Authors: David Lagercrantz
“He should have sent her down.”
“Definitely, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not just because she had such huge PR value. He was also upset that she had had to take all that crap in the press. He wanted to show the world she could do it.”
“There’s some suggestion that Grankin wasn’t really himself during the climb up from Camp Four?”
“I’ve heard that too. Maybe he just exhausted himself trying to keep the group together.”
“How did he get on with Nima Rita?”
“Viktor had tremendous respect for him.”
“And what about the relationship between Klara and Nima?”
“Different…it was a bit special. They weren’t on the same planet.”
“Did she treat him badly?”
“He was very superstitious, you see.”
“Did she tease him about it?”
“A bit, maybe, but I don’t think that bothered him. He just got on with his job. It was something totally different that destroyed their relationship.”
“And what was that…?”
“He had a wife.”
“That’s it, her name was Luna. She meant everything to him, and I honestly think you could have said anything you liked to him. Treated him like dirt, as if he didn’t exist. He didn’t care. But one bad word about his wife and he became like thunder. One morning Luna came up to Base Camp with fresh bread and cheese, and mangoes and lychees and all sorts of other things in a decorated basket. She went around the tents, handing things out, and faces lit up and everyone thanked her. But as she was walking past Klara’s tent she tripped over a pair of crampons, I think, or a handbag or something else that Klara definitely didn’t need up there. Everything flew all over the gravel and Luna grazed her hands. There was actually no great drama, but Klara was sitting right there and instead of helping she just snapped, ‘Look where you’re going,’ and made a fuss. Basically she behaved like a stupid prima donna, and Nima was about to explode, I could see. I was afraid that he would lose his temper. But before anything could happen, Forsell appeared and helped Luna to her feet again and picked up the bread and fruit.”
“So Forsell was friendly with them?”
“He was friendly with everyone. Have you met him? Before everyone started to hate him, that is.”
“I interviewed him just when he’d been made Minister of Defence.”
“In that case you certainly won’t get what’s going on now. At that time, you see, everybody loved him. He was like a whirlwind. He stormed ahead, giving his thumbs-up sign, and he never stopped smiling. But you could be right, he may have had a particular relationship with Nima. He kept saying ‘Let me bow to the mountain legend,’ that sort of stuff, and would exclaim: ‘What a wife you have! What a beautiful woman,’ and of course that delighted Nima.”
“Did Nima then reciprocate in any way?”
“How do you mean?”
Mikael did not know how to put it, nor did he want to make any baseless accusations.
“Is it conceivable that Nima might have helped Forsell on the mountain, at the expense of Klara Engelman?”
Elin gave him a bewildered look.
“How on earth would that have worked?” she said. “Nima was with Viktor and Klara, wasn’t he, and Svante and Johannes went on ahead towards the summit on their own.”
“I know. But later? What happened then? It says everywhere that Klara was beyond rescue. But was she really?” he said, and then something unexpected happened.
Elin lost her temper.
“Too bloody right she was,” she said. “I get so fed up with this. A bunch of idiots who’ve never been anywhere near those altitudes, they think they know it all. But I can tell you…” She was almost lost for words. “Do you have the slightest idea what it’s like up there? You’re barely able to think, and it’s excruciatingly cold and tough, and if you’re really lucky you’ve just about got enough strength to look after yourself. To take one step at a time. No-one, not even a Nima Rita, can get a person down when they’re lying lifeless in the snow with their face frozen solid at twenty-seven thousand feet, and that’s how she was. We saw them ourselves on the way down, you know that, don’t you? She and Viktor with their arms around each other in the snow.”
“I do know.”
“And there was nothing to be done. Not a hope in hell of anybody being able to help her. She was dead.”
“I’m just double-checking the facts,” he said.
“Bullshit, I don’t believe that for one second. You were trying to imply something, weren’t you? You’re out to get Forsell, just like everyone else.”
he wanted to shout,
But instead he took a deep breath.
“I apologize,” he said. “I just think…”
do you think?”
“That there’s something about this story that doesn’t add up.”
“Like the fact that later Klara was no longer lying with Viktor. I know that wasn’t discovered until the following year, and that any number of things could have happened in between, avalanches and terrible storms. But still—”
“I don’t like what I’ve read of Svante Lindberg’s account either. I can’t help feeling that he hasn’t told the whole story.”
Elin calmed down and looked out at the garden.
“I’m inclined to agree with you,” she said.
“And why would you say so?”
“Because Svante was the big riddle at Base Camp.”
