The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium series Book 4) (28 page)

But Salander, who was still communicating with them at the time, had been against the idea. No-one yet knew where the leak had come from, she had written, and they could not rule out the mother’s immediate circle. Lasse Westman for one, whom nobody trusted, seemed to be staying in the house all day to avoid the journalists camped outside. They were in a bind, and Berger did not like it. She hoped
Millennium
would still be able to tell the story with dignity and depth, without the magazine or anyone else coming to harm. She had no doubt that Blomkvist would be up to it, given the way he looked right now. Besides, he had Zander to help him.

Berger had a soft spot for Zander. Not long ago, over dinner at her and Greger’s home in Saltsjöbaden, he had told them his life story, which had only increased her sympathy.

When Zander was eleven he lost both his parents in a bomb blast in Sarajevo. After that he came to live in Tensta outside Stockholm with an aunt who altogether failed to notice either his intellectual disposition or the psychological wounds he bore. He had not been there when his parents were killed, but his body reacted still as if he were suffering from post-traumatic stress. To this day he detested loud noises and sudden movements. He hated seeing unattended bags in public places, and loathed violence with a passion Berger had never encountered in anyone else.

As a child he sought refuge in his own worlds. He immersed himself in fantasy literature, read poetry and biographies, adored Sylvia Plath, Borges and Tolkien and learned everything there was to know about computers. He dreamed of writing heart-rending novels about love and human tragedy, and was an incurable romantic who hoped that great passion would heal his wounds. He was not in the least bit interested in the outside world. One evening in his late teens, however, he attended a public lecture given by Mikael Blomkvist at the Institute for Media Studies at Stockholm University. It changed his life.

Blomkvist’s fervour inspired him to bear witness to a world which was bleeding with injustice, intolerance and petty corruption. He started to imagine himself writing articles critical of society instead of tear-jerking romances. Not long after that he knocked on
Millennium
’s
door and asked if there was anything they would let him do – make coffee, proofread, run errands. Berger, who had seen the fire in his eyes right from the start, assigned him some minor editorial tasks: public notices, research and brief portraits. But most of all she told him to study, and he did so with the same energy he put into everything else. He read political science, mass-media communications, finance and international conflict resolution, and at the same time he helped out on temporary assignments at
Millennium
.

He wanted to become a heavyweight investigative journalist, like Blomkvist. But unlike so many other investigative journalists he was no tough guy. He remained a romantic. Blomkvist and Berger had both spent time trying to sort out his relationship problems. He was too open and transparent. Too good, as Blomkvist would often say.

But Berger believed that Zander was in the process of shedding that youthful vulnerability. She had been seeing the change in his journalism. That ferocious ambition to reach out and touch people, which had made his writing heavy-handed at first, had been replaced by a more effective, matter-of-fact style. She knew he would pull out all the stops now that he had been given the chance to help Blomkvist with the Balder story. The plan was for Blomkvist to write the big, central narrative, and for Zander to help with the research as well as writing some explanatory sidebars. Berger thought they made a great team.

After parking on Hökens gata she walked into the offices and found Blomkvist and Zander sitting there, deep in concentration, just as she expected. Every now and then, however, Blomkvist muttered to himself and she saw that magnificent sense of purpose in his eyes, but there was also suffering. He had hardly slept all night. The media campaign against him had not let up and in his police interviews he had had to do the very thing the press accused him of – withhold information. Blomkvist did not like it one atom.

He was in many ways a model, law-abiding citizen. But if there was anyone who could get him to cross the line, it was Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist would rather dishonour himself than betray her, which is why he kept repeating to the police: “I assert my right to protect my sources.” No wonder he was unhappy and worried about the consequences. But, like Berger, he had far greater fears for Salander and the boy than for their own situation.

“How’s it going?” she asked, after watching him for a while.

“What? … Well … O.K. How was it out there?”

“I made up the beds and put food in the fridge.”

“Good. And the neighbours didn’t see you?”

“There wasn’t a soul there.”

“Why are they taking so long?” he said.

“I just don’t know, but I’m worried sick.”

