Read The Girl Who Lived Twice Online
Authors: David Lagercrantz
Where had all this taken place?
Blasieholmen, by the look of it. She could not determine the exact spot, but it must have been outside the Grand Hôtel or the Nationalmuseum, somewhere around there. She rang the emergency services and reported that the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, had been assaulted in that neighbourhood. The young man who took the call recognized the name and asked for more details in an excited voice. But before Salander had time to add anything, someone in the background could be heard saying that an alert had already come in from that area: a man had collapsed, apparently having had some kind of fit outside Hotel Lydmar, and had been taken away.
“How?” she said.
There was confusion at the other end of the line, voices talking to each other.
“An ambulance fetched him?”
For a split second she was relieved, but then she checked herself.
“Did you dispatch it?”
“I expect we did.”
“You ‘expect’ you did?”
“Let me check.”
Again, voices in the background, but it was difficult to catch what they were saying. Then the man was back on the line, clearly nervous.
“Salander,” she said. “Lisbeth Salander.”
“No, apparently we didn’t.”
“Well, have it stopped then,” she spat out. “
She yelled a stream of abuse, hung up and listened to the recording in real time. It was too quiet, she thought. Only the rumble of the vehicle and Blomkvist’s laboured breathing. There was nothing else to be heard, no other voices, but then…if it really was an ambulance that was a lead of sorts, and she considered ringing the police and raising hell. But no, unless the emergency centre was staffed by idiots, they must already be after it.
It was vital she acted before the tracking signals disappeared, and just then—in case she doubted the information she had received—a siren began to howl, and then something more: a scratching sound, hands searching through Blomkvist’s pockets, she thought, followed by movement and heavy breathing. Then a loud noise, a crunching crash, not a mobile being thrown away, but one being smashed to bits, and then the transmission died. It ended as suddenly as a gunshot, a power cut, and she kicked her chair. She grabbed her whisky glass from the table and hurled it at the wall where it broke into a thousand pieces. “Fucking hell…
She shook her head, pulled herself together and checked where Camilla was. Still at Strandvägen, of course. She wouldn’t get her hands dirty. Fuck her! She rang Plague and shouted at him as she pulled on her clothes and packed a backpack with her laptop, her pistol and her IMSI-catcher. Then she kicked over a lamp, put on her helmet and Google Glass and rushed out to her motorcycle in the square.
Rebecka Forsell had asked to sleep on her own. She thought Kowalski and Johannes could perfectly well share a room. But now she was lying awake in a narrow bed, in a small study crammed with books, reading the news on her mobile. Not a word about Johannes disappearing from the hospital. She was glad she had called the hospital staff to say that she was looking after Johannes herself, as well as Klas Berg on a secure line. She had subsequently ignored his admonitions and threats. To be fair, Berg had no idea what a marginal player he was in the overall scheme of things.
She could not have cared less about him or any of the others at military high command. All she wanted was to be able to process the full implications of what she had heard, and maybe also to understand why she had not suspected anything earlier. There had been no shortage of signs, that much was clear to her now. For example, the crisis Johannes had gone through at Base Camp afterwards. She had cried tears of relief that he was alive, and safe—despite the tragedy that had befallen the others—and she could barely take in the enormity of his achievement. But he had not wanted to talk about it. All the snippets that had not meant anything at the time but which could now be pieced together to form a new whole. Like that evening in October almost three years ago, when the boys had gone to sleep and Johannes had just been appointed Minister of Defence. They were sitting on the sofa at home in Stocksund, and he mentioned Klara Engelman in a new, disturbing tone of voice.
“I keep wondering what she was thinking,” he said.
“When she was abandoned.”
She answered that in all likelihood Klara was not thinking at all—that she was probably already dead. But now, in the night, Rebecka understood what Johannes had meant, and it was more than she could bear.
May 13, 2008
Klara Engelman was not thinking anything the first time she was abandoned. Her body temperature had dropped to eighty-two degrees and her heartbeat was by then slow and irregular. She heard neither the disappearing footsteps nor the howling storm.