Catrin Lindås was curled up with her cat on the sofa at home on Nytorget, looking at her mobile. She had made far too many attempts to contact Blomkvist, and was both furious and embarrassed about it. She had laid herself bare, and all she had got back was one cryptic text message:
she thought, and looked it up: “A respectful form of address for a white woman in colonial India, usually written Memsahib.” That may well have been what he said, but who cared anyway, and who was Klara Engelman?
She couldn’t be less interested, and she couldn’t give a damn about Blomkvist either for that matter. Surely he could have added a polite little note, like “Hi, how’s things?” But no, and certainly not an “I miss you,” as she herself had unaccountably written in a moment of weakness. He could get stuffed.
She went into the kitchen to find something to eat. But she realized she wasn’t hungry after all, so she slammed the refrigerator door shut and took an apple from a bowl on the dining table, which she didn’t eat either, maybe because at that very moment a bell went off in the recesses of her mind. Klara Engelman? It did sound familiar. Even glamorous in some way, and she googled it. Then the whole story came back to her.
She had read all about it in
some time ago, but now she could only find some images of Klara Engelman, a series of posed photographs from one of the Everest base camps, and also pictures of Viktor Grankin, the guide who died with her. Klara was good-looking in a slightly vulgar way, but she also seemed sad, or as if she were pretending to look happy, as if she needed to keep smiling to ward off depression, whereas Grankin seemed…well, what about him?
He was an engineer and also a professional climber, another article said, and a former consultant to adventure travel companies, but she thought he looked more like a soldier, special forces, especially when she saw him in another photograph from Everest, standing next to…“Johannes Forsell!” she exclaimed aloud, and even forgot to be angry with Blomkvist. She wrote back:
A moment earlier, Elin Felke had been indignant and angry. Now she looked uncertain and thoughtful, as if she had gone from one extreme to the other in no time at all.
“Well, my God, what can I say about Svante? What incredible self-confidence. Crazy, really. He could persuade people to do just about anything. We all even began to drink his bloody blueberry soup in the camp. He should have been a salesman or something. But I suspect that in the end things didn’t turn out quite as he wanted on Everest.”
“Svante had also worked out that Viktor and Klara had something going, and that seemed to trouble him in some way. I can’t explain it, it just felt like that. Maybe he was jealous, what do I know, and I think Viktor noticed. I even think it was one of the reasons he became more and more nervous.”
“Why should it have affected him?”
“Something did rattle him, as I said. From having been the solid rock in camp he became increasingly fearful, and sometimes I wondered if he wasn’t a little scared of Svante.”
“Why would he be, do you think?”
“If I were to guess, I’d say he was frightened that Svante would tell Stan Engelman.”
“Was there anything to suggest they were in contact?”
“Maybe not, but…there was something insidious about Svante, that became ever clearer to me, and occasionally he would speak about Engelman as if he knew him. The way he called him ‘Stan’ made it sound somehow…familiar. But I may be imagining it. It’s hard to remember things like that now. All I know is that even Svante appeared less and less cocky towards the end. So he was treading very carefully indeed.”
“You mean he too was nervous about something?”
“We all were.”
“That’s natural, in those circumstances,” Blomkvist said. “But you referred to Lindberg as the big riddle at Base Camp.”
“That’s exactly how it was. Most of the time he was self-assurance personified, yet he could also be hesitant and suspicious. Extravagant and generous, but also mean. He could flatter the shirt off your back one moment, needle you the next.”
“What about his relationship with Forsell?”
“Pretty much the same, I think. There was a part of him that loved Johannes.”
“…that kept tabs on him. Tried to get some hold over him.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I’m not sure. But I guess I’m just influenced by all this crap in the media against Forsell.”
“Influenced in what way?”
“It all seems so unfair, and sometimes I wonder if Johannes isn’t paying for something that Svante did. But now I really am being indiscreet.”
Blomkvist gave a careful laugh.
“Maybe you are. But I’m glad you’re helping me to think, and you don’t have to worry about my story, as I said. I too love to speculate, but in my articles I have no choice but to stick to the facts.”
“Ha, yes, perhaps. It’s a bit like mountaineering, I imagine. You can’t just take a guess at where the next rock ledge is going to be. You have to
Otherwise you’re in trouble.”
He glanced at his mobile and saw that Catrin had replied. She had answered with another question, and that was as good a reason as any to end the conversation. He said a friendly goodbye to Elin Felke and walked out into the street with his suitcase, but without any clue where to go.
Fredrika Nyman got back to her house in Trångsund late in the afternoon, and saw that she had got a long e-mail from a psychiatrist called Farzad Mansoor, senior physician at the closed psychiatric unit at the South Wing. Both she and the police had sent him detailed reports along with an enquiry as to whether Nima Rita had been a patient there.
