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Book by Larsson Stieg
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Thursday, December 16 — Friday, December 17
Lisbeth Salander pulled her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and squinted from beneath the brim of her sun hat. She saw the woman from room 32 come out of the hotel side entrance and walk to one of the green-and-white-striped chaises-longues beside the pool. Her gaze was fixed on the ground and her progress seemed unsteady.
Salander had only seen her at a distance. She reckoned the woman was around thirty-five, but she looked as though she could be anything from twenty-five to fifty. She had shoulder-length brown hair, an oval face, and a body that was straight out of a mail-order catalogue for lingerie. She had a black bikini, sandals, and purple-tinted sunglasses. She spoke with a southern American accent. She dropped a yellow sun hat next to the chaise-longue and signalled to the bartender at Ella Carmichael’s bar.
Salander put her book down on her lap and sipped her iced coffee before reaching for a pack of cigarettes. Without turning her head she shifted her gaze to the horizon. She could just see the Caribbean through a group of palm trees and the rhododendrons in front of the hotel. A yacht was on its way north towards St Lucia or Dominica. Further out, she could see the outline of a grey freighter heading south in the direction of Guyana. A breeze made the morning heat bearable, but she felt a drop of sweat trickling into her eyebrow. Salander did not care for sunbathing. She had spent her days as far as possible in shade, and even now was under the awning on the terrace. And yet she was as brown as a nut. She had on khaki shorts and a black top.
She listened to the strange music from steel drums flowing out of the speakers at the bar. She could not tell the difference between Sven-Ingvars and Nick Cave, but steel drums fascinated her. It seemed hardly feasible that anyone could tune an oil barrel, and even less credible that the barrel could make music like nothing else in the world. She thought those sounds were like magic.
She suddenly felt irritated and looked again at the woman, who had just been handed a glass of some orange-coloured drink.
It was not Lisbeth Salander’s problem, but she could not comprehend why the woman stayed. For four nights, ever since the couple had arrived, Salander had listened to the muted terror being played out in the room next door to hers. She had heard crying and low, excitable voices, and sometimes the unmistakable sound of slaps. The man responsible for the blows — Salander assumed he was her husband — had straight dark hair parted down the middle in an old-fashioned style, and he seemed to be in Grenada on business. What kind of business, Salander had no idea, but every morning the man had appeared with his briefcase, in a jacket and tie, and had coffee in the hotel bar before he went outside to look for a taxi.
He would come back to the hotel in the late afternoon, when he took a swim and sat with his wife by the pool. They had dinner together in what on the surface seemed to be a quiet and loving way. The woman may have had a few too many drinks, but her intoxication was not noisome.
Each night the commotion in the next-door room had started just as Salander was going to bed with a book about the mysteries of mathematics. It did not sound like a full-on assault. As far as Salander could tell through the wall, it was one repetitive, tedious argument. The night before, Salander had not been able to contain her curiosity. She had gone on to the balcony to listen through the couple’s open balcony door. For more than an hour the man had paced back and forth in the room, going on about what a shit he was, that he did not deserve her. Again and again he said that she must think him a fraud. No, she would answer, she did not, and tried to calm him. He became more intense, and seemed to give her a shake. So at last she gave him the answer he wanted . . . You’re right, you are a fraud. And this he at once took as a pretext to berate her. He called her a whore, which was an accusation that Salander would have taken measures to combat if it had been directed at her. It had not been, but nevertheless she thought for a long time about whether she ought to take some sort of action.
Salander had listened in astonishment to this rancorous bickering, which all of a sudden ended with something that sounded like a slap in the face. She had been on the point of going into the hotel corridor to kick in her neighbours’ door when silence descended over the room.
Now, as she scrutinized the woman by the pool, she could see a faint bruise on her shoulder and a scrape on her hip, but no other injury.
Some months earlier Salander had read an article in a Popular Science that someone had left behind at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome, and she developed a vague fascination with the obscure topic of spherical astronomy. On impulse she had made her way to the university bookshop in Rome to buy some of the key works on the subject. To be able to get a grasp of spherical astronomy, however, she had had to immerse herself in the deeper mysteries of mathematics. In the course of her travels in recent months she had been to other university bookshops to seek out more books.
