Authors: David Lagercrantz
Eventually he sat down at his computer and began a search on Leo Mannheimer. The name seemed to crop up in the business pages, though not often. Leo had a Ph.D. from the Stockholm School of Economics and was currently a partner and head of research at Alfred Ögren Securities, a company which Blomkvist – as Salander had guessed – knew well. They were reputable fund managers to the wealthy, even though managing director Ivar Ögren’s loud-mouthed, flamboyant style did not sit happily with the firm’s desire to be discreet.
Leo Mannheimer, in photos, appeared to be a slight man with alert, large blue eyes, curly hair and thick, slightly feminine lips. According to his latest tax return, he was worth eighty-three million kronor, not bad, but modest alongside the biggest beasts. The most noteworthy hit – at least so far – was an article in
from four years earlier that mentioned his remarkably high I.Q. He had been tested as a small boy and it had caused quite a stir at the time. Engagingly enough, he played it down.
“I.Q. doesn’t mean a thing,” he said in the interview. “Göring had a high I.Q. You can still be an idiot.” He spoke about the importance of empathy and sensitivity and all the things intelligence tests don’t measure, and he pointed out that it was unworthy, almost dishonest, to put a number on somebody’s capacities.
He did not come across as a crook. But then crooks are often very good at presenting themselves as the saintliest of saints, and Blomkvist was not going to let himself be impressed by the large amounts of money Mannheimer apparently gave to charity, or the fact that he seemed bright and modest.
Blomkvist supposed that the reason Salander had given him Mannheimer’s name was not to have him held up as a shining example for all mankind. But he had no way of knowing. He was meant to search with an open mind, prejudices should not intrude. Why was she being so unhelpful? He stared out towards Riddarfjärden and retreated into his thoughts. For once it was not raining. The sky was clearing, and it looked as if it was going to turn into a beautiful morning. He considered going out for one more cappuccino down at Kaffebar to finish his detective novel and forget all about Mannheimer, at least for the weekend. The Saturdays after they sent the magazine to press were the best days of the month, the only time he allowed himself the whole day off. On the other hand … he had promised.
Not only had Salander given him the scoop of the decade and helped restore
to its previous pedestal in the public eye. She had saved the life of a child and unravelled an international criminal conspiracy. If anything was certain it was that prosecutor Richard Ekström and the district court who convicted her were a bunch of idiots. Blomkvist was deluged with praise and admiration from all quarters, while the real hero was locked up inside a prison cell. So he kept reading up on Mannheimer, just as Salander had asked him to.
He did not turn up anything interesting, but he did soon discover that he and Mannheimer had something in common. Both had tried to get to the bottom of the hacker attack on Finance Security in Brussels. Admittedly half the journalists in Sweden and the entire financial market had been digging into it too, so the coincidence was not sensational, but still, perhaps this was a clue. Who knows, Mannheimer might have some insight of his own, some insider information about the attack.
Blomkvist had discussed the extraordinary events with Salander. She had been looking after her assets in Gibraltar at the time. It was on April 9 that year, just before she was due to go to prison, and she seemed strangely unconcerned. Blomkvist thought maybe she wanted to enjoy her last moments of freedom and not bother with the news, even if hacking was involved. But she might have been expected to show some interest and just possibly – he did not rule this out – she knew something about it.
He had been in the editorial offices on Götgatan that day when his colleague Sofie Melker told him that the banks were having problems with their websites. Blomkvist didn’t give it a second thought. The stock exchange was not responding to the news either. But then people began to notice that the domestic trading volume was low. Soon after that it dried up altogether, and thousands of customers discovered they could no longer access their holdings online. There were simply no assets in the securities accounts. A whole series of press releases went out:
We are experiencing technical difficulties and we are working to correct them. The situation is under control and will be resolved soon.
