Read The Girl Who Lived Twice Online
Authors: David Lagercrantz
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m telling you to contact your superiors and get the hell out of here.”
Wernersson looked as if he wanted to arrest her right away.
” she said, angrier by the second, and he did actually mutter “OK,” although he could not resist adding:
“But you’re staying here.”
Without answering, she opened the door to show him out, then sat on the bed in stunned silence. A buzzing from her mobile jerked her back to life. It was a news flash from
CELEBRATED JOURNALIST ASSAULTED AND ABDUCTED OUTSIDE HOTEL LYDMAR IN STOCKHOLM
For a few minutes she was absorbed by the reports. There were banner headlines everywhere but precious little substance in the stories themselves, only the information that he was said to have been taken away in an ambulance, an ambulance no-one had called. It sounded…unbelievable. What the hell should she do? She wanted to scream. Then something came back to her, something she had heard in the night: a sound from the bathroom, a whispering, she thought, an exclamation from Mikael. She may even have whispered back: “What are you up to?”
Or had she been dreaming? It didn’t matter. The whispering could have had something to do with his leaving their room. The reports said that he had been abducted outside the hotel at around 2:00 a.m., which would mean—she was trying to think clearly—that something had been worrying him. He had gone off, leaving her alone, and had immediately been attacked. Had it all been a trap, a trick to get him to go out? Shit, shit. What was going on? What had happened?
She thought of the beggar, and of Rebecka Forsell and the desperate sound of her voice, and Mikael’s excitement last night about the interview. To hell with that moron of a policeman. Resolute, she dressed and packed her belongings, then went down and paid the bill at reception before being spirited away in a black diplomatic car from the British Embassy that was waiting for her. There had been no further sign of the odious policeman.
It was hot in the high-ceilinged room, a fire was burning in a large gas furnace. No daylight penetrated the building, which was lit only by a few spotlights. The large glass windows were tinted or covered in soot, and Blomkvist let his eyes dart around the building, making out the concrete beams and iron structures, the shattered glass on the floor and the gleaming metal edges of the furnace in which he saw his own reflection.
He had ended up at some abandoned industrial site, possibly an old glassworks which must be some distance from Stockholm, but he had not the slightest idea where. The journey had not been short, he thought. They had changed cars once or twice, although he had been so heavily drugged he had only fragmentary memories of the night and the morning. And now he was here, strapped to a camp bed or stretcher, not far from the furnace.
“Help! For Christ’s sake, is anybody there?!” he shouted out.
Not that he believed it would do him any good. But he had to do something other than writhe and sweat under the leather straps, feeling the heat of the fire on his feet. Otherwise he would go mad. The furnace hissed like a snake and he was terrified. His shirt was soaked in sweat and his mouth was dry, and now…What was that? He could hear a crunching, the sound of glass shards being crushed. Footsteps were approaching, and he sensed at once that they brought no hope of relief. On the contrary, they seemed to be ambling along with an exaggerated slowness, accompanied by whistling.
What sort of person would whistle now?
“Good morning, Mikael.”
It was the same English voice that had addressed him on the terrace the evening before. But still he could not see anyone. Perhaps that was deliberate, perhaps they did not want to show their faces. He answered in English:
The footsteps stopped and so did the whistling, and Blomkvist picked up the sound of breathing, the faint scent of aftershave, and he steeled himself for whatever might come, a blow, a stab, a shove of the stretcher—which seemed to be resting on some sort of trolley on rails—which would push his feet into the furnace. But nothing happened.
“I wasn’t expecting such a cheerful greeting,” the man said.
Blomkvist said nothing.
“That’s how I was brought up,” the voice said.
“How do you mean?” he managed to stutter.
“Always pretend to be calm, whatever happens. But that really isn’t necessary here. I prefer honesty, and I don’t mind admitting that I feel somewhat…ill at ease. A sort of inner resistance.”
“How come?” Blomkvist said.
“I like you, Mikael. I respect your attitude to the truth, and this business…”
A pause for effect.
“…should have been a simple family matter. But as is often the case with blood feuds, other people get drawn in.”