“Let’s hope they’re resting at Lisbeth’s.”

“Let’s hope so. What else did you find out?”

“Quite a bit. But …” Blomkvist trailed off.

“Yes?’

“It’s just that … it feels as if I’m being thrown back in time, going back to places I’ve been to before.”

“You’ll have to explain better,” she said.

“I will …” Blomkvist glanced at his computer screen. “But first I have to keep on digging. Let’s speak later,” he said, and so she left him and got her things to drive home, although she would be ready to stay with him at a second’s notice.

CHAPTER 20

23.xi

The night turned out to be calm, alarmingly calm, and at 8.00 in the morning a brooding Bublanski stood facing his team in the meeting room. Having kicked out Faste, he felt reasonably sure that he could talk freely again. At least he felt safer in here with his colleagues than at his computer, or on his mobile.

“You all appreciate how serious the situation is,” he said. “Confidential information has been leaked. One person is dead as a result. A small boy’s life is in danger. In spite of immense efforts we still don’t know how this happened. The leak could have been at our end, or at Säpo, or at Oden’s Medical Centre, or in the group around Professor Edelman, or from the boy’s mother and her partner, Lasse Westman. We know nothing for certain, and therefore we have to be
extremely
circumspect, paranoid even.”

“We may also have been hacked or phonetapped,” Modig said. “We seem to be dealing with criminals whose command of new technologies is far beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

“Very true,” Bublanski said. “We need to take precautions at every level, not say anything significant relating to this investigation – or to any other – over the telephone, no matter how highly our superiors rate our new mobile-phone system.”

“They think it’s great because it cost so much to install,” Holmberg said.

“Maybe we should also be reflecting a little on our own role,” Bublanski said, ignoring him. “I was just talking to a gifted young analyst at Säpo, Gabriella Grane – you may have heard of her. She pointed out that the concept of loyalty is not as straightforward as one might think for us policemen. We have many different loyalties, don’t we? There’s the obvious one, to the law. There’s a loyalty to the public, and to one’s colleagues, but also to our bosses, and to ourselves and our careers. Sometimes, as all of you know, these interests end up competing with each other. We might choose to protect a colleague at work and thereby fail in our duty to the public, or we might be given orders from higher up, as Hans Faste was, and then that conflicts with the loyalty he should have had to us. But from now on – and I’m deadly serious – there’s only one loyalty I want to hear of, and that is to the investigation itself. We’re going to catch the murderers and we’re going to make sure that no-one else falls victim to them. Agreed? Even if the prime minister himself or the head of the C.I.A. calls and goes on about patriotism and major career opportunities, you still won’t utter a peep, will you?”

“No,” they said, as one.

“Excellent. As we all know, the person who intervened on Sveavägen was none other than Lisbeth Salander, and we’re doing everything in our power to find out where she is.”

“Which is why we’ve got to release her name to the media!” Svensson called out, somewhat heatedly. “We need help from the public.”

“We don’t all agree on this, so I’d like to raise the question again. Let’s remember that in the past Lisbeth Salander has had some very shabby treatment, from us and from the media …”

“At this point that doesn’t matter,” Svensson said.

“And it’s conceivable that people recognized her on Sveavägen and her name will come out at any moment anyway, in which case this would no longer be an issue. But before that happens, bear in mind that she saved the boy’s life.”

“No doubt about that,” Svensson said. “But then she more or less kidnapped him.”

“Our information suggests that she was determined to protect the boy at all costs,” Modig said. “Salander’s experience of public institutions has been anything but positive – her entire childhood was marred by the injustices inflicted on her by Swedish officialdom. If she suspects, as we do, that there’s a leak inside the police force, then there’s no chance she’s going to contact us. Fact.”

“That’s irrelevant,” Svensson insisted.

“Maybe,” Modig said. “Jan and I share your view that the most important thing here is whether it’s in the interests of the investigation to release her name. And as to the investigation, our priority is the boy’s safety, and that’s where we have a big element of uncertainty.”

