at the office. That means that all the information is on a single hard drive. He has a broadband connection to his property at home. Plague invented a type of cuff that you fasten around the broadband cable, and I’m testing it out for him. Everything that Wennerstr?m sees is registered by the cuff, which forwards the data to a server somewhere else.”
“Doesn’t he have a firewall?”
Salander smiled.
“Of course he has a firewall. But the point is that the cuff also functions as a type of firewall. It takes a while to hack the computer this way. Let’s say that Wennerstr?m gets an email; it goes first to Plague’s cuff and we can read it before it even passes through his firewall. But the ingenious part is that the email is rewritten and a few bytes of source code are added. This is repeated every time he downloads anything to his computer. Pictures are even better. He does a lot of surfing on the Net. Each time he picks up a porn picture or opens a new home page, we add several rows of source code. After a while, in several hours or several days, depending on how much he uses the computer, Wennerstr?m has downloaded an entire programme of approximately three megabytes in which each bit is linked to the next bit.”
“When the last bits are in place, the programme is integrated with his Internet browser. To him it will look as though his computer has locked up, and he has to restart it. During the restart a whole new software programme is installed. He uses Internet Explorer. The next time he starts Explorer, he’s really starting a whole different programme that’s invisible on his desktop and looks and functions just like Explorer, but it also does a lot of other things. First it takes control of his firewall and makes sure that everything is working. Then it starts to scan the computer and transmits bits of information every time he clicks the mouse while he’s surfing. After a while, again depending on how much he surfs, we’ve accumulated a complete mirror image of the contents of his hard drive on a server somewhere. And then it’s time for the HT.”
“Sorry. Plague calls it the HT. Hostile Takeover.”
“I see.”
“The really subtle thing is what happens next. When the structure is ready, Wennerstr?m has two complete hard drives, one on his own machine and one on our server. The next time he boots up his computer, it’s actually the mirrored computer that’s starting. He’s no longer working on his own computer; in reality he’s working on our server. His computer will run a little slower, but it’s virtually not noticeable. And when I’m connected to the server, I can tap his computer in real time. Each time Wennerstr?m presses a key on his computer I see it on mine.”
“Your friend is also a hacker?”
“He was the one who arranged the telephone tap in London. He’s a little out of it socially, but on the Net he’s a legend.”
“OK,” Blomkvist said, giving her a resigned smile. “Question number two: why didn’t you tell me about Wennerstr?m earlier?”
“You never asked me.”
“And if I never did ask you—let’s suppose that I never met you—you would have sat here knowing that Wennerstr?m was a gangster while Millennium went bankrupt?”
“Nobody asked me to expose Wennerstr?m for what he is,” Salander replied in a know-it-all voice.
“Yes, but what if?”
“I did tell you,” she said.
Blomkvist dropped the subject.