Blomkvist noticed that he had begun to tremble. “You’re talking about Zala,” he said with a groan.
“Yes, indeed, Comrade Zalachenko. But you never met him, did you?”
“I think you should be congratulated on that. It was an impressive experience, but it left its marks.”
“You knew him?”
“I loved him. But sadly it was a little like loving a god. You got nothing back. Only a radiance that dazzled, and made you foolish and blind.”
“Blind?” Blomkvist repeated, hardly knowing what he was saying.
“That’s right, blind and mad. I’m afraid I may be still a bit of both. It wasn’t possible to cut my ties to Zalachenko, and I have a tendency to take unnecessary risks. Neither you nor I ought to be here, Mikael.”
“So why are we then?”
“The simple answer is revenge. Your friend could tell you a bit about its destructive force.”
“Lisbeth,” he said.
“Where is she?”
“Where indeed? That’s precisely what we’re wondering.”
There was another pause, long enough for Blomkvist to fear that the man would show just how blind and mad he still was. Instead the figure stepped forward, and the first thing Blomkvist noticed was the white linen suit, the same the man had been wearing the evening before. To his horror Blomkvist could imagine his own blood staining the jacket.
Then he saw the face. It was harmonious and clean-cut, with slightly asymmetrical eyes and a pale scar running down the right cheek. The man had thick grey hair with snow-white streaks. He was tall, slim and fine-limbed. In a different context he could have been taken for an eccentric intellectual, a kind of Tom Wolfe character. But right now, there was something icily unpleasant about him, and an unnatural slowness in his movements.
“I don’t suppose you’re alone,” Blomkvist said.
“There are a few thugs here too, young men who for some unfathomable reason don’t want to show their faces. And we have a camera up there.” The man pointed at the ceiling.
“So you’re going to film me?”
“Don’t you worry about that, Mikael,” the man said, inexplicably switching to Swedish. “Just see this as something entirely between you and me, a kind of intimacy.”
Blomkvist’s body was shaking more and more. “You speak Swedish,” he said, terrified.
It was as if the man’s ability to go from one language to another confirmed the impression of him as the very devil.
“I’m a linguist, Mikael.”
“I am indeed. But you and I are going to travel beyond language.”
He unfolded a black cloth he had been holding in his right hand and set out some shiny objects on the steel table next to him.
“What do you mean by that?” Blomkvist was growing increasingly desperate as he twisted on the stretcher and stared into the hissing fire and the reflection of his own contorted face just visible in the metal frame of the furnace.
“There are plenty of splendid words for most things in life,” the man went on. “Especially for love, I’m sure you’d agree. You must have read Keats and Byron and all that as a young man, and I’d say they did a pretty good job of capturing love. But infinite pain, Mikael, is beyond words. No-one has been able to describe it, not even the greatest artists, and that is where we are heading, Mikael. To the wordless.”
Jurij Bogdanov was sitting in the backseat of a black Mercedes driving north towards Märsta, and showing Kira the film sequence. She was watching it through narrowed eyes and Bogdanov could not wait to see the excitement that never failed to light up her face when she saw her enemies suffer.
But there was no sign of it, only an expression of long-suffering impatience, and that did not bode well. He did not trust Galinov and was convinced that it had all gone too far. Nothing good would come of going after Blomkvist. There were too many impassioned emotions involved, and he did not like Kira’s determined look.
“How are you feeling?” he said.
“Are you going to send it to her?”
“First I have to secure the link. But honestly, Kira…” He hesitated. He knew she would not like it and avoided her eyes.
“You ought to stay away from that place,” he went on. “We should fly you home now, at once.”
“I’m not flying anywhere until she’s dead.”
“I think…” he began.
that she won’t let herself be captured so easily,
is what he wanted to say.
That you’re underestimating her.
But he said no more. He must not allow a word or a look to betray the fact that he actually admired Salander, or Wasp, as he had come to know her. There were good hackers, there were geniuses and then there was Wasp. That is how he saw it, and instead of speaking he bent forward and pulled out a blue metal box.
“What’s that?” she said.
“A noisebox. A Faraday cage. For your mobile. We mustn’t leave any tracks.”