She was deeply unconscious, not aware that she had put an arm around Viktor or even that the body she was holding on to was his. Her organs were shutting down as a last form of defence, and she would soon be dead. By then there was no doubt, and that was perhaps, in a way, what she had wanted.
Her husband, Stan, made no secret of his contempt and cheated on her quite openly, their twelve-year-old, Juliette, was going through a crisis too, and Klara had run away from it all, taken herself off to Everest and put on a cheerful face, just as she always did. She was, in fact, suffering from severe depression, and it was only in the last week that she had found a reason to live again. It was not just her love for Viktor. She had also begun to hope that she could bring Stan down, once and for all.
She was feeling strong again, even as she headed towards the summit, and she had drunk plenty of that blueberry soup which she had heard was so good for one. But before long her body began to feel strangely heavy and her eyelids kept closing, and she felt colder and colder until finally she collapsed. She slipped away and was oblivious to the storm which now came raging in from the north, endangering the whole expedition. For her, the hours simply vanished into darkness, and silence, and she heard nothing until an ice axe started picking away at her face.
Not that she really grasped what was going on. There was just this hacking right by her, close to her and yet still remote, as if in another world. But then…her airways had become freer and the footsteps had disappeared, and she opened her eyes. It was a miracle, in a way. Klara, who had been given up for dead, looked around and had no idea what was going on. Except that she found herself in some sort of hell. But little by little things came back to her, and she looked at her legs and her boots and then at an arm, without quite being able to understand whose arm it was. It was frozen stiff above her hip in the air. Then she realized it was hers, and tried to move it. But it would not budge. Her body was frozen. Then something happened which got her to her feet.
She saw her daughter in front of her. She saw her as clearly as if she could reach out and touch her, and after four or five attempts she stood up and began to stumble downhill, like a sleepwalker with hands stretched in front of her, and even though she barely knew which was left and which was right, she was guided by howls, inhuman screams which seemed to be showing her the way. It was a long time before she realized that the screams were her own.
Nima Rita was in a landscape he had always believed to be inhabited by spirits and ghosts, so he took no notice of the screams.
scream as much as you like.
Why on earth had he come back up here? He could not believe it himself. He had seen her and said his goodbyes. All hope was lost. But he also knew that he had listened too much to the others and had left behind the one person he should not have abandoned. Maybe he no longer cared whether he too went under or not. All that mattered was for him to show that he had not given up. If he died, he would die with dignity.
His exhaustion had taken him beyond all reason, he had frostbite and he could hardly see. He heard only the blizzard and the howling in the snowy fog. But he did not for even a second connect them to Mamsahib, and he was about to pause for a breath when the sound of creaking footsteps in the snow came ever closer.
Then he saw a ghost with its arms held out, as if beseeching the living to give it something, a piece of bread, some comfort, a prayer, and he approached the ghost. The next moment the figure fell into his arms with a surprising weight. They collapsed in the snow and rolled over, and he banged his head.
“Help me, help me, I have to get to my daughter,” the figure said, and then he knew.
He did not understand, it dawned on him gradually and in some confusion, and then a stab of joy shot through his exhausted body. It was her. It really was her, and that could only be because the mountain goddess was smiling on him. She must have seen how he had struggled, and with what pain. It would all be all right, he thought, so he gathered his remaining strength and put his arms around her waist and got her back onto her feet, and then they stumbled down together while she screamed and he increasingly lost his grip on reality.
His face was so strangely stiff. It was as if he were in another world, yet he was holding her up, wasn’t he? And he was battling. It was clear from the sound of his breathing that he was fighting furiously. She prayed to God that she would be allowed to go home to her daughter, and all the time she promised herself not to give up, not to collapse. Not now and not later. It would all work out, she thought.
With every step she took she told herself: Once I have come out of this alive, I will be able to cope with anything, and then, further down the mountain, she made out two other figures, and that gave her more hope.
