The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series (7 page)

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“Lucky man.”

“Very lucky.”

“In what ways is he different from me?”

“Leo, he’s …” She paused.

“He’s what?”

“For starters he’s not a leech like you, always sucking information from the people around you. He’s a thinker, a philosopher.”

“We leeches have always been a little primitive.”

“You’re a catch, Mikael. You know that,” she said. “But you’re more of a cowboy. You don’t have time to stand around and dither like some Hamlet.”

“So Mannheimer’s a Hamlet.”

“He should never have ended up in the finance industry, that’s for sure.”

“Where should he be instead?”

“In music. He plays the piano like a god. He’s got perfect pitch, he’s incredibly gifted. Plus he’s just not that into money.”

“Not a great quality in a finance guy.”

“No indeed. Must have had it too good when he was a kid. He’s not hungry enough. Why are you interested in him?”

“He has some pretty exciting ideas about the hacker attack.”

“That could be. But you won’t find any dirt on him, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because it was my job to keep tabs on those guys, and to be totally straight with you …”

“Yes?”

“… I doubt that Leo’s capable of real deceit. Instead of making shady investments or generally misbehaving, he sits at home playing his grand piano and feeling miserable.”

“So why’s he in the business?”

“Because of his dad.”

“Who was a big shot.”

“Definitely a big shot. Also best friends with old Alfred Ögren himself, and totally self-obsessed. He was determined that Leo should become a financial genius, take over his interest in Alfred’s company, and go on to build a power base for himself in the Swedish economy. And Leo … what can I say…?”

“Tell me.”

“He doesn’t have much backbone. He let himself be talked into it, and in fact he didn’t do a bad job. He never does anything badly. But he wasn’t that brilliant either, not in the way he could have been. He lacks the drive. One day he told me he felt like something vital had been taken away from him. He carries a wound.”

“A wound?”

“Something bad from his childhood. I never got close enough to understand it, even though, briefly …”

“Briefly what?”

“Nothing, we were just playing around, I guess.”

Blomkvist decided not to pursue it.

“I read that he took time off to travel,” he said.

“After his mother’s death.”

“How did she die?”

“Oh, it was grim. Pancreatic cancer.”

“Poor guy.”

“I actually thought it would do him some good.”

“Oh?”

“His parents were always on his case. I hoped he might have a chance to tear himself away from the world of finance and seriously start to play the piano or whatever. You know, right before I quit Alfred Ögren, Leo was on top of the world. I never found out why. For a brief moment he seemed to escape the cloud hanging over him. But then he was worse than ever. It was heartbreaking.”

“Was his mother still alive then?”

“Yes, but not for much longer.”

“Where did he go, on his travels?”

“No idea. I’d left the company by then.”

“And in the end he returned to Alfred Ögren.”

“I suppose he didn’t have the courage to break free.”

“He’s giving lectures now.”

“Maybe that’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “Why does he interest you?”

“He compares the attacks in Brussels to other known disinformation campaigns.”

“Russian campaigns, right?”

“He describes it as a modern form of warfare, which intrigues me.”

“Lies as weapons.”

“Lies as a way of creating chaos and confusion. Lies as an alternative to violence.”

“Isn’t there evidence that the hacker attack was directed from Russia?” she said.

“Yes, but no-one knows who in Russia is behind it.The gentlemen in the Kremlin claim to have nothing to do with it, of course.”

“Do you suspect that gang you’ve been chasing, the Spiders?”

“The thought had occurred to me.”

“I doubt Leo could help you there.”

“Maybe not, but I’d like …”

He seemed to have lost his train of thought.

“… to buy me a drink?” she suggested. “Shower me with flattery and praise and expensive presents? Take me to Paris?”

“What?”

“Paris. A city in Europe. Said to have a conspicuous tower.”

“Leo’s being interviewed live on stage at the Fotografiska Museum tomorrow,” he said, as if he hadn’t been listening. “Why don’t you tag along? We might learn something.”

“Learn something? For Christ’s sake, Mikael, is that all you’ve got to offer a damsel in distress?”

