The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium series Book 4) (26 page)

It stood on a rock promontory with steep, smooth sides, and the surrounding trees and elevation shielded it from onlookers. She remembered Grane saying, “If the hyenas come after you, you’re welcome to be here, Erika.”

Maybe it was asking too much, but she decided to give it a try. She went back to the office to call from the encrypted Redphone app which Zander had by then installed for her too.



Gabriella Grane was on her way to a meeting at Säpo when her personal mobile buzzed. The meeting had been called at very short notice to discuss the incident at Sveavägen. She answered tersely:


“It’s Erika.”

“Hi there. Can’t talk now. We’ll speak later.”

“I have a …” Berger said.

But Grane had already hung up – this was no time for personal calls. She walked into the meeting room wearing an expression that suggested she meant to start a minor war. Crucial information had been leaked and now a second person was dead and one more apparently seriously wounded. She had never felt more like telling the whole lot of them to go to hell. They had been so eager to get hold of new information that they had lost their heads. For half a minute she did not hear one word her colleagues were saying. She just sat there, seething. But then she pricked up her ears.

Someone was saying that Blomkvist, the journalist, had called the emergency services before shots were fired on Sveavägen. That was strange, and now Erika Berger had called, and she was not the type to make casual calls, and certainly not during working hours. She might have had something important or even critical to say. Grane got up and made an excuse.

“Gabriella, you need to listen to this,” Kraft said in an unusually sharp tone.

“I have to make a call,” she replied, and suddenly she was not in the least interested in what the head of the Security Police thought of her.

“What sort of call?”

“A call,” she said, and left them to go into her office.

Berger at once asked Grane to call her instead on the Samsung. The minute she had her friend on the line again, she could tell that something was going on. There was none of the usual friendly enthusiasm in her voice. On the contrary, Grane sounded worried and tense, as if she knew from the start that the conversation was important.

“Hi,” she said simply. “I’m still really pushed. But is this about August Balder?”

Berger felt acutely uncomfortable. “How did you know?”

“I’m on the investigation and I’ve just heard that Mikael Blomkvist was tipped off about what was going to happen on Sveavägen.”

“You’ve already heard that?”

“Yes, and now of course we’re eager to know how that came about.”

“Sorry. I can’t tell you that.”

“O.K. Understood. But why did you call?”

Berger closed her eyes. How could she have been such an idiot?

“I’m so sorry. I’ll have to ask somebody else,” she said. “You have a conflict of interest.”

“I’m happy to take on almost any conflict of interest, Erika. But I can’t stand the thought of your withholding information. This investigation means more to me than you can imagine.”


“Yes, it does. I knew that Balder was under serious threat, but still I couldn’t prevent the murder, and I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life. So, please, don’t hide anything from me.”

“I’m going to have to, Gabriella. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to get into trouble because of us.”

“I saw Mikael in Saltsjöbaden the night before last, the night of the murder.”

“He didn’t mention that.”

“It wouldn’t have made sense for me to identify myself.”

“I see.”

“We could help each other out in this mess.”

“That sounds like a good idea. I can ask Mikael to call you later. But now I have to get on with this.”

“I know just as well as you do that there’s a leak in the police team. At this stage we could benefit from unlikely alliances.”

“Absolutely. I’m sorry, but I have to press on.”

“O.K.,” Grane said, obviously disappointed. “I’ll pretend this call never happened. Good luck now.”

“Thanks,” Berger said, and went back to searching through her contacts.

Grane went back to the meeting room, her mind whirling. What was it that Erika had wanted? She did not fully understand and yet she had a vague idea. As she came back into the room the conversation died and everyone looked at her.

“What was that about?” Kraft said.

“Something private.”

“That you had to deal with now?”

“That I had to deal with. How far had you got?”

“We were talking about what happened on Sveavägen,” said Ragnar Olofsson, the head of division, “but as I was saying, we don’t yet have enough information. The situation is chaotic, and it looks as if we’re losing our source in Bublanski’s group. The detective inspector seems to have become paranoid.”