Salander burned the contents of Wennerstr?m’s hard drive—about five gigabytes—on to ten CDs, and she felt as if she had more or less moved into Blomkvist’s apartment. She waited patiently, answering all the questions he asked.
“I can’t understand how he can be so fucking dim to put all his dirty laundry on one hard drive,” he said. “If it ever got into the hands of the police…”
“People aren’t very rational. He has to believe that the police would never think of confiscating his computer.”
“Above suspicion. I agree that he’s an arrogant bastard, but he must have security consultants telling him how to handle his computer. There’s material on this machine going all the way back to 1993.”
“The computer itself is relatively new. It was manufactured a year ago, but he seems to have transferred all his old correspondence and everything else on to the hard drive instead of storing it on CDs. But at least he’s using an encryption programme.”
“Which is totally useless if you’re inside his computer and reading the passwords every time he types them in.”
After they’d been back in Stockholm for four days, Malm called on Blomkvist’s mobile at 3:00 in the morning.
“Henry Cortez was at a bar with his girlfriend tonight.”
“Uh-huh,” Blomkvist said, sleepily.
“On the way home they ended up at Centralen’s bar.”
“Not a very good place for a seduction.”
“Listen. Dahlman is on holiday. Henry discovered him sitting at a table with some guy.”
“Henry recognised the man from his byline pic. Krister S?der.”
“I don’t think I recognise the name, but…”
“He works for Monopoly Financial Magazine, which is owned by the Wennerstr?m Group.”
Blomkvist sat up straight in bed.
“Are you there?”
“I’m here. That might not mean anything. S?der is a journalist, and he might be an old friend.”
“Maybe I’m being paranoid. But a while ago Millennium bought a story from a freelancer. The week before we were going to publish it, S?der ran an exposé that was almost identical. It was the story about the mobile telephone manufacturer and the defective component.”
“I hear what you’re saying. But that sort of thing does happen. Have you talked to Erika?”
“No, she’s not back until next week.”
“Don’t do anything. I’ll call you back later,” Blomkvist said.
“Problems?” Salander asked.
“Millennium,” Blomkvist said. “I have to go there. Want to come along?”
The editorial offices were deserted. It took Salander three minutes to crack the password protection on Dahlman’s computer, and another two minutes to transfer its contents to Blomkvist’s iBook.
Most of Dahlman’s emails were probably on his own laptop, and they did not have access to it. But through his desktop computer at Millennium, Salander was able to discover that Dahlman had a Hotmail account in addition to his address. It took her six minutes to crack the code and download his correspondence from the past year. Five minutes later Blomkvist had evidence that Dahlman had leaked information about the situation at Millennium and kept the editor of Monopoly Financial Magazine updated on which stories Berger was planning for which issues. The spying had been going on at least since the previous autumn.
They turned off the computers and went back to Mikael’s apartment to sleep for a few hours. He called Christer Malm at 10:00 a.m.
“I have proof that Dahlman is working for Wennerstr?m.”
“I knew it. Great, I’m going to fire that fucking pig today.”
“No, don’t. Don’t do anything at all.”
“Christer, trust me. Is Dahlman still on holiday?”
“Yes, he’s back on Monday.”
“How many are in the office today?”
“Well, about half.”
“Can you call a meeting for 2:00? Don’t say what it’s about. I’m coming over.”
There were six people around the conference table. Malm looked tired. Cortez looked like someone newly in love, the way that only twenty-four-year-olds can look. Nilsson looked on edge—Malm had not told anyone what the meeting was about, but she had been with the company long enough to know that something out of the ordinary was going on, and she was annoyed that she had been kept out of the loop. The only one who looked the same as usual was the part-timer Ingela Oskarsson, who worked two days a week dealing with simple administrative tasks, the subscriber list and the like; she had not looked truly relaxed since she became a mother two years ago. The other part-timer was the freelance reporter Lotta Karim, who had a contract similar to Cortez’s and had just started back to work after her holiday. Malm had also managed to get Magnusson to come in, although he was still on holiday.
Blomkvist began by greeting everyone warmly and apologising for being so long absent.
“What we’re going to discuss today is something that Christer and I haven’t taken up with Erika, but I can assure you that in this case I speak for her too. Today we’re going to determine Millennium’s future.”
He paused to let the words sink in. No-one asked any questions.
“The past year has been rough. I’m surprised and proud that none of you has reconsidered and found a job somewhere else. I have to assume that either you’re stark raving mad or wonderfully loyal and actually enjoy working on this magazine. That’s why I’m going to lay the cards on the table and ask you for one last effort.”
“One last effort?” Nilsson said. “That sounds as if you’re thinking of shutting down the magazine.”
“Exactly, Monika,” Blomkvist said. “And thank you for that. When she gets back Erika is going to gather us all together for a gloomy editorial meeting and to tell us that Millennium will fold at Christmas and that you’re all fired.”
Now alarm began spreading through the group. Even Malm thought for a moment that Blomkvist was serious. Then they all noticed his broad smile.
“What you have to do this autumn is play a double game. The disagreeable fact is that our dear managing editor, Janne Dahlman, is moonlighting as an informer for Hans-Erik Wennerstr?m. This means that the enemy is being kept informed of exactly what’s going on in our editorial offices. This explains a number of setbacks we’ve experienced. You especially, Sonny, when advertisers who seemed positive pulled out without warning.”
Dahlman had never been popular in the office, and the revelation was apparently not a shock to anyone. Blomkvist cut short the murmuring that started up.
“The reason that I’m telling you this is because I have absolute confidence in all of you. I know that you’ve all got your heads screwed on straight. That’s why I also know that you’ll play along with what takes place this autumn. It’s very important that Wennerstr?m believes that Millennium is on the verge of collapse. It will be your job to make sure he does.”
“What’s our real situation?” Cortez said.
“OK, here it is: by all accounts Millennium should be on its way to the grave. I give you my word that that’s not going to happen. Millennium is stronger today than it was a year ago. When this meeting is over, I’m going to disappear again for about two months. Towards the end of October I’ll be back. Then we’re going to clip Wennerstr?m’s wings.”
“How are we going to do that?” Nilsson said.
“Sorry, Monika. I don’t want to give you the details, but I’m writing a new story, and this time we’re going to do it right. I’m thinking of having roast Wennerstr?m for the Christmas party and various critics for dessert.”
The mood turned cheerful. Blomkvist wondered how he would have felt if he were one of them sitting listening to all this. Dubious? Most likely. But apparently he still had some “trust capital” among Millennium’s small group of employees. He held up his hand.
“If this is going to work, it’s important that Wennerstr?m believes that Millennium is on the verge of collapse because I don’t want him to start some sort of retaliation or indeed get rid of the evidence which we mean to expose. So we’re going to start writing a script that you’ll follow during the coming months. First of all, it’s important that nothing we discuss here today is written down or is referred to in emails. We don’t know to what if any extent Dahlman has been digging around in our computers, and I’ve become aware that it’s alarmingly simple to read coworkers’ private email. So—we’re going to do this orally. If you feel the need to air anything, go and see Christer at home. Very discreetly.”
Blomkvist wrote “no email” on the whiteboard.
“Second, I want you to start squabbling among yourselves, complaining about me when Dahlman is around. Don’t exaggerate. Just give your natural bitchy selves full rein. Christer, I want you and Erika to have a serious disagreement. Use your imagination and be secretive about the cause.”
He wrote “start bitching” on the whiteboard.
“Third, when Erika comes home, her job will be to see to it that Janne Dahlman thinks our agreement with the Vanger Corporation—which is in fact giving us its full support—has fallen through because Henrik Vanger is seriously ill and Martin Vanger died in a car crash.”
He wrote the word “disinformation.”
“But the agreement really is solid?” Nilsson said.
“Believe me,” Blomkvist said, “the Vanger Corporation will go to great lengths to ensure that Millennium survives. In a few weeks, let’s say at the end of August, Erika will call a meeting to warn you about layoffs. You all know that it’s a scam, and that the only one who’s going to be leaving is Dahlman. But start talking about looking for new jobs and say what a lousy reference it is to have Millennium on your C.V.”
“And you really think that this game will end up saving Millennium?” Magnusson said.
“I know it will. And Sonny, I want you to put together a fake report each month showing falling advertising sales and showing that the number of subscribers has also dropped.”
“This sounds fun,” Nilsson said. “Should we keep it internal here in the office, or should we leak it to other media too?”
“Keep it internal. If the story shows up anywhere, we’ll know who put it there. In a very few months, if anyone asks us about it, we’ll be able to tell them: you’ve been listening to baseless rumours, and we’ve never considered closing Millennium down. The best thing that could happen is for Dahlman to go out and tip off the other mass media. If you’re able to give Dahlman a tip about a plausible but fundamentally idiotic story, so much the better.”
They spent an hour concocting a script and dividing up the various roles.