“For the moment, yes,” he said and sounded distracted again, which upset her even more.

“You’re an idiot, Blomkvist!” she spat and hung up. She stood there on the pavement, seething with an old familiar rage that went hand-in-hand with talking to him.

But soon she calmed down. A memory which had nothing to do with Blomkvist rose slowly to the surface. In her mind’s eye she could see Mannheimer in his office at Alfred Ögren late one night, writing on a sheet of sand-coloured paper. There was something about the scene which seemed to carry a message, spreading like mist over Strandvägen. For a little while Malin Frode stood lost in her thoughts. Then she wandered down towards Dramaten and Berns Hotel, cursing at ex-husbands, former lovers and other representatives of the male species.

Blomkvist realized that he had put his foot in it and was considering calling back and apologizing, maybe even asking her to dinner. But then a thousand and one thoughts crowded in and instead he called Annika. Annika Giannini was not only his sister, she was also Salander’s lawyer. Maybe she would have an idea of what Salander was searching for. She was scrupulous about client confidentiality, but she could be forthcoming if sharing the information was helpful to her client.

There was no answer at first, but she rang back half an hour later and confirmed at once that Salander seemed changed. Annika thought Salander’s eyes had been opened to what was going on in the maximum security unit and could now see that it was unsafe. That’s why Giannini had been pushing for Salander to be transferred. But Salander had refused to go. She had things to do, she said. And, so she insisted, she was not in any danger. But there were others, especially a young woman called Faria Kazi, who had been the victim of honour-related violence at home and was being abused in jail, too.

“That’s an interesting case,” Giannini said. “I’m thinking of taking it on too. We may well have a common interest here, Mikael.”

“What do you mean?”

“You land a good story, and I might get some help with my research. Something about it doesn’t feel quite right.”

Blomkvist did not take the bait. Instead he said:

“Have you heard any more about the threats against Lisbeth?”

“Not really, except that there’s a frightening number of sources. All the talk is about her sister, those criminals in Russia and the Svavelsjö M.C.”

“What are you doing about it?”

“Everything I can, Mikael. What do you think? I’ve put pressure on the prison to ramp up their efforts to guard her. Right now I don’t see any acute danger. But there’s something else that may have affected her.”

“What’s that?”

“Holger Palmgren went to see her.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, no, it was apparently a sight to see. But he insisted. I think it was important to him to go.”

“I can’t even imagine how he managed to make it to Flodberga.”

“I helped him with the red tape and Lisbeth paid for the transport there and back. And there was a nurse in the car. He rolled into the jail in his wheelchair.”

“Did the visit upset her?”

“She doesn’t get upset easily, of course. But she and Holger are close, we both know that.”

“Could Holger have said something to get her going?”

“Like what?”

“Something about her past, maybe. Nobody knows what went on there better than he does.”

“She hasn’t said so. The only thing she feels strongly about at the moment is that woman Faria Kazi.”

“Have you heard of someone called Leo Mannheimer?”

“Sounds familiar. Why do you ask?”

“Just thinking.”

“Did Lisbeth mention him?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

“Fine, but if you want to know what she and Holger talked about, it’s probably best if you contact him yourself,” Giannini said. “I think Lisbeth would appreciate it if you kept an extra eye on him just now.”

“I will,” he said.

They hung up and he called Palmgren at once. The line was busy, again and again for ages, and then suddenly there was no answer. Blomkvist considered going straight out to Liljeholmen. Then he thought about Palmgren’s health. He was old and sick, in considerable pain. He needed his rest. Blomkvist decided to wait and instead kept going with his research into the Mannheimer family and Alfred Ögren. He turned up a lot.

He always found stuff when he dug deep. But there was nothing that stood out or seemed to be linked to Salander or the hacker attack. So he changed his strategy, precisely because of Palmgren and the old man’s knowledge about Salander’s childhood. Blomkvist thought it by no means impossible that Mannheimer belonged to her past in some way; she had after all been talking about old lists of names. He therefore decided to go way back in time, at least as far back as the internet and databases would allow. An article in
Uppsala Nya Tidning
caught his eye; for a short while this story had attracted a certain amount of attention because it had been picked up in a T.T. telegram which went out the same day. As far as he could tell, the incident had not been mentioned again, probably out of consideration for the people involved and because of the more indulgent approach of the media at that time – especially when it came to the elite.