“You can’t blame him,” Grane said.

“Well … perhaps not. We’ve talked about that too. We’ll leave no stone unturned until we know how the attacker worked out that the boy was at the medical centre and that he was going to go out by the front door when he did. No effort will be spared, I need hardly say. But I must emphasize that a leak did not necessarily come from within the police. The information was quite widely known – at the medical centre of course, by the mother and her unreliable partner Lasse Westman, and in the offices of
. And we can’t rule out hacker attacks. I’ll come back to that. If I might continue with my report?”


“We’ve been discussing how Mikael Blomkvist comes into this, and this is where we’re worried. How could he know about a shooting before it happens? In my opinion, he’s got some source close to the criminals themselves, and I see no reason for us to tiptoe around his efforts to protect those sources. We have to find out where he got his information from.”

“The more so since he seems desperate and will do anything for a scoop,” Superintendent Mårten Nielsen said.

“It would appear that Mårten has some excellent sources too. He reads the evening papers,” Grane said acidly.

“Not the evening papers, sweetie. T.T. – a source which even we at Säpo regard as fairly reliable.”

“That was absurd and defamatory, and you know it as well as I do,” Grane said.

“I had no idea you were so besotted with Blomkvist.”


“Stop this at once!” Kraft said. “This is ridiculous behaviour! Carry on, Ragnar. What do we know about what happened?”

“The first people on the scene were two regular police officers, Erik Sandström and Tord Landgren,” Olofsson said. “My information comes from them. They were there on the dot of 9.24, and by then it was all over. Torkel Lindén was dead, shot in the back of the head, and the boy, well, we don’t know. According to witnesses, he was hit too. We have blood in the street. But nothing is confirmed. The boy was driven away in a red Volvo – we do at least have parts of the registration number plus the model of the vehicle. We’ll get the name of its owner very shortly.”

Grane noticed that Kraft was writing everything down, just as she had done at their earlier meetings.

“But what actually happened?” she said.

“According to two students from the School of Economics who were standing on the opposite side of Sveavägen, it looked like a settling of scores between two criminal gangs who were both after the boy.”

“Sounds far-fetched.”

“I’m not so sure,” Olofsson said.

“What makes you say that?” Kraft said.

“There were professionals on both sides. The assailant seems to have been standing and watching the door from a low green wall on the other side of Sveavägen, in front of the park. There’s a lot to suggest that this is the man who shot Frans Balder. Not that anyone has seen his face clearly; it’s possible he was wearing some sort of mask. But he seems to have moved with the same exceptional efficiency and speed. And in the opposite camp there was this woman.”

“What do we know about her?”

“Not much. She was wearing a black leather jacket, we think, and dark jeans. She was young with black hair and piercings – a punk, according to one witness – also short, but fierce. She appeared out of nowhere, throwing herself over the boy and shielding him. The witnesses all agree that she was not some ordinary member of the public. She seemed to have training, or had at least found herself in similar situations before. Then there’s the car – we have conflicting reports. One witness says it just happened to be driving by, and the woman and the boy threw themselves in more or less while it was moving. Others – especially those guys from the School of Economics – think the car was part of the operation. Either way, we have a kidnapping on our hands.”

“It doesn’t make sense. This woman saved the boy only to abscond with him?” Grane said.

“That’s what it looks like. Otherwise we would have heard from her by now, wouldn’t we?”

“How did she get to Sveavägen?”

“We don’t know yet. But a witness, a former editor-in-chief of a trade-union paper, says the woman looked somehow familiar,” Olofsson said.

He went on to say something else, but by then Grane had stopped listening. She was thinking,
Zalachenko’s daughter – it has to be Zalachenko’s daughter
, knowing full well how unfair it was to call her that. The daughter had nothing to do with the father. On the contrary, she had hated him.