And yet the concerns grew. The krona exchange rate dropped, and suddenly there came a tsunami of rumours that the damage was so extensive it would not be possible to reconstruct the securities accounts in full: significant blocks of assets had simply gone up in smoke. No matter that the various authorities dismissed this as nonsense, the financial markets crashed. All trading stopped and there was much high-pitched shouting into telephones and crashing of mail servers. A bomb threat was made against the Swedish National Bank. Windows were smashed. Among other incidents, the financier Carl af Trolle kicked a bronze sculpture so hard that he broke eight bones in his right foot.
And just as the situation seemed about to get out of control, it was over. The assets reappeared in everyone’s accounts and the head of the central bank, Lena Duncker herself, announced that there had never been anything to worry about. That may have been correct. But the most interesting aspect of the scare was not I.T. security itself, it was the illusion and the panic.
What had triggered it?
It became clear that the central register of Swedish securities, called Värdepapperscentralen before it was sold to the Belgian company Finance Security (a sign of the times), had been the target of a “denial of service” attack, which revealed how vulnerable the financial system was. But that was not the whole picture. There was also the merry-go-round of imputations, warnings and plain lies which flooded social media, and which caused Blomkvist to exclaim that day:
“Is some bastard trying to make the market crash?”
He did get support for his theory during the days and weeks that followed. But like everyone else, he was unable to get to the root of the events. No suspects were ever identified, so after a while he let it go. The whole country let it go. The stock market went up once more. The economy blossomed. The markets became bullish again and Blomkvist turned to more pressing topics – the refugee catastrophe, the terrorist attacks, the rise of right-wing populism and fascism across Europe and the U.S. But now …
He remembered the dark look on Salander’s face in the visitors’ room and thought about the threats against her, about her sister Camilla and her circle of hackers and bandits. So he started searching again and came across an essay Leo Mannheimer had written for
magazine. Blomkvist was not impressed. Mannheimer had no new information. But parts of the article gave a good description of the psychological aspects of the incident. Blomkvist noted that Mannheimer would soon be giving a series of talks on the subject, under the heading “The Market’s Hidden Worry”. He was due to deliver a speech on the topic the following day, Sunday, at an event organized by the Swedish Shareholders’ Association, on Stadsgårdskajen.
For a minute or two Blomkvist studied the photos of Mannheimer online and tried to get beyond his first impression. He saw a handsome man with clean-cut features, but he thought he could also detect a melancholy streak in his eyes, which not even the stylized portrait on the company’s home page could conceal. Mannheimer never made any categorical statements. There was no sell, buy, act now! There was always doubt, a question. He was said to be analytical, and musical, interested in jazz, above all in older, so-called hot jazz.
He was thirty-six years old, the only child in a well-off family from Nockeby, west of Stockholm. His father Herman, who was fifty-four when Leo was born, had been C.E.O. of the Rosvik industrial group, and later in life sat on a number of boards. Herman owned 40 per cent of the share capital of no less a company than Alfred Ögren Securities.
His mother Viveka, née Hamilton, had been a housewife and active in the Red Cross. She seemed to have devoted much of her life to her son and to his talent. The few interviews she had granted betrayed a streak of elitism. In the
article about his high I.Q., Leo even hinted that she had been coaching him behind the scenes.
“I was probably a little unfairly well prepared for those tests,” he said and described himself as an unruly pupil during his early years in school, which, according to the author of the article, was typical for highly gifted and under-stimulated children.
Leo Mannheimer had a tendency to play down the complimentary and flattering things said about him, which could be seen as coy. But the impression Blomkvist got was rather that Mannheimer was burdened with guilt and anguish, as though he felt he had failed to live up to the expectations invested in him as a child. Yet he had nothing to be ashamed of. His doctoral thesis had been on the 1999 I.T. bubble and, like his father, he had become a partner at Alfred Ögren Securities. Most of his fortune looked to have been inherited and he had never stood out, in either a positive or negative way, at least not as far as Blomkvist could see.