The dramatic event had taken place during an elk hunt in Östhammar twenty-five years earlier. The Alfred Ögren hunting party, which Mannheimer’s father Herman belonged to, had headed back out to the woods after an extended lunch. Wine had no doubt been consumed. It seems that there was bright sunlight and for various reasons the group had dispersed. After two elk had been sighted among the trees, shots were fired. An older man by the name of Per Fält, who at the time was C.F.O. of the Rosvik group, said that he had become disorientated by the excitement and confused by the animals’ rapid movements. He fired a shot and heard a scream and a cry for help. A young psychologist called Carl Seger, one of the hunting party, had been hit in the stomach, just below the chest. He died not long after, beside a small brook.

Nothing in the ensuing police investigation suggested that it had been anything other than an accident, still less that either Alfred Ögren or Herman Mannheimer had been involved. But Blomkvist thought he might be onto something, especially after he learned that Per Fält, the man who fired the fatal shot, had died a year later, without leaving a wife or children. In an inconsequential obituary he was described as a “steadfast friend” and a dedicated and loyal colleague in the Rosvik group.

Blomkvist looked out of the window, lost in thought. The sky had darkened over Riddarfjärden. A shift in the weather was coming and once more the damned rain had started to fall. He stretched his back and massaged his shoulders. Could the psychologist who had been shot have had any connection to Leo Mannheimer?

There was no way of knowing. This could be a dead end, a meaningless tragedy. Even so, Blomkvist tried to find as much information as he could about the psychologist. There was not much. When Carl Seger died, he was thirty-two and had just got engaged. He had completed his doctorate at Stockholm University the year before, his thesis had been on the impact of hearing on self-perception. An “empirical study”, it was called.

It was not available online and he could not discover exactly what the findings were, even though Seger had touched briefly on the same topic in other essays Blomkvist managed to find on Google Scholar. In one, the psychologist described a classic experiment which demonstrated how subjects identify a picture of themselves more quickly, among hundreds of others, if the picture has been embellished to make them appear more attractive. It is an evolutionary advantage to over-estimate ourselves when we need to mate or seek leadership in our group, but this also entails a risk:

“Having too much faith in our capabilities can hinder development. Self-doubt plays a decisive role in our intellectual maturity,” Seger wrote. Not exactly ground-breaking, but it was interesting at least that he referred to studies of children and the importance of self-confidence.

Blomkvist went into the kitchen to clear the table and tidy up around the sink. He resolved that he would hear Mannheimer’s talk at the Fotografiska Museum, even without Malin. He was going to get to the bottom of this story. But before he could take his thoughts further, there was a ring at the door. He was annoyed – people should really telephone ahead. He went to open the door anyway.

CHAPTER 5

18.vi

Faria Kazi sat huddled on the bed in her cell, arms clasped around her knees. She was nothing more than a pale, vanishing shadow, that is how she thought of herself. But nearly everyone who met her was enchanted. It had been that way ever since she came to Sweden from Bangladesh at the age of four – and now she was twenty.

Faria grew up in a tower block in the Stockholm suburb of Vallholmen with four brothers, one younger and three older. Her childhood was uneventful. Her father, Karim, set up a chain of dry cleaners, became relatively prosperous, and later he bought an apartment with large picture windows in Sickla.

Faria played basketball and did well at school, especially in languages, and she loved to sew and to draw manga comic strips. But in her teenage years her freedom was gradually taken away from her. She knew it was a direct result of the wolf-whistles she attracted in the neighbourhood once she hit puberty. Yet she was convinced that the change came from the world beyond, like a cold wind from the east. The situation worsened when her mother, Aisha, died of a massive stroke. The family lost not only a mother, but also a window on the world and a force for reason.