The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series (5 page)

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He still had no idea what she was up to, though he could tell from her body language and her muttering that she did not quite reach her goal. After four and a half hours she gave up. He heaved a sigh of relief. He needed to pee. He needed to get home and see that Vilda was alright and go to sleep and forget about the world. But Salander told him to sit still and shut up. She had one more thing to do. She rebooted and typed in some new commands. He realized to his horror that she was trying to hack into the prison’s computer system.

“Don’t do it,” he said.

“You don’t like the governor, do you?”

“What?”

“Me neither,” she said. And then she did something he did not want to see.

She began to read Fager’s e-mails and files. And he just let her. Not only because he hated the prison’s governor, or because everything had already gone too far. It was the way she used the computer. It seemed like an extension of her body, an instrument she played like a virtuoso, and this made him trust her. Maybe it was irrational, he had no idea. But he let her keep going, launching new attacks.

The monitor went black again, and once more those words:
ACCESS GRANTED
. What the hell? There on the screen he saw the corridor in the unit right outside. It lay still and dark. She played the same sequence of film several times, as if expanding it, or replaying a segment over and over. For a long while Olsen sat with his hands in his lap and his eyes closed, hoping that this agony would soon be over.

At 1.52 a.m. Salander stood up abruptly and muttered “Thank you”. Without asking what she had done, he escorted her past the sally port gates back to her cell and wished her good night. Then he drove home and hardly slept – except for a short while just before dawn, when he dreamed about Benito and her daggers.

CHAPTER 4

17 – 18.vi

Fridays were Lisbeth days.

Once a week on a Friday afternoon Blomkvist went to visit Salander in jail. He looked forward to it, especially now that he had come to terms with the situation and stopped being so angry. It had taken a while.

The prosecution and the verdict against her had made him furious. He ranted and raved on television and in the newspapers. But when eventually he realized that Salander herself did not care, he came to see her point of view. So long as she could keep on with her quantum physics and her workouts, it made no difference whether she was in prison or anywhere else. Perhaps she even saw her time inside as an experience, an opportunity. She was funny that way. She took life as it came and often when he worried about her she just smiled at him, even when she was transferred to Flodberga.

Blomkvist did not like Flodberga. Nobody did. It was the only maximum security women’s prison in Sweden, and Salander had ended up there because Ingemar Eneroth, the head of the national prison service, had insisted it was the safest place for her. Both Säpo and D.G.S.E., the French intelligence service, had picked up threats against her, said to come from her sister Camilla’s criminal network in Russia.

It could well be true. It could also be bullshit. But since Salander had no objection to being transferred, that’s what happened, and in any case there was not much left of her sentence to run. Maybe it was fine after all. Salander had seemed in unusually good spirits the previous Friday. Prison meals could be classified as health-food compared to the junk she ordinarily stuffed herself with.

Blomkvist was on the train to Örebro, going through the summer issue of
Millennium
on his laptop. It was due to go to the printers on Monday. The rain was pouring down outside. According to the forecasts, this would be the hottest summer in years. But the rain had been relentless, falling day after day, and Blomkvist longed to escape to his house in Sandhamn to find some peace. He had been working hard.
Millennium
’s finances were in good shape. After his revelations about senior figures within the U.S. National Security Agency colluding with organized crime syndicates in Russia to steal corporate secrets all over the world, the magazine’s star had risen again. But their success had also brought worries. Blomkvist and the editorial management were under pressure to bring the magazine more into the digital landscape. It was a positive development, inevitable in the new media climate, but incredibly time-consuming. Discussions about social media strategy interfered with his concentration. He had begun to dig into several good stories, but had not got to the bottom of any of them.

It didn’t help that the person who had handed him the scoop about the N.S.A. – Salander – was behind bars. He was in her debt.

