Authors: David Lagercrantz
Balder left a telephone number and an email address and Blomkvist jotted them down and sat still for a while, drumming his fingers on the kitchen table. Then he dialled the number.
Balder was lying in bed, agitated and scared. Yet he was feeling a little calmer now. The car coming up his drive had been the police guard arriving at long last. Two men in their forties, one tall and one quite short, both looking cocky and with the same short, trendy haircut. But they were perfectly polite and apologized for the delay in taking up their post.
“Milton Security and Gabriella Grane at the Security Police briefed us on the situation,” one said.
They were aware that a man wearing a cap and dark glasses had been snooping around the property and that they had to be on their guard. Therefore they turned down the offer of a cup of hot tea in the kitchen. They wanted to check out the house and Balder thought that sounded perfectly professional and sensible. In other respects they did not make a very positive impression, but then he did not get an overwhelmingly negative impression either. He had put their numbers into his mobile and gone back to bed to be with August, who was sleeping, curled up, his green earplugs still in place.
But of course Balder had not been able to fall asleep again. He was listening for noises out there in the storm and eventually he sat up in bed. He had to do something, or he would go mad. He checked his mobile. He had two messages from Linus Brandell, who sounded bad-tempered and defensive all at the same time. At first Balder felt like hanging up. But then he caught a couple of things which were interesting after all. Linus had spoken to Mikael Blomkvist at
magazine and now Blomkvist wanted to get in touch, and at that Balder began to think. Mikael Blomkvist, he muttered.
Is he to be my link with the outside world?
Balder knew very little about Swedish journalists. But he did know who Blomkvist was, and was aware of his reputation as someone who always went right to the heart of his stories, never yielding to pressure. That in itself did not necessarily make him the right man for the job – plus, somehow Balder seemed to recall hearing other less flattering things – so he called Gabriella Grane again. She knew just about everything there was to know about the media scene and had said that she would be staying up late.
“Hello,” she answered right away. “I was about to get in touch. I’m just looking at that man on the C.C.T.V. We really ought to move you now, you know.”
“But my God, Gabriella, the police are here – finally. They’re sitting right outside the front door.”
“There’s no reason to suppose that the man will come through the front door.”
“Why would he come at all? The man at Milton said he looked like an old junkie.”
“I’m not so sure about that. He’s carrying some sort of box, something technical. We should play this safe.”
Balder glanced at August lying next to him.
“I’m quite happy to move tomorrow. That might help my nerves. But I’m not going anywhere tonight – your policemen seem professional, professional enough at any rate.”
“If you’re going to be stubborn about this I’ll see to it that Flinck and Blom make themselves conspicuous and cover the entire property.”
“Fine, but that’s not why I’m calling. You said I ought to go public, remember?”
“Well … yes … That’s not the kind of advice you would expect from the Security Police, is it? I still think it would be a good idea, but first I’d like you to tell
what you know. I’m feeling a little apprehensive about this story.”
“In that case let’s talk tomorrow morning, when we’ve had a good sleep. But one thing, what do you think of Mikael Blomkvist at
? Could he be the right sort of person to talk to?”
Grane gave a laugh. “If you want my colleagues to have an apoplectic fit, then definitely talk to him.”
“Is it as bad as that?”
“At Säpo people avoid him like the plague. If you find Blomkvist on your doorstep, then you know your whole year is shot, they say. Everybody here, including Helena Kraft, would advise against it in the strongest terms.”
“But it’s you I’m asking.”
“Well, my answer is that your reasoning is sound. He’s a damn fine journalist.”
“Hasn’t he also come in for some criticism?”
“For sure, people have been saying that he’s past his prime and that his writing isn’t positive or upbeat enough, or whatever. But he’s an old-fashioned investigative reporter of the highest calibre. Do you have his contact details?”
“My ex-assistant gave them to me.”
“Good, great. But before you get in touch with him, you must first tell us what you have. Do you promise?”
