Read The Girl Who Lived Twice Online
Authors: David Lagercrantz
Berg had promised the police a full account the next morning, but had qualified this by saying that he too had some unanswered questions. Bublanski did not like the sound of that. He hated having to depend on the intelligence services. Not because he worried one little bit about prestige or matters of status, but because he knew that it would have a negative effect on the police investigation. He was determined to regain the upper hand.
He closed down the pictures of Klara Engelman on his computer and tried once more to phone Undersecretary Lindberg. But again Lindberg did not answer. Bublanski got up and decided to take a walk, to see if that would help clear his head.
Lindberg walked in through the hospital entrance. He had already been there that day and Rebecka had not made him feel welcome, so there was really no reason for him to return. But now that he knew Johannes was conscious, he had to talk to him and say…something…he was not really sure what, only that he had to get him to keep his mouth shut, come what may. He turned off his mobile because he did not want to make the chaos any worse.
He had no intention whatsoever of speaking to Mikael Blomkvist, who had been trying to reach him, or even to Chief Inspector Bublanski, who had just rung his number for the third time. He had to keep a cool head.
In his briefcase he had a bundle of classified papers about the Russian disinformation campaign. They were not especially important, at least not compared to everything else, but they would give him a pretext for a private conversation with Johannes, and he had to make sure that no-one saw him. No-one at all. He had to be strong, as always. It would all sort itself out. So he told himself.
What was that smell? Ammonia perhaps, disinfectant? He looked around the lobby, afraid that the paparazzi would be hanging about down there, afraid that Blomkvist might suddenly appear, knowing his darkest secrets. But all he could see were patients and their families and hospital staff in their white coats. An ashen-faced man who looked as if he were dying was wheeled past on a trolley bed. Lindberg barely noticed him.
He looked down at the floor, shutting out the world around him. Yet he still detected something out of the corner of his eye and turned to see the back of a tall, slender woman in a grey jacket over by the ATM next to the pharmacist’s.
Wasn’t that Becka? It definitely was Rebecka. He recognized her posture, the way she leaned forward. Should he go up and say a few words? No, no, he thought. This was an opportunity to snatch a few words with Johannes in private, without all the rigmarole about classified information, and he walked towards the lifts. He took a quick look back, having had the impression that she was not alone. But she was gone.
Had he been mistaken? Perhaps he had, and he was just about to step into the lift when he noticed the large column beside the ATM. Surely she wasn’t hiding from him? How crazy would that be? He could not help feeling uneasy and began to walk towards the pillar, a little hesitantly at first, then more quickly. There really was something sticking out, and it looked like Rebecka’s grey jacket.
He thought about what he should say to her, he even got angry—how silly to try to hide—when suddenly he tripped and fell. Before he had time to realize what had happened he sensed a movement nearby and heard footsteps running away. He cursed, picked himself up and hurried after them.
AUGUST 27–SEPTEMBER 9
Secret agents, double agents, spies: sometimes their mission from the start is to infiltrate the enemy and to contrive smokescreens. Not infrequently they are turned politically, or submit to threats or inducements.
In some cases, their ultimate allegiance is not crystal clear. Sometimes even
do not know where they stand.
Catrin Lindås had still had nothing to eat, she had only drunk some tea and read up on Forsell and the Everest expedition, and time and again she cast her mind back to her encounter with the beggar in Mariatorget, as if it were a riddle she needed to solve. Each time his outbursts sounded more and more desperate.
She remembered other things too, painful memories, the end of her childhood journey to India and Nepal when things went from bad to worse and eventually they left Kathmandu for the Khumbu. They did not get very far. Pappa’s withdrawal symptoms became too severe. They did manage to make friends among the local population up there and, after going over Blomkvist’s text message several times in her mind, she began to wonder if she had not recognized the beggar from the Khumbu Valley as much as from Freak Street. She sent Blomkvist one more question, even though he had not answered her first:
The answer came right back:
You’re with the competition>
Then, reluctantly, she smiled. At last. But she was not going to go there, definitely not. Instead she went into the kitchen to tidy up, and put on Emmylou Harris so loudly that her cat raced into the bedroom. When she got back to the sitting room and picked up her mobile, she saw another text from Blomkvist.
They went onto Signal.
Then she changed and asked the neighbour to look after the cat, and began to pack.
Camilla was standing on the balcony and felt the rain falling on her shoulders and hands. Still, she was glad to be outside. Along Strandvägen and on the boats out there in the bay, a life was going on that should by rights have been hers, but now reminded her only of how much had been stolen from her.
This cannot go on,
It has to end.
She closed her eyes and tipped her head back, and raindrops fell on her forehead and lips, and as she tried to escape into her dreams, she kept being drawn back to Lundagatan, and Agneta shouting at her to go away, and Lisbeth shutting up like a clam as if she wanted to kill them all with her silence, her grim rage.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. Galinov had joined her on the terrace and she turned to look at him, at his gentle smile and his beautiful face. He drew her to him.
“My girl,” he said. “How are you?”
“I don’t believe you.”
She looked down at the quay.
“Don’t worry, everything’ll be OK,” he said.
She searched his eyes.
“Has something happened?”
“We have visitors.”
“Your charming bandits.”
She nodded and went back into the apartment and saw Sandström and some other pathetic creature in jeans and a cheap brown jacket. The creature looked bruised, as if he had been given a beating. He was at least six-six and disgustingly bloated, and he turned out to be called Conny.
“Conny has something to tell us,” Sandström said.
“So, get on with it then?”
“I was watching Blomkvist’s apartment,” Andersson said.
“That obviously went well.”
“He was attacked,” Sandström said.
She looked at his split lip.
“Was he now?”
In Russian she said:
“Ivan, Conny here is taller than you, right?”
“He’s certainly heavier,” Galinov said. “And not quite as well dressed.”
She continued in Swedish. “My sister is just five feet tall and as thin as a rake, and she…beat the shit out of you.”
“She took me by surprise.”
“She got hold of his mobile,” Sandström said, “and sent a text to all of us in the club.”
“What did it say?”
“That we should listen to Conny.”
“I’m listening, Conny,” Camilla said.
“Salander said she’d come after all of us if we didn’t stop following Mikael Blomkvist.”
“Then she said something else,” Sandström added.
“And that was…?”
“That she’d come after us anyway and destroy our entire business.”
“Great,” she said, and somehow managed to stay calm.
“And then…” Sandström said. “Well, there was a lot of sensitive stuff on that mobile she nicked. We’re actually quite worried.”
“And so you should be,” she said. “But not about Lisbeth, right, Ivan?”
On the outside Camilla looked sarcastic and menacing. But inside she was falling apart. Eventually she told Galinov to take over the conversation and went into her room, and there she let the past wash over her like dirty, black water.
Rebecka Forsell could not believe what she had done. She had heard Johannes whisper, “He mustn’t see me,” and, on an impulse she would never fully understand, she tripped Lindberg. Then they raced through the swing doors to the taxis waiting in the rain.
Forsell chose one that looked like it didn’t belong to any taxi firm.
“Drive,” he said, and at that the driver, a dark-skinned young man with curly hair and sleepy eyes, turned to him. He showed no surprise at seeing a man still in his pyjamas.
“Where to?” he said.
Forsell did not say a word.
“Just cross Solnabron and head into town,” Rebecka said, thinking that they could take it from there. But she also noted—and it came as an unexpected relief—that the driver had not shown any sign of recognition. That may have been what Johannes had been hoping for when he picked this taxi—someone whose life was so remote from the Swedish establishment that he did not know what Sweden’s most hated man looked like. But this would get them only so far, and as they swung past Solna cemetery she tried to assess the potential impact of what they had done.
She persuaded herself that it need not be all that dramatic. Her husband was going through a crisis, and she was a doctor and could perfectly well have come to the conclusion that he needed some peace and quiet away from the busy hospital. She just had to let them know, before panic broke out.
“You’ve got to tell me what’s going on. I can’t handle this sort of madness,” she whispered.
“Do you remember that professor of international relations we met at the French Embassy?” he said.
He nodded and she looked at him, puzzled. Kowalski was not a part of their lives. She would not have remembered his name had she not recently read an article by him, on the limits to freedom of expression.
“That’s right,” he answered. “He lives in Dalagatan, up near Odenplan. We can spend the night there.”
“Why on earth…? We don’t even know him.”
“I do,” he said, and she was not happy about that either.
She remembered them greeting each other almost like strangers at the embassy reception, and making polite conversation. Were they only pretending, was it all an act?
“I’ll stay the night anywhere you say,” she said softly, “as long as you promise to tell me everything.”
He looked at her. “I will. After that it’s up to you to decide what you want to do,” he said.
“What do you mean, decide?”
“If you still want me.”
She did not answer. She looked ahead across Solnabron and said, “Dalagatan. We’d like to go to Dalagatan,” while she thought about limits, perhaps even about the limits to freedom of expression, but first and foremost about the limits to love.
What would it take for her to leave him?
What would he have to have done for her to stop loving him? Was there even such a thing?
Lindås set off along Götgatan, and was beginning to feel that life might, after all, be worth living. But my goodness, the rain. It was bucketing down and she hurried along with her suitcase. She had of course packed too much, as if she would be gone for weeks. Then again, she had no idea how long they would be staying at the hotel, only that Blomkvist could not go back to his place and had a lot of work to do, unfortunately. But then so did she.
It was half past nine in the evening and she realized how hungry she was. She had scarcely eaten since breakfast. She walked past the Victoria cinema and Göta Lejon theatre and, although she was definitely in a better mood, that uncomfortable feeling would not leave her. She looked out across Medborgarplatsen.
A long line of youngsters were waiting in the rain for tickets to some concert or other, and she was about to hurry down into the tunnelbana when she gave a sudden start and turned, looking right and left. She saw nothing out of the ordinary; no shadow from the past, nothing, and she hurried down the stairs with her case, past the ticket gates and onto the platform, trying to reassure herself that all was well.
Not until she got off the tunnelbana at Central Station and bustled along in the rain down Hamngatan, past Kungsträdgården and out onto Blasieholmen did she begin to worry again, and she quickened her pace. She was almost running and out of breath as she burst into the hotel lobby and went up the curved staircase to the reception. A young woman, hardly more than twenty years old, gave her a welcoming smile and she responded with “Good evening,” but then she heard footsteps behind her and that put her off completely. What was the name in which Mikael had booked the room? She knew it began with a B…Boman, Brodin, Brodén…Bromberg?
“We have a reservation in the name of…” and then she hesitated. She would have to check her mobile, and that was going to seem odd, she thought—and certainly sleazy. When she saw that it actually was Boman, she said the name so quietly that the receptionist did not hear and she had to repeat it, more loudly this time. At that point she remembered the footsteps behind her on the stairs and turned to look.
But there was no-one. A man with long hair in a denim jacket was, however, just leaving the hotel and she wondered about that as she checked in. Had the man been up there only briefly? That was strange, surely. Maybe the hotel looked too expensive. She put it out of her mind.
Or she tried to, at least. She took her key card, went up in the lift and opened the door to the room, where she studied the double bed with the pale-blue sheets and wondered briefly what to do next. She decided to have a bath, and took a small bottle of red wine from the minibar and ordered a hamburger and fries from room service. But nothing helped. Not the food, not the alcohol or the bath. Nothing brought down her pulse, and now she was wondering what was keeping Blomkvist.
Janek Kowalski did not actually live on Dalagatan. But they did gain access from there and, after crossing an inner courtyard, emerged on Västeråsgatan, where they slipped in through another street entrance and took a lift to the fifth floor. His was a large apartment, not unpleasant but chaotic, the home of a bachelor, an old-fashioned intellectual who lacked neither money nor taste but could no longer be bothered to keep the place tidy and uncluttered.
There was too much of everything—too many bowls and knick-knacks and paintings, and too many books and folders. They were lying around all over the place. Kowalski himself was unshaven and dishevelled, a bohemian, especially without the suit he had been wearing at the embassy. He must have been about seventy-five and was wearing a thin cashmere sweater with a few moth holes.
“My dear friends. I’ve been so worried for you,” he said, and he hugged Forsell and kissed Rebecka on both cheeks.
There was no doubt that the two knew each other well. Kowalski had laid out a pair of corduroys, a shirt and a V-neck sweater, and when Forsell had changed he joined Kowalski in the kitchen, where they whispered together for twenty minutes before emerging with a tray of tea, a plate of assorted sandwiches and a bottle of white wine. Both of them looked at her with grave faces.
“My dear Rebecka,” Kowalski said. “Your husband has asked me to be perfectly frank and I have agreed, albeit with some reluctance. I have to confess that I’m not very good at this sort of thing. But I’ll do my best to talk openly and I beg your forgiveness in advance, should I fail to live up to my commitment.”
She did not like his tone; it sounded both apologetic and pretentious at the same time. Perhaps he was nervous. Certainly his hand was shaking as he poured the tea.
“I should begin by telling you what I really do,” he said. “It’s thanks to me that the two of you met.”
She looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“It was I who sent Johannes off to Everest. I know that sounds awful, but Johannes was willing. He even insisted. He’s a man who’s at home in the wilds, is he not?”
“Now I’m lost,” she said.
“Johannes and I met in Russia in a professional capacity and became friends. I realized early on that he was a man of exceptional ability.”
“In what respect?”
“In every respect, Rebecka. He may sometimes have been a little hasty and too eager, but he was, in fact, a superlative officer.”
“So you too were in the military?”
“I was”—he seemed to struggle—“a Pole who became British as a child. My parents were political refugees and old England was good to them, so that is perhaps why I saw it as my duty to join the Foreign Office.”
“Well, let’s say no more than is strictly necessary. In any case, I settled here after retiring, not just out of love for the country, but because of one or two complications which are, in a way, connected to the business we were involved in back then. You should know, my dear, that Johannes and I had a common interest at the time which was risky enough, even without Everest.”