Now I am safe.
Now, at last, I must be safe.
Catrin Lindås woke at 8:30 in the double bed at Hotel Lydmar and reached over to pull Mikael closer to her. But he was not there, so she called out:
It was a silly nickname she had given him the night before, when he had not listened to a word she was saying—“You’ve got nothing but bluebells in your head, Bloombells” —and at least it had made him smile. Otherwise she found him impenetrable. Which was, after all, understandable. He was going to do an exclusive interview with the Minister of Defence, and it was all very hush-hush with encrypted instructions being sent to her mobile. The only way to get anything out of the man was to discuss his interview, and then he was not quite so remote. And at one point he tried to recruit her to
Straight after that she managed to undo his shirt buttons, then all the other ones as well, and they made love. Then she must have fallen asleep.
“Bloombells?” she called again. “Mikael?”
She looked at her watch. It was later than she thought. He must have left a long time ago, was probably doing the interview by now. She did wonder why she had not woken up. But sometimes her sleep was strangely deep, and it was quiet outside, you could hardly hear the traffic. She lay there until her mobile rang.
“Catrin Lindås,” she said.
“My name is Rebecka Forsell,” a voice said. “We’re beginning to get a little worried.”
“Isn’t Mikael with you?”
“He’s half an hour late and his mobile is switched off.”
“That’s odd,” she said.
It was very odd. She didn’t know Blomkvist that well, but surely he wouldn’t turn up half an hour late for such a crucial meeting.
“You don’t know where he could be?” Rebecka Forsell said.
“He’d already left by the time I woke up.”
“Had he now?”
Lindås detected a note of fear in the woman’s voice.
“I’m beginning to get worried,” Catrin said. Or
is that what she should have said? Stone cold.
“Do you have any particular reason to worry? Apart from the fact that he’s late?” Rebecka Forsell said.
“Well…” Her thoughts were racing. “For the past few days he’s not wanted to stay in his own home. He thought he was being watched,” she said.
“Is it because of this business with Johannes?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Lindås was not sure how much she should say, but then decided to be completely open. “It’s to do with his friend, Lisbeth Salander. That’s all I know.”
“Oh, my God.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s a long story. But you know…” She sounded emotional. “I liked what you wrote about Johannes.”
“And I can see why Mikael trusts you.”
Lindås did not mention how many times that night she had sworn by all she held dear that she would not breathe a word about the story to anyone, and every time it had seemed that he did not believe her.
“Could you hang on a moment?”
Lindås waited, but regretted it at once. She couldn’t just sit around, she had to call the police and maybe also Erika Berger. By the time Rebecka Forsell was back on the line, she was about to hang up.
“We’re wondering if you couldn’t come over here yourself,” Rebecka said.
“I’m thinking I ought to call the police.”
“You probably should. But we…that is, our host here…we also have people who can investigate this matter.”
“I don’t know…” she said.
“In fact we think it would be safest if you came over here now. We’ll send a car, if you give us the address.”
Lindås bit her lip and remembered the man she had seen down in reception. She recalled the sensation of being followed on the way to the hotel.
“OK,” she said, and gave the address.
Moments later there was a knock at the door of her hotel room.
Bublanski had just called the TT news bureau, hoping that a bulletin would bring in some leads from the public. Although they had been hard at work since early that morning, they still had no idea where Blomkvist was. They knew he had spent the latter part of the evening at the Lydmar without anybody, including the receptionists, having seen him.
He had left the hotel just after 2:00 a.m. There was a short CCTV sequence which was anything but clear, but it did, beyond doubt, show Blomkvist in good shape—probably sober, a little excited, his hand drumming against his thigh. But then something ominous happened: The surveillance cameras stopped working. They simply died. Fortunately there were other witnesses—a young woman by the name of Agnes Sohlberg, for example, who was clearing up on the terrace.