He looked out of the train window, badly wanting to be left in peace. Wishful thinking. The elderly lady sitting next to him, who had been asking incessant questions, now wanted to know where he was going. He tried to be evasive. She meant well, like most people who bothered him these days, but he was relieved when he had to cut their conversation short to get off at Örebro. He ran through the rain to catch his connecting bus. It was ridiculous to have to travel for forty minutes in an old Scania bus without air conditioning, given that the prison was situated so close to the railway line, but there was no nearby train station. It was 5.40 p.m. by the time he began to make out the dull-grey concrete wall of the prison. At seven metres high, ribbed and curved, it looked like a gigantic wave frozen in the middle of a terrifying assault on the open plain. The pine forest was a mere line on the distant horizon and there was not a human dwelling in sight. The prison entrance gate was so close to the railway-crossing barriers that there was only room for one car at a time to pass in front of it.

Blomkvist stepped off the bus and was let through the steel gates. He made his way to the guard post and put his telephone and keys in a grey locker. As he went through the security check it felt as though they were deliberately giving him a hard time, as so often happened. A man in his thirties with a tattoo and a crew cut even grabbed his crotch. Then a drug sniffer dog was led in, a black Labrador. Did they really imagine he would try to smuggle drugs into the prison?

He chose to ignore it all and set off down the endless corridors with a taller and slightly more pleasant prison officer. The sally port gates were opened automatically by staff in the monitoring centre, who were following their progress via C.C.T.V. cameras in the ceiling. It was a while before they arrived at the visitors’ section, and he was kept waiting for a long time.

So it was hard to say exactly when he noticed something was amiss.

It was probably when Olsen appeared. Olsen was sweating profusely and seemed uneasy. He uttered a few polite remarks as he ushered Blomkvist into the visitors’ room at the end of the corridor. Salander was wearing her worn and washed-out prison uniform, which was always ridiculously loose on her. Normally she would stand up when he came in. Now she just sat there, tense and apprehensive. With her head tilted slightly to one side, she was staring past him. She was uncharacteristically still, and answered his questions in monosyllables, never once meeting his eye. In the end he had to ask her if something had happened.

“That depends on how you look at it,” she said, and he smiled. It was a start, at least.

“Do you want to tell me more?”

She did not – “not now, and not in here” – and there was silence. The rain was hammering down on the exercise yard and the wall beyond the barred window. Blomkvist gazed blankly around the room.

“Do I need to worry?” he said.

“You certainly do,” she said with a grin. It was hardly the joke he had been hoping for. But it did relieve the tension and he smiled a little too, and asked if there was anything he could help with. For a while neither spoke, and then she said “maybe”, which surprised him. Salander never asked for help unless she badly needed it.

“Great. I’ll do whatever you want – within reason,” he said.

“Within reason?”

She was smirking again.

“I prefer to avoid criminal activity,” he said. “It would be a shame for both of us to end up in here.”

“You’d have to settle for a men’s prison, Mikael.”

“Unless my devastating charm gives me special dispensation to come here. What’s going on?”

“I have some old lists of names,” she said, “and something isn’t right about them. For example, there’s this guy called Leo Mannheimer.”

“Leo Mannheimer.”

“Right, he’s thirty-six. It’ll take you no time to find him on the net.”

“That’s a start. What should I be looking for?”

Salander glanced around the visitors’ room, as if Blomkvist might find there what he was meant to be looking for. Then she turned and with an absent look said:

“I don’t honestly know.”

“Am I supposed to believe that?”

“Broadly, yes.”

“Broadly?”

He felt a stab of irritation.

“O.K., so you don’t know. But you want him checked out. Has he done anything in particular? Or does he just seem shady?”

“You probably know the securities firm he works for. But I’d prefer your investigation to be unbiased.”

“Come on,” he said. “I need more than that. What are those lists you mentioned?”

“Lists of names.”

She was being so cryptic and vague that for a moment he imagined she was simply winding him up, and they would soon go back to chatting, as they had the previous Friday. Instead, Salander stood up and called for the guard and said that she wanted to be taken back to her unit.

“You’ve got to be joking.”

“I don’t joke,” she said.