The only remotely mysterious piece of information Blomkvist had unearthed was that Mannheimer had taken six months’ leave of absence as of January the previous year, to “travel”. Afterwards he had resumed his work, and started to give lectures and sometimes even appeared on television – not as a traditional financial analyst, more as a philosopher, an old-fashioned sceptic unwilling to pronounce on something so uncertain as the future. In his latest contribution to
’s webcast, on the rise of market prices during the month of May, he said:
“The stock exchange is like someone who just came out of a depression. Everything that hurt so badly before suddenly seems far away. I can only wish the market the best of luck.”
Obviously he was being sarcastic. For some reason Blomkvist watched the piece twice. Surely there was something interesting there? He thought so. It wasn’t just the way in which Mannheimer expressed himself. It was his eyes. Their sparkle was mournful and mocking, as if Mannheimer were musing over something quite different. Maybe that was one aspect of his intelligence – the ability to pursue many lines of thought at the same time – but he looked almost like an actor wanting to break out of his role.
That did not necessarily make Leo Mannheimer a good story. Even so, Blomkvist abandoned his plans to take time off and enjoy the summer, if only to show Salander that he would not give in so easily. He got up from his computer, paced about and then sat down again, like a restless spirit, and he surfed the net and rearranged his bookshelf and rummaged around in the kitchen. But the subject of Mannheimer never left him. At 1.00 p.m., as he was about to shave and grumpily weigh himself – one of his new habits – he burst out:
“Malin, for heaven’s sake.”
How could he have missed it? That was why Alfred Ögren Securities had seemed familiar. Malin Frode used to work there. She was one of his exes. A firebrand feminist and altogether passionate person – now press secretary at the Foreign Ministry – she and Blomkvist had loved and fought with equal intensity in the days after she had given up her job as director of communications at Alfred Ögren. Malin had long legs, beautiful dark eyes, and a remarkable ability to get under people’s skin. Blomkvist dialled her number and realized only afterwards that, faced with the temptation of the summer sun, he had missed Malin more than he cared to admit.
Malin Frode would have liked to do without her mobile on weekends. She wanted it to keep quiet and give her room to breathe, but it was a part of her job to be permanently accessible, so she always managed to sound pleasant and professional. One fine day she would explode.
These days she was a single mother, for all intents and purposes. Niclas, her ex-husband, wanted to be treated like a hero when he looked after his own son for the occasional weekend. He had just come to pick up the boy and threw out the comment:
“Go on then, have a good time, as usual!”
Presumably he was referring to the liaisons she had had when their marriage was irreparably over. She had smiled stiffly at him, hugged her six-year-old son, Linus, and said goodbye. But later she felt angry. She kicked a tin can in the street and swore to herself. And now her mobile was ringing, some global crisis no doubt. These days there was a never-ending stream of crises. But no – this time it was something much better.
It was Mikael Blomkvist, and on top of relief she felt a rush of longing. She looked over towards Djurgården at a lone sailing boat crossing the inlet. She had just emerged onto Strandvägen.
“What an honour,” she said.
“Hardly,” Blomkvist said.
“If only you knew. What have you been up to?”
“Isn’t that what you always do? Slave away?”
“I like you better when you’re on your back.”
“I probably prefer that too.”
“Lie down, then.”
She waited a second or two.
“Are you lying down now?”
“What are you wearing?”
“Liar. So, to what do I owe this honour?”
“It’s a business call.”
“What a fucking bore.”
“I know,” he said. “But I can’t stop thinking about that hacker attack on Finance Security.”
“Of course you can’t. You never let go of anything, apart from the women whose paths happen to cross yours …”
“I don’t let go of the women so easily either.”
“Apparently not, when you need them as sources. What can I do for you?”
“I’ve been reading that one of your old colleagues was trying to analyse that data breach too.”
“Who was that?”
“Leo,” she said.
“What’s he like?”
“A cool customer – and unlike you in other ways too.”