Her studies had been unsystematic and without any real objective, at least until she wandered into the university bookshop in Miami and came out with Dimensions in Mathematics, by Dr L. C. Parnault (Harvard University Press, 1999). That was just before she went down to the Florida Keys and began island-hopping through the Caribbean.
She had been to Guadeloupe (two nights in a hideous dump), Dominica (fun and relaxed, five nights), Barbados (one night at an American hotel where she felt terribly unwelcome), and St Lucia (nine nights). She would have considered staying longer had she not made an enemy of a slow-witted young hoodlum who haunted the bar of her backstreet hotel. Finally she lost patience and whacked him on the head with a brick, checked out of the hotel, and took a ferry to St George’s, the capital of Grenada. This was a country she had never heard of before she bought her ticket for the boat.
She had come ashore on Grenada in a tropical rainstorm at 10.00 one November morning. From The Caribbean Traveller she learned that Grenada was known as Spice Island and was one of the world’s leading producers of nutmeg. The island had a population of 120,000, but another 200,000 Grenadians lived in the United States, Canada, or Britain, which gave some indication of the employment market in their homeland. The terrain was mountainous around a dormant volcano, Grand Etang.
Grenada was one of many small, former-British colonies. In 1795, Julian Fedon, a black planter of mixed French ancestry, led an uprising inspired by the French Revolution. Troops were sent to shoot, hang or maim a considerable number of the rebels. What had shaken the colonial regime was that even poor whites, so-called petits blancs, had joined Fedon’s rebellion without the least regard for racial boundaries. The uprising was crushed, but Fedon was never captured; he vanished into the mountainous Grand Etang and became a Robin Hood-like legend.
Some two hundred years later, in 1979, a lawyer called Maurice Bishop started a new revolution which the guidebook said was inspired by the Communist dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua. But Salander was given a different picture of things when she met Philip Campbell — teacher, librarian, and Baptist preacher. She had taken a room in his guesthouse for the first few days. The gist of it was that Bishop was a popular folk leader who had deposed an insane dictator, a U.F.O. nutcase who had devoted part of the meagre national budget to chasing flying saucers. Bishop had lobbied for economic democracy and introduced the country’s first legislation for sexual equality. And then in 1983 he was assassinated.
There followed a massacre of more than a hundred people, including the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Women’s Affairs, and some senior trade union leaders. Then the United States invaded the country and set up a democracy. As far as Grenada was concerned, this meant that unemployment rose from around 6 per cent to almost 50 per cent, and that the cocaine trade once more became the largest single source of income. Campbell shook his head in dismay at the description in Salander’s guidebook and gave her some tips on the kinds of people and the neighbourhoods she should avoid after dark.
In Salander’s case, such advice normally fell on deaf ears. However, she had avoided making the acquaintance of the criminal element on Grenada by falling in love with Grand Anse Beach, just south of St George’s, a sparsely populated beach that went on for miles. There she could walk for hours without having to talk to or even encounter another living soul. She moved to the Keys, one of the few American hotels on Grand Anse, and stayed for seven weeks, doing little more than walking on the beach and eating the local fruit, called chin-ups, which reminded her of sour Swedish gooseberries — she found them delightful.
It was the off season, and barely a third of the rooms at the Keys Hotel were occupied. The only problem was that both her peace and quiet and her preoccupation with mathematical studies had been disturbed by the subdued terror in the room next door.
Mikael Blomkvist rang the doorbell of Salander’s apartment on Lundagatan. He did not expect her to open the door, but he had fallen into the habit of calling at her apartment every week or so to see whether anything had changed. He lifted the flap on the letterbox and could see the same heap of junk mail. It was late, and too dark to make out how much the pile might have grown since his last visit.
He stood on the landing for a moment before turning on his heel in frustration. He returned unhurriedly to his own apartment on Bellmansgatan, put on some coffee and looked through the evening papers before the late T.V. news Rapport came on. He was irritated and depressed not to know where Salander was. He felt stirrings of unease and wondered for the thousandth time what had happened.