He wanted to curse and shout and tell her how many hours it had taken him to travel to Flodberga and back, and that he could easily find better things to do with himself on a Friday evening. But he knew it was pointless. So he stood and hugged her, and with a little fatherly authority told her to take care of herself. “Maybe,” she said, and with any luck she was being ironic. Already she seemed lost in other thoughts.

He watched as she was led away by Olsen. He did not like the quiet determination in her step. Reluctantly he let himself be escorted in the other direction, back to the security gates where he opened his locker and retrieved his mobile and keys. He decided to treat himself to a taxi to Örebro Central Station, and on the train to Stockholm he read a novel by Peter May, a Scottish crime writer. As a sort of protest he put off checking up on Leo Mannheimer.

Olsen was relieved that Blomkvist’s visit had been so short. He had worried that Salander was giving the journalist a story about Benito’s domination of the unit, but there hadn’t been time for that, which was the only good news. Olsen had worked damned hard to try to get Benito transferred. But nothing came of it, and it didn’t help that several of his colleagues had stood up for her and assured the prison management that no new measures were necessary. The outrage was allowed to continue.

For the time being all Salander did was watch and wait. In fact, she had given him five days in which to straighten things out by himself and to protect Faria Kazi. Then Salander would step in – that at least is what she threatened. Five days had now passed without Olsen having managed to effect a single change. On the contrary, the atmosphere in the unit had become even tenser and more unpleasant. Something ugly was brewing.

It seemed as if Benito were preparing for a fight. She was building fresh alliances and getting an unusual number of visitors. This generally meant that she was getting an unusual amount of information. Worst of all, she was stepping up the intimidation and violence against Faria Kazi. It was true that Salander was never far away, and that helped. But it annoyed Benito. She hissed and threatened Salander and once in the gym Olsen overheard what she said.

“Kazi is my whore,” she spat. “Nobody but me forces that brown tart to arch her back!”

Salander gritted her teeth and looked at the floor. Olsen had no idea if it was because of her deadline, or whether she felt powerless. He suspected the latter. However gutsy the girl might be, she did not have anything she could use against Benito. Benito was on a life sentence – she had nothing to lose – and her gorillas, Tine and Greta and Josefin, were behind her. Lately Olsen had been afraid that he would see the glint of steel in her hands.

He was always on at the staff working the metal detectors, and he had her cell searched over and over again. Still he worried that this was not enough. He imagined he could see Benito and her sidekicks passing things between them, drugs or glinting objects. Or maybe it was just his mind playing tricks. His life was made no easier by the fact that there had been a threat against Salander from the outset. Every time the alarm went off or he took a call on his radio, he feared that something had happened to her. He had even tried to persuade her to agree to solitary confinement, but she had refused. He was not strong enough to insist. He was not strong enough for anything.

He was cut through by guilt and by worry and kept looking over his shoulder. On top of which he was doing a crazy amount of overtime, and that upset Vilda and put a strain on his relations with his aunt and the neighbours. The ventilation system was defunct, so the unit was unbearably airless and hot. He was sweating like a pig. He felt mentally worn out and kept looking at his watch, waiting for a call from Fager to tell him that Benito was to be moved out. But no call came. Olsen had for the first time been entirely open with Fager about the situation so either the prison governor was an even bigger fool than he had believed, or else he too was corrupt. It was hard to know which.

After the cell doors were locked on Friday evening Olsen went back to his office to gather his thoughts. But he was not left in peace for long. Salander called on the intercom. She wanted to use his computer again. She said very little and her look was dark. He did not get home until late that night either, and more than ever before he felt they were on a countdown to disaster.

On Saturday morning at Bellmansgatan, Blomkvist was reading a paper copy of
Dagens Nyheter
as usual, and on his iPad the
Guardian
, the
New York Times
, the
Washington Post
and
New Yorker
. He was downing cappuccinos and espressos, eating yoghurt with muesli along with cheese and liver paté sandwiches, and he let time drift, as he always did when he and Erika had sent off the final proof of
Millennium
magazine.

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