But Grane had known her by that name ever since, years earlier, she had read everything she could lay her hands on about the Zalachenko affair. While Olofsson went on speculating, she began to feel the pieces were falling into place. Already the day before she had identified some commonalities between Zalachenko’s old network and the group which called itself the Spiders, but had dismissed them. She had believed there was a limit to how far thuggish criminals could develop their skills; it seemed entirely unreasonable to suppose that they could go from seedy-looking biker types in their leather waistcoats to cutting-edge hackers. Yet the thought had occurred to her. Grane had even wondered if the girl who helped Linus Brandell trace the break-in on Balder’s computers might have been Zalachenko’s daughter. There was a Säpo file on the woman, with a note that said “Hacker? Computer savvy?”, and even though it seemed prompted by the surprisingly favourable reference she had received for her work at Milton Security, it was clear from the document that she had devoted a great deal of time to research into her father’s criminal organization.

Most striking of all was that there was a known connection between the woman and Mikael Blomkvist. It was unclear what exactly that connection was; Grane did not for one moment believe the malicious rumours that it was a blackmail situation or something to do with sado-masochistic sex, but the connection was there. Both Blomkvist and the woman – who matched the description of Zalachenko’s daughter –appeared to have known something about the shooting on Sveavägen beforehand, and afterwards Erika Berger had rung to discuss something important. Wasn’t it all pointing in the same direction?

“I was wondering …” Grane said, perhaps too loudly, interrupting Olofsson.

“Yes?” he said testily.

She was about to present her theory when she noticed something which made her hesitate.

It was nothing so remarkable, not at all. It was just that Kraft was once again meticulously writing down what Olofsson had said. It was probably good to have a senior boss who was so committed, but there was something rather too zealous about that scratching pen, and it made Grane wonder if a senior boss, whose job it was to see the bigger picture, should be so preoccupied with every tiny detail. Without really knowing why, she began to feel very uneasy.

It may have been because she herself was busy pointing a finger at someone on flimsy grounds, but also Kraft seemed to blush at that moment perhaps because she realized that she was being observed, and looked away in embarrassment. Grane decided not to finish the sentence she had begun.

“Or rather …”

“Yes, Gabriella?”

“Oh, nothing,” she said, feeling a sudden need to get away, and even though she knew that it would not look good, she left the meeting room once more and went to the toilet.

Later she would remember how she stared at herself in the mirror and tried to understand what she had seen. Had Kraft really blushed, and if so, what did that mean? Maybe nothing, she decided, absolutely nothing, and, even if it was indeed shame or guilt that Grane had read in her face, it could have been about almost anything. It occurred to her that she did not know her boss all that well. But she knew enough to be sure that she would not send a child to his death for financial or any other gain, no, that was out of the question.

Grane had simply become paranoid, a typically suspicious spy who saw moles everywhere, even in her own reflection. “Idiot,” she muttered, and smiled at herself despondently, as if to dismiss the idea and come back down to earth. But that didn’t solve anything. In that instant she thought she saw a new kind of truth in her own eyes.

She suspected that she was quite like Helena Kraft in that she was capable and ambitious and wanted to get a pat on the back from her superiors. That was not necessarily always a good thing, though. With that tendency, if you operate in an unhealthy culture you risk becoming just as unhealthy yourself and – who knows – perhaps it is the will to please that leads people to crime just as often as evil or greed.

People want to fit in and do well, and so they do indescribably stupid things. Is that what had happened here? If nothing else then Hans Faste – because surely he was Säpo’s source in Bublanski’s group – had been leaking to them because that was what he was expected to do and because he wanted to score points with Säpo. Olofsson had seen to it that Kraft was kept informed of every little detail; she was his boss and he wanted to be in her good books and then … well, maybe Kraft in turn had passed on some information because she wanted to be seen to be doing a good job. But, if so, by whom? The head of the national police, the government, foreign intelligence, in that case most likely American or English, who perhaps then …

Grane did not take this train of thought any further. She asked herself again if she was letting her imagination run away with her but, even if she was, she still could not trust her team. She wanted to be good at her job, but not necessarily by doing her duty to Säpo. She just wanted the Balder boy to be safe. Instead of Kraft’s face she now saw Berger’s, so she went to her office and got out her Blackphone, the same one she had been using to call Frans Balder.

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