Kira looked out of the window and put her phone in the box. Then they sat in silence, looking fixedly ahead at the driver and the passing landscape until Kira demanded to see more of what was going on within the industrial building at Morgonsala, so Bogdanov showed her.
They were images he could have done without.
Salander was just passing Norrviken when the signal on her Google Glass disappeared, and she swore and hit the handlebar with her right hand. She had been expecting it, though, and slowed down until she spotted a small patch of woodland by a roadside rest area with a wooden bench and a table. She settled there with her laptop and hoped she would now reap the rewards from all those hours spent charting Camilla’s circle of helpers that summer.
The operation would have been impossible without the services of members of Svavelsjö M.C., and even though Salander assumed they only had prepaid mobiles with them, she still wanted to believe that one or another of them would have made a small mistake along the way. She tried again to check the men who had been to see Kira at Strandvägen: Marko, Jorma, Conny, Krille and Miro. Once again she drew a blank, in spite of the fact that she had hacked their operator and could access the base stations. She slammed her fist on the wooden table in fury and was ready to give up and look for another solution when suddenly she remembered Peter Kovic.
Of everyone in the club, Kovic had the worst criminal record, and was said to have a problem with alcohol and women, and discipline. She had not seen him anywhere near Strandvägen, but he was one of the men who had been at Fiskargatan that summer, so she tried his mobile as well. A short time later she exclaimed in triumph. Early that morning, Kovic had followed the same route as Camilla was now travelling, only he had carried on further north towards Uppsala, past Storvreta and Björklinge. She was just about to have a closer look when her phone rang.
At first she had no intention of answering, but it was Erika Berger from
All she could hear was Erika yelling and the only words she could make out were:
“He’s burning…he’s burning!”
She began to grasp what was happening.
“They’ve shoved him into a huge furnace. He’s screaming, he’s in excruciating pain, and they say…they’ve written—”
“That they’ll burn him alive unless you, Lisbeth, meet them in the woods outside Sunnersta. They say that if they see any police in the area, or anything suspicious, Mikael will die a terrible death…and then they’ll go after others who are close to you and Mikael, they won’t stop until you give yourself up. My God, Lisbeth, it’s so awful. His feet—”
“I’ll find him, do you hear? I’ll find him!”
“They told me to send you the film, and an e-mail address to communicate with them. Lisbeth, you’ve got to tell me what’s going on!”
Salander hung up. She had no time. She needed to get back to Peter Kovic. Last night he had taken the same route as Camilla now, but had gone further north on the E4 towards Tierp and Gävle, and that was encouraging. In fact it was beginning to look promising, and as she drummed her fingers on the table, she muttered:
“Go on, you bloody drunk. Lead me to them.”
But the trail ended in Månkarbo. Salander stared blankly at the road, and looked so full of rage that a young man who had just pulled into the rest area in a Renault got a fright and drove off again. She did not even register him. With jaws clenched she watched the film Berger had sent, and saw a close-up of Blomkvist.
His eyes were open wide, and so white it was as if the pupils had disappeared into the sockets, and his whole face was so tense and disfigured that he was hardly recognizable. Sweat was pouring off him, off his chin, his lips, and the front of his shirt was soaked, while the camera moved down his body to his jeans and feet. He was wearing red socks which were slowly being fed into a large brown-brick furnace with a raging, hissing fire. The socks and the bottoms of his trouser legs caught fire and, after an extraordinary time lag, as if Blomkvist was holding it back for as long as he could, there was a crazed, heartrending scream.
Salander did not say a word, she hardly moved a muscle. But her hand, at that moment like a claw, scratched three deep furrows into the table in front of her. Then she read the message they had sent, checked the e-mail address—it was some fucking encrypted crap—and forwarded the lot to Plague together with some brief instructions, a picture of Peter Kovic and a map of the E4 and northern Uppland.
Then she picked up her computer and her weapon, put on her Google Glass and set off for Tierp.
“Lisbeth, you’ve got to tell me what’s going on!” Erika Berger yelled into the telephone.
But the only people who could hear her were her colleagues gathered in the magazine’s offices on Götgatan, and they could tell she