“I follow your reasoning,” Holmberg said in a low, thoughtful tone which immediately commanded everyone’s attention. “If people know of Salander’s involvement then the boy will be at risk. But that still leaves a number of questions – first: what’s the ethical thing to do? And I have to say, even if there’s been a leak here we cannot accept that Salander should keep the boy hidden away. He’s a crucial part of the investigation and, leak or no leak, we’re better at protecting a child than an emotionally disturbed young woman could ever be.”

“Absolutely. Of course,” Bublanski muttered.

“And even if this isn’t a kidnapping in the ordinary sense – yes, even if it’s been carried out with the best of intentions – the potential harm to the child could be just as great. Psychologically it must be hugely damaging for him to be, as it were, on the run after everything he’s been through.”

“True,” Bublanski said. “But the question still remains: how do we deal with the information we have?”

“There I agree with Curt. We have to release her name and photograph right away. It could produce invaluable leads.”

“Probably,” Bublanski said. “But it could at the same time help the killers. We have to assume that they haven’t given up looking for the boy. Quite the opposite in fact. And since we have no idea what the connection is between the boy and Salander, we don’t know what sort of clues her name would provide them with. I’m not persuaded that we would be protecting the boy by giving the media these details.”

“But neither do we know if we’re protecting him by holding them back,” Holmberg said. “There are too many pieces of the puzzle missing for us to draw any conclusions. Is Salander doing this for someone else, for example? Or does she have her own agenda for the child, apart from to protect him?”

“And how could she have known that Torkel Lindén and the boy would come out onto Sveavägen at that exact moment?” Svensson said.

“Maybe she just happened to be there.”

“Doesn’t seem likely.”

“The truth is often unlikely,” Bublanski said. “That’s the nature of truth. But I agree, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence in this case, not under the circumstances.”

“What about the fact that Mikael Blomkvist also knew something was going to happen?” Amanda Flod said.

“There’s some sort of connection between Blomkvist and Salander,” Holmberg said.

“True.”

“Blomkvist knew that the boy was at Oden’s Medical Centre, didn’t he?”

“The mother told him,” Bublanski said. “As you might imagine, she’s feeling quite desperate now. I’ve just had a long conversation with her. But there was no reason on earth why Blomkvist should have known that Lindén and the boy would be tricked into going out onto the street.”

“Could he have had access to a computer at Oden’s?” Flod said pensively.

“I can’t imagine Mikael Blomkvist getting involved in hacking,” Modig said.

“But what about Salander?” Holmberg said. “What do we actually know about her? We have a massive file on the girl. Yet the last time we had anything to do with her, she surprised us on every count. Maybe appearances are just as deceptive this time around.”

“I agree,” Svensson said. “We have far too many question marks.”

“Question marks are about all we have. And that’s exactly why we ought to stick to the rules,” Holmberg said.

“I didn’t realize the rule book covered quite so much,” Bublanski said, with a sarcasm he regretted.

“I only mean that we should take this for what it is – the kidnapping of a child. They disappeared almost twenty-four hours ago. We haven’t heard a word from them. We should put out Salander’s name and picture and then look carefully at all the tip-offs that come in,” Holmberg said with authority. He seemed to have the backing of the whole group, and at that Bublanski closed his eyes and reflected that he loved them all. He felt a greater affinity with his team than he did for his own brothers and sisters, or even his parents. But right now he felt compelled to disagree with them.

“We’ll do everything we can to try to find them. But for the time being we will not release the name and picture. That would only make the situation more fraught, and I don’t want to risk giving the killers any leads at all.”

“And you feel guilty,” Holmberg said, without warmth.

“I feel very guilty,” Bublanski said, thinking of his rabbi.

Blomkvist was so worried about the boy and Salander that he hardly slept. Time and again he had tried to reach Salander via the Redphone app, but she had not answered. He had not heard a word from her since yesterday afternoon. Now he was sitting in the office, trying to immerse himself in his work and figure out what it was that had escaped him. For some time already he had had a sense – impossible to put his finger on – that there was a key piece missing, something which could shed light on the whole story. Perhaps he was fooling himself. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, a need to see a grand design. The last message from Salander on the encrypted link was:


There were some images of Bogdanov on the net. They showed him wearing pinstriped suits which fit perfectly but still managed to look wrong on him, as if he had stolen them on the way to the photographer’s. Bogdanov had long, lank hair, a pockmarked face and large rings under his eyes and you could just about make out some amateurish tattoos beneath his shirt cuffs. His look was dark, intense and piercing. He was tall, but he cannot have weighed more than sixty kilos.