Agnes had seen a middle-aged man come out of the hotel. She had not recognized him as Mikael Blomkvist, but then she had heard an older, slim gentleman in a light-coloured suit address him. The man had been sitting at the far end of the bar, with his back to her. Shortly afterwards she heard rapid footsteps, and maybe also the sound of someone crying out. When she turned she saw another man, a younger, sturdier fellow in a leather jacket and jeans.
At first she took him to be some kind person who had come rushing over to help. She had seen Blomkvist—or the man she later understood to be Blomkvist—collapse in the street, and she heard a voice refer to “an epileptic fit” in English. Since she did not have her mobile with her, she had run inside to call the emergency services.
After that they had to rely on other witnesses, including a married couple by the name of Kristofferson who reported having seen an ambulance coming out of Hovslagargatan. Blomkvist was lifted into the ambulance on a stretcher, and the couple would probably not have given it a second thought had they not been struck by the careless way in which his body was handled. And the way the men had jumped into the vehicle did not seem to them “natural.”
The ambulance, which turned out to have been stolen six days earlier in Norsborg, was later caught on camera on Klarabergsleden, heading north on the E4 motorway with sirens blaring. But then it disappeared from sight. Bublanski and his team were convinced the perpetrators had switched cars after that. Nothing was known for sure, however, except that Salander herself had alerted the emergency services. Bublanski was not happy with that.
How could Salander have known about the incident so soon? It made him suspicious that she was somehow connected with the assault, and he felt no better about it even after he’d spoken to her. He was glad, of course, that she had called; he was grateful for every piece of information. But he did not like what he heard in her voice—the rage, the pounding fury, and no matter how many times he said, “Keep out of this, let us handle it,” the words didn’t seem to get through. And he was certain she had not told him everything. He was convinced she was in the middle of an operation of her own, and he cursed when they hung up and cursed again now as he sat in the conference room with his colleagues Sonja Modig, Jerker Holmberg, Curt Svensson and Amanda Flod.
“What was that?” he said.
“I was wondering how Salander could have known so quickly about Blomkvist having been attacked,” Holmberg said.
“I thought I told you.”
“You said she’d done something to his mobile.”
“That’s right, she’d messed about with it—with his consent. So she could eavesdrop on him and see where he was, at least until they shut his mobile down.”
“What I really meant was, how was she able to react so fast,” Holmberg said. “It sounds…I don’t know, as if she’d just been hanging about, waiting for something like this to happen.”
“She said she’d been afraid it would,” Bublanski said. “Like a worst-case scenario. Svavelsjö M.C. had been keeping Blomkvist under observation, both at Bellmansgatan and out at Sandhamn.”
“And we still don’t have anything on the club?”
“We woke up the president, Marko Sandström, this morning. But he just laughed at us. Said that you needed to be suicidal to go after Blomkvist. We’re trying to track down the other members and we’ll watch them. So far, we’ve not been able to link any of them to the incident, other than to note that several of them have been impossible to reach.”
“And we don’t know why Blomkvist was at the Lydmar in the first place?” Flod said.
“No, we’ve no idea. We’ve got people there now. But Blomkvist appears to have been very cagey of late. Even his colleagues at
had no idea what he was up to. Erika Berger says he’s taking some sort of holiday. Apparently he’s mainly been working on his story about the Sherpa.”
“Which may have something to do with Forsell.”
“It may indeed, and that’s given Must the jitters, and Säpo too.”
“Could it be a foreign operation?” Svensson said.
“The fact that the surveillance cameras were hacked would suggest it. And I don’t like the way they used a stolen ambulance, that really feels like a provocation, but in all likelihood—”
“—there’s a link to Salander,” Modig concluded.
“That’s what we all think,” Holmberg said.
“Perhaps we do,” Bublanski said, and he sank deep in thought.
What was Salander hiding from him?
Salander had not told Bublanski about the Strandvägen apartment. She was hoping Camilla would lead her to Blomkvist, and she did not want the police to mess that up for her. But for now, Camilla was staying put. Maybe she was waiting for the same thing as Salander, the thing that Salander dreaded: images of Blomkvist being tortured and a demand for an exchange, her for him, or, worse, pictures of Blomkvist dead and threats to kill others close to her unless she gave herself up to them.