Nyman had not been expecting much to come of it. The Sherpa had been in too shabby a state to have been institutionalized, she thought, even if the traces of antipsychotic drugs in his blood suggested the opposite. She was therefore eager to see what Dr. Mansoor had written—and not only because of the investigation.
Dr. Mansoor had spoken in a soft, pleasant tone on the telephone, and she liked what she saw of him online, the glint in his eye and the warmth of his smile, and even his interest in gliding, which he had written about on Facebook. But the e-mail he had sent to her and Chief Inspector Bublanski was a passionate statement, seething with anger, a clear attempt to justify the clinic’s treatment of the Sherpa.
Which event? Which case? Which cracks? she wanted to know, as if cross that her mild-mannered glider pilot had so completely lost his composure. But after skimming the e-mail, which was long and meandering, she gathered that Nima Rita had indeed been a patient at the South Wing, but under another name, and that he had absconded during the evening of July 27 that year. Initially his absence had not been reported, for several good reasons, most of them to do with the people in charge not having been on duty. But there had also been a special classified procedure for this patient, which had been ignored—maybe out of fear, or guilt.
Farzad Mansoor wrote:
Nyman looked at her daughters, who were as usual sitting on the sofa with their mobiles. Dr. Mansoor went on:
His delusions were too severe and, however keen he was to talk, he had developed a strong suspicion of our entire unit. But we were at least able to rectify some misunderstandings. We began to call him Nima, for example, and that was important to him. We addressed him as Sirdar Nima.
We could see that he had an obsessive fixation about his late wife, Luna. In the evenings he would walk through the hospital corridors, calling her name. He said he could hear her cries for help. He would also launch into wild, incomprehensible outbursts where he talked about a Madam—or a Mam Sahib. Both Henrik and I took this to be another way in which he referred to his wife, for there were strong similarities between the stories. But now that we read your reports, we suspect that we’re not dealing with one trauma, as we thought, but two.
You may think us incompetent for not having been able to come up with a clearer picture of his case. But we were working in difficult circumstances from the start. I think it is fair to say that we did make some progress. At the end of June he was given back his down jacket, which he had been asking for, and that seemed to make him feel secure. It’s true that he was always asking for alcohol—probably because he was getting fewer sedatives—but there were some nights when he no longer seemed to hear voices, and his night terrors also improved.
I recall that both Henrik and I left for our respective holidays feeling reasonably confident. We felt that we were on the right track, both with him and the clinic generally.>
I’m sure you did, Nyman thought. But it still led to the death of Nima Rita, and it was absolutely clear that the management at the clinic had underestimated his determination to get away. It was reasonable for him to be allowed on the terrace. But it must have been against all the rules that he should be there alone, with no staff present.
During the afternoon of July 27, he disappeared. The evidence was a small scrap of material torn from his trousers when he squeezed through the narrow gap between the roof and the terrace’s tall railings. After that we can only assume he climbed down the steep cliffs beyond and vanished from Årstaviken. He must then have found somewhere to live in the area around Mariatorget.
Yet the most shocking thing of all was that no-one reported it until Henrik Alm returned from his holiday on August 4, and even then no-one alerted the police because, as Dr. Mansoor also wrote, “It had been very clearly laid down that any new developments and incidents involving the patient were to be reported to the stipulated contact person.” What a load of gobbledygook, she thought, it positively reeked of classified information. In any event, it was patently obvious that something significant was being withheld. Once she had done a little more research on the South Wing clinic, and having had a long conversation with Chief Inspector Bublanski, she did precisely the same as before.
She rang Blomkvist.
Blomkvist had not yet answered Catrin’s question. He was having a Guinness at the Tudor Arms on Grevgatan and trying to draw up a plan of action. He should get hold of Svante Lindberg. Blomkvist was increasingly convinced that he was a key person in the drama. But something told him that before he did so he needed more to go on. Forsell himself would be the best source, but Blomkvist had no idea what sort of condition he was in, and in any event he could not get hold of either him, or Rebecka Forsell, or even his press secretary, Niklas Keller. In the end he decided to take a break to organize somewhere to stay. He had to find a place where he could work and sleep and not endanger his host. Then he could continue. But just then his mobile rang.
It was Nyman, saying that she had discovered something interesting. He asked her to hang up, and sent a text message telling her to install the Signal app, which would allow them to talk on a secure line.
There was a pause and he sipped his Guinness and kept an eye on the street where two women passed with prams, and he let his thoughts drift until he got a text in a new language.
He decided to show what a techie he was and sent a selfie of him giving a thumbs-up.
breaking-news posters. Instead he began to explain to the girl, the one called Amanda, what she needed to do. Fifteen minutes later, Nyman called on the app, and he went out into the street to speak to her.