He had invited Salander to his cabin in Sandhamn for the Christmas holidays. They had gone for long walks and calmly discussed the repercussions of the dramatic events in which they had both been involved over the past year, when Blomkvist went through what he came to think of as an early mid-life crisis. He had been convicted of libel and spent two months in prison, his professional career as a journalist had been in the gutter, and he had resigned from his position as publisher of the magazine Millennium more or less in disgrace. But at that point everything had turned around. A commission to write a biography of the industrialist Henrik Vanger — which he had regarded as an absurdly well-paid form of therapy — had turned into a terrifying hunt for a serial killer.
During this manhunt he had met Salander. Blomkvist unconsciously stroked the faint scar that the noose had left beneath his left ear. Salander had not only helped him to track down the killer — she had saved his life.
Time and again she had amazed him with her odd talents — she had a photographic memory and phenomenal computer skills. Blomkvist considered himself virtually computer illiterate, but Salander handled computers as if she had made a pact with the Devil. He had come to realize that she was a world-class hacker, and within an exclusive international community devoted to computer crime at the highest level — and not only to combating it — she was a legend. She was known online only as Wasp.
It was her ability to pass freely into other people’s computers that had given him the material which transformed his professional humiliation into what was to be “the Wennerström affair” — a scoop that a year later was still the subject of international police investigations into unsolved financial crimes. And Blomkvist was still being invited to appear on T.V. talk shows.
At the time, a year ago, he had thought of the scoop with colossal satisfaction — as vengeance and as rehabilitation. But the satisfaction had soon ebbed. Within a few weeks he was sick and tired of answering the same questions from journalists and the financial police. I am sorry, but I am not able to reveal my sources. When a reporter from the English-language Azerbaijan Times had come all the way to Stockholm to ask him the same questions, it was the last straw. Blomkvist cut the interviews to a minimum, and in recent months he relented only when the woman from She on T.V.4 talked him into it, and that had happened only because the investigation had apparently moved into a new phase.
Blomkvist’s cooperation with the woman from T.V.4 had another dimension. She had been the first journalist to pounce on the story, and without her programme on the evening that Millennium released the scoop, it might not have made the impact it did. Only later did Blomkvist find out that she had had to fight tooth and nail to convince her editor to run it. There had been massive resistance to giving any prominence to “that clown” at Millennium, and right up to the moment she went on air, it was far from certain that the battery of company lawyers would give the story the all-clear. Several of her more senior colleagues had given it the thumbs down and told her that if she was wrong, her career was over. She stood her ground, and it became the story of the year.
She had covered the story herself that first week — after all, she was the only reporter who had thoroughly researched the subject — but some time before Christmas Blomkvist noticed that all the new angles in the story had been handed over to male colleagues. Around New Year Blomkvist heard through the grapevine that she had been elbowed out, with the excuse that such an important story should be handled by experienced financial reporters, and not some little girl from Gotland or Bergslagen or wherever the hell she was from. The next time T.V.4 called, Blomkvist explained frankly that he would talk to them only if “she” asked the questions. Days of sullen silence went by before the boys at T.V.4 capitulated.
Blomkvist’s waning interest in the Wennerström affair coincided with Salander’s disappearance from his life. He still could not understand what had happened.
They had parted two days after Christmas and he had not seen her for the rest of the week. On the day before New Year’s Eve he telephoned her, but there was no answer.
On New Year’s Eve he went twice to her apartment and rang the bell. The first time there had been lights on, but she had not answered the door. The second time there were no lights. On New Year’s Day he called her again, and still there was no answer, but he did get a message from the telephone company saying that the subscriber could not be reached.
He had seen her twice in the next few days. When he could not get hold of her on the telephone, he went to her apartment in early January and sat down to wait on the steps beside her front door. He had brought a book with him, and he waited stubbornly for four hours before she appeared through the main entrance, just before 11.00 at night. She was carrying a brown box and stopped short when she saw him.
“Hello, Lisbeth,” he said, closing his book.
She looked at him without expression, no sign of warmth or even friendship in her gaze. Then she walked past him and stuck her key in the door.
“Aren’t you going to offer me a cup of coffee?” he said.
She turned and said in a low voice: “Get out of here. I don’t want to see you ever again.”
Then she shut the door in his face, and he heard her lock it from the inside. He was bewildered.
Three days later, h...
Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.
But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.
As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
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