“I promise, Gabriella. Now I’m going to sleep for a few hours.”
“Do that, and I’ll keep in touch with Flinck and Blom and arrange a safe house for you first thing in the morning.”
After he had hung up he tried again to get some rest. But it proved as impossible this time as before. The storm made him increasingly restless and worried. It felt as if something evil was travelling across the sea towards him, and he could not help listening anxiously for any unusual sounds.
It was true that he had promised Grane he would talk to her first. But he could not wait – everything he had kept bottled up for so long was throbbing to get out. He knew it was irrational; nothing could be that urgent. It was the middle of the night and, regardless of what Grane had said, he was by any reckoning safer than he had been for a long time. He had police protection and a first-rate security system. But that did not help. He was agitated, and so he got out the number Linus had given him and dialled it. But of course Blomkvist did not answer.
Why would he? It was far too late, and Balder left a voice message instead in a slightly forced, whispered voice so as not to wake August. Then he got up and put on his bedside light. On the bookshelf by the bed there was some literature which had nothing to do with his work, and both absent-minded and worried he flicked through an old novel by Stephen King,
. But that made him think even more about evil figures travelling through the night. For a long time he just stood there with the book in his hand – then he felt a stab of apprehension, which he might have dismissed as nonsense in broad daylight but which now seemed totally plausible. He had a sudden urge to speak to Farah or better still Steven Warburton in Los Angeles, who would be certain to be awake, and while imagining all sorts of unpleasant scenarios, he looked out to sea and the night and the restless clouds scudding across the sky. At that moment his mobile rang, as if it had heard his prayer. But it was neither Farah nor Warburton.
“My name is Mikael Blomkvist,” the voice said. “You’ve been looking for me.”
“That’s right. I’m sorry to have called so late.”
“No problem. I was awake anyway.”
“Can you talk now?”
“Absolutely, I was in fact just answering a message from a person whom I think we both know. Lisbeth Salander.”
“Sorry, maybe I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I thought you had hired her to go through your computers and trace a suspected data breach.”
Balder laughed. “Yes, my God, she’s a strange girl, that one,” he said. “But she never told me her surname, even though we had a lot of contact for a while. I assumed she had her reasons, and I never pushed her. I met her at one of my lectures at the Royal Institute of Technology. I’d be happy to tell you about it; it was pretty astonishing. But what I meant to ask was … well, you’ll probably think it’s a crazy idea.”
“Sometimes I like crazy ideas.”
“You wouldn’t feel like coming over right now? It would mean a lot to me. I’m sitting on a story which I think is pretty explosive. I can pay for your taxi here and back.”
“Thanks, but I always pick up my own tab. Tell me, why do we have to talk now, in the middle of the night?”
“Because …” Balder hesitated. “Because I have a feeling this is urgent, or actually it’s more than a feeling. I’ve just been told that I’m under threat, and an hour or so ago someone was snooping around my property. I’m frightened, to be completely honest, and I want to get this information off my chest. I no longer want to be the only one in the know.”
“I’ll come – if I can manage to get hold of a taxi.”
Balder gave him the address and hung up, then called Professor Warburton in Los Angeles, and had an intense conversation with him on an encrypted line for about thirty minutes. Then he put on a pair of jeans and a black cashmere polo neck and went in search of a bottle of Amarone, in case that was the kind of thing Blomkvist might enjoy. But he got no further than the doorway before he started in fright.
He thought he had seen a movement, something flashing past, and looked anxiously towards the jetty and the sea. But it was the same desolate, storm-lashed scene as before, and he dismissed whatever it was as a figment of his imagination, a product of his nervous frame of mind, or at least he tried to. He left the bedroom and walked past the large window on his way towards the upper floor. Suddenly gripped by a new fear, he spun around again and this time he really did glimpse something over by the house next door.