After the meeting Blomkvist had coffee with Malm at Java on Horngatspuckeln.
“Christer, it’s really important that you pick up Erika at the airport and fill her in. You have to convince her to play along with the game. If I know her, she’ll want to confront Dahlman instantly—but that can’t happen. I don’t want Wennerstr?m to hear any kind of buzz and then manage to bury the evidence.”
“Will do.”
“And see to it that Erika stays away from her email until she installs the PGP encryption programme and learns how to use it. It’s pretty likely that through Dahlman, Wennerstr?m is able to read everything we email to each other. I want you and everyone else in the editorial offices to install PGP. Do it in a natural way. Get the name of a computer consultant to contact and have him come over to inspect the network and all the computers in the office. Let him install the software as if it were a perfectly natural part of the service.”
“I’ll do my best. But Mikael—what are you working on?”
“What exactly?”
“For the time being, that has to remain my secret.”
Malm looked uncomfortable. “I’ve always trusted you, Mikael. Does this mean that you don’t trust me?”
Blomkvist laughed.
“Of course I trust you. But right now I’m involved in rather serious criminal activities that could get me two years in prison. It’s the nature of my research that’s a little dubious…I’m playing with the same underhand methods as Wennerstr?m uses. I don’t want you or Erika or anyone else at Millennium to be involved in any way.”
“You’re making me awfully nervous.”
“Stay cool, Christer, and tell Erika that the story is going to be a big one. Really big.”
“Erika will insist on knowing what you’re working on…”
Mikael thought for a second. Then he smiled.
“Tell her that she made it very clear to me in the spring when she signed a contract with Henrik Vanger behind my back that I’m now just an ordinary mortal freelancer who no longer sits on the board and has no influence on Millennium policy. Which means that I no longer have any obligation to keep her informed. But I promise that if she behaves herself, I’ll give her first option on the story.”
“She’s going to go through the roof,” Malm said cheerfully.
Blomkvist knew that he had not been entirely honest with Malm. He was deliberately avoiding Berger. The most natural thing would have been to contact her at once and tell her about the information in his possession. But he did not want to talk to her. A dozen times he had stood with his mobile in his hand, starting to call her. Each time he changed his mind.
He knew what the problem was. He could not look her in the eyes.
The cover-up in which he had participated in Hedestad was unforgivable from a professional point of view. He had no idea how he could explain it to her without lying, and if there was one thing he had never thought of doing, it was lying to Erika Berger.
Above all, he did not have the energy to deal with that problem at the same time as he was tackling Wennerstr?m. So he put off seeing her, turned off his mobile, and avoided talking to her. But he knew that the reprieve could only be temporary.
Right after the editorial meeting, Mikael moved out to his cabin in Sandhamn; he hadn’t been there in over a year. His baggage included two boxes of printouts and the CDs that Salander had given him. He stocked up on food, locked the door, opened his iBook, and started writing. Each day he took a short walk, bought the newspapers, and shopped for groceries. The guest marina was still filled with yachts, and young people who had borrowed their father’s boat were usually sitting in the Divers’ Bar, drinking themselves silly. Blomkvist scarcely took in his surroundings. He sat in front of his computer more or less from the moment he opened his eyes until he fell into bed at night, exhausted.