He looked like an old jailbird, but, most striking, there was something about his body language which Blomkvist recognized from the images on the surveillance cameras at Balder’s place. The man gave the same tattered, rough-edged impression.

There were also interviews he had given as a businessman in Berlin in which he vouchsafed that he had been born more or less on the streets. “I was doomed to end up dead in an alleyway with a needle stuck in my arm. But I managed to pull myself out of the muck. I’m intelligent and I’m one hell of a fighter,” he said. There was nothing in the details of his life to contradict these claims, save for the suspicion that he may not have been raised exclusively through his own efforts. There were clues to suggest he had been given a helping hand by powerful people who had spotted his talent. In a German technology magazine, a security chief at the Horst credit institution was quoted as saying, “Bogdanov has magic in his eyes. He can detect vulnerabilities in security systems like no-one else. He’s a genius.”

So Bogdanov was a star hacker, although the official version had him acting only as a “white hat”, someone who served the good, legal side, who helped companies identify flaws in their I.T. security in exchange for decent compensation. There was nothing in the least suspicious about his company, Outcast Security. The board members were all respectable, well-educated people. But Blomkvist did not leave it at that. He and Zander scrutinized every individual who had had any contact with the company, even partners of partners, and they noticed that somebody called Orlov had been a deputy board member for a short time. This seemed strange, because Vladimir Orlov was no I.T. man, but a minor player in the construction sector. He had once been a promising heavyweight boxer in the Crimea and, judging by the few pictures Blomkvist found online, he looked ravaged and brutal.

There were rumours that he had been convicted of grievous bodily harm and procuring. He had been married twice – both wives were dead, and Blomkvist had not been able to find a cause of death in either case. But the most interesting discovery he made was that the man had served as a substitute board member of a company – minor and long-since defunct – by the name of Bodin Construction & Export, which had dealt in “sales of construction materials”.

The owner of the company had been Karl Axel Bodin, the alias of Alexander Zalachenko, a name that revived memories of the evil conspiracy which became the subject of
Millennium
’s greatest scoop. Zalachenko who was Salander’s father, and her dark shadow, the black heart behind her throbbing determination to exact revenge.

Was it a coincidence that his name had cropped up? Blomkvist knew better than anyone that if you dig deep enough into a story, you will always find links. Life is constantly treating us to illusory connections. It was just that, when it came to Lisbeth Salander, he stopped believing in coincidence.

If she broke a surgeon’s fingers or delved into the theft of some advanced A.I. technology, you could be sure that she had not only thought it through to the last particle, she would also have a reason. Salander was not one to forget an injustice. She retaliated and she righted wrongs. Could her involvement in this story be connected to her own background? It was by no means inconceivable.

Blomkvist looked up from his computer and glanced at Zander. Zander nodded back at him. The faint smell of something cooking was coming from the kitchen. Thudding rock music could be heard from Götgatan. Outside the storm was howling, and the sky was still dark and wild. Blomkvist went into the encrypted link out of habit, not expecting to find anything. But then his face lit up. He even let out a small whoop of joy.

It said:


He wrote:


Then he could not resist adding:


She answered at once:


“O.K.” was an exaggeration. Salander was better, but still in bad shape. For half of yesterday, in her apartment, she had been barely conscious and only managed with the greatest difficulty to drag herself out of bed to see that August had something to eat and drink and make sure he had pencils, crayons and paper. But as she approached him now she could see even from a distance that he had drawn nothing.

There was paper scattered all over the coffee table in front of him, but no drawings. Instead she saw rows of scribbles. More absent-mindedly than out of curiosity she tried to make out what they were – he had written numbers, endless series of numbers, and even if at first they made no sense to her, she was intrigued. Suddenly she gave a whistle.

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