A figure was racing along in the shelter of the trees, and even if Balder did not see the person for more than a matter of seconds, he could make out that it was a powerfully built man with a rucksack and dark clothes. The man ran in a crouch and something about the way he moved had a trained look to it, as if he had run like that many times before, perhaps in a distant war. It took a few moments for Balder to fumble for his mobile, and he tried to work out which of the numbers on his call list belonged to the policemen out there.
He had not put their names into his contacts, and now was uncertain. With a shaking hand he tried one which he thought was right. No-one answered, not at first. The ring tone sounded three, four, five times before a voice panted out, “Blom here, what’s up?”
“I saw a man running along the line of trees by my neighbour’s house. I don’t know where he is now. But he could very well be up by the road near you.”
“O.K., we’ll check it out.”
“He seemed …” Balder said.
“I don’t know, quick.”
Dan Flinck and Peter Blom were sitting in the police car chatting about their young colleague, Anna Berzelius, and the size of her bum.
Both had recently got divorced. Their divorces had been pretty painful at first. They both had young children, wives who felt let down and parents-in-law who to varying degrees called them irresponsible shits. But once the dust had settled and they had got shared custody of the children and new if modest homes, they had both been struck by the same realization: that they missed their bachelor days. Lately, during the weeks when they were not looking after the kids, they had lived it up as never before. Afterwards, just like when they were in their teens, they had discussed all the parties in detail, especially the women they had met, reviewing their physiques from top to bottom, and their prowess in bed. But on this occasion they had not had time to discuss Anna Berzelius in as much depth as they would have liked.
Blom’s mobile rang and they both jumped, partly because he had changed his ringtone to an extreme version of “Satisfaction”, but mainly of course because the night and the storm and the emptiness out here had made them edgy. Besides, Blom had his telephone in his pocket, and since his trousers were tight – his waistline had expanded as a result of all the partying – it took a while before he could get it out. When he hung up he looked worried.
“What’s that about?” Flinck said.
“Balder saw a man, a quick bastard, apparently.”
“Down by the trees next to the neighbour’s house. The guy’s probably on his way up towards us.”
Blom and Flinck stepped out of the car. They had been outside many times over the course of this long night, but this was the first time they shivered right down to the bone. For an instant they just stood looking awkwardly to the right and the left, shocked by the cold. Then Blom – the taller of the two – took command and told Flinck to stay up by the road while he himself went down towards the water.
It was a short slope which extended along a wooden fence and a small avenue of newly planted trees. A lot of snow had fallen, it was slippery and at the bottom lay the sea.
, Blom thought, and in fact he was surprised that the water had not frozen over, but that may have been because of the waves. Blom cursed at the storm and at this night duty which wore him out and ruined his beauty sleep. He tried to do his job all the same, not with his whole heart perhaps, but still.
He listened out for sounds and looked about him, and at first he could not pick out anything from the surroundings. It was dark. Only the light from a single lamp post shone into the property, immediately in front of the jetty, and he went down, past a garden chair which had been flung about in the storm, and in the next moment he could see Balder through the large windowpane.
Balder was standing some way inside the house, bent over a large bed, his body in a tensed position. Perhaps he was straightening the covers, it was hard to tell. He seemed busy with some small detail in the bed. Blom should not be bothering about it – he was meant to be keeping watch over the property – yet there was something in Balder’s body language which fascinated him and for a second or two he lost his concentration before he was brought back to reality again.
He had a chilling feeling that someone was watching him, and he spun around, his eyes searching wildly. He saw nothing, not at first, and had just begun to calm down when he became aware of two things – a sudden movement by the shiny steel bins next to the fence, and the sound of a car up by the road. The engine stopped and a car door was opened.
Neither occurrence was noteworthy in itself. There could be an animal by the rubbish bins and cars could come or go here even late at night. Yet Blom’s body stiffened completely and for a moment he just stood there, not knowing how to react. Then Flinck’s voice could be heard.