Encrypted email from editor in chief <> to publisher on leave of absence <>: Mikael. I want to know what’s going on—good grief, I’ve come back from holiday to total chaos. The news about Janne Dahlman and this double game you’ve come up with. Martin Vanger dead. Harriet Vanger alive. What’s going on in Hedeby? Where are you? Is there a story? Why don’t you answer your mobile?/E.

P.S. I understood the insinuation that Christer relayed with such glee. You’re going to have to eat your words. Are you seriously cross with me?

P.P.S. I am trusting you for the time being, but you are going to have to give proof—you remember, the stuff that stands up in court—on J.D.

From <>
To <>:

Hi Ricky. No, for God’s sake, I’m not cross. Forgive me for not keeping you updated, but the past few months of my life have been topsy-turvy. I’ll tell you everything when we see each other, but not by email. I’m at Sandhamn. There is a story, but the story is not Harriet Vanger. I’m going to be glued to my computer here for a while. Then it’ll be over. Trust me. Hugs and kisses. M.

From <>
To <>:

Sandhamn? I’m coming to see you immediately.

From <>
To <>:

Not right now. Wait a couple of weeks, at least until I’ve got the story organised. Besides, I’m expecting company.

From <>
To <>:

In that case, of course I’ll stay away. But I have to know what’s going on. Henrik Vanger has become CEO again, and he doesn’t answer my calls. If the deal with Vanger is off, I absolutely need to know. Ricky

P.S. Who is she?

From <>
To <>

First of all: no question of Henrik pulling out. Bu............
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