During the night, Salander had been in touch with Annika Giannini, Dragan Armansky, Miriam Wu and a couple of others—even Paulina, who presumably nobody knew about—and had told them to go somewhere they would be safe. It hadn’t been pleasant, but she had done what she had to do.
She did not have a clue where they had taken Blomkvist, except that it appeared to be northwards, which is why she was staying at the Clarion Hotel at Arlanda airport, in the same direction at least. But she was as unaware of the room she was in or of the hotel as she was of everything else, and she had not slept a wink.
She had spent hours at the desk trying to find some trace, some opening, and it was not until now, when finally she got a signal, that she sat up in her chair. Camilla was leaving the apartment at Strandvägen.
That’s my girl,
Please be a little careless now, and take me to him.
But that was hoping for too much. Camilla had Bogdanov, and Bogdanov was in the same league as Plague.
So even if her sister did show her the way to some place, it wouldn’t necessarily be a breakthrough. It could equally well be a trap. An attempt to draw her off. She had to be prepared for everything, but now…her eyes were fixed on the map. The car carrying Camilla was taking the same route as the ambulance had yesterday, heading north on the E4 motorway. That was promising. It had to be. Salander packed her things and went down to check out, before tearing off on her Kawasaki.
Catrin Lindås wrapped herself in a bathrobe and went to open the door. She found a uniformed policeman standing outside, a young man with blond, neatly parted hair, and she stammered a nervous “Good morning.”
“We want to speak to people in this hotel who may have seen or been in contact with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist,” the police officer said, and immediately she felt that he was suspicious, maybe even hostile.
His eyes beamed with confidence and he stood very straight, as if to show how tall and powerful he was.
“What’s happened?” she said, and the fear was plain in her voice.
The policeman came closer and looked her up and down in a way she recognized only too well. She had encountered it so many times when walking around town, the look that wanted both to undress her and do her harm.
“What is your name?”
That was part of the provocation. She could see that he knew perfectly well who she was.
“Catrin Lindås,” she said.
He wrote it down in a notebook. “You’ve been with him here, haven’t you? Did you spend the night together?”
What’s that got to do with it?
she wanted to shout. But she was frightened, and she stepped back into the room and explained that Blomkvist had already left by the time she woke that morning.
“Did you check in using a false name?”
She tried to breathe calmly and wondered if it would even be possible to have a rational conversation with him, especially now that he had high-handedly marched into the room.
“And do you have a name?” she said.
“I don’t seem to remember you introducing yourself.”
“Inspector Carl Wernersson, from Norrmalm police.”
“Good, Carl,” she said. “In that case you can perhaps begin by telling me what’s going on?”
“Mikael Blomkvist was attacked outside this hotel during the night and abducted, so you’ll appreciate that we’re taking this very seriously indeed.”
She felt as if the walls were closing in on her. “My God,” she said.
“So it’s of the utmost importance that you give us a truthful account of what happened before that.”
She sat down on the bed. “Is he hurt?”
“We don’t know. You haven’t answered my question,” he said.
Her heart was pounding and she fumbled for words. “He was going to an important meeting this morning, but I’ve just found out that he never showed up.”
“What sort of meeting?”
She closed her eyes. Why was she being such an idiot? She had sworn not to tell anyone about it. But she was terrified and confused, her brain was not functioning properly. “I can’t tell you, I’m protecting a source,” she said.
“So you’re refusing to cooperate?”
She was struggling to breathe and looked out of the window, groping for a way out of the situation. But then Wernersson inadvertently helped her by staring at her breasts, and that made her livid.
“I’d be happy to cooperate. But before I do, I want to speak to a person with a rudimentary knowledge of the law on informant protection, and who at least tries to show some respect for people who’ve received shocking news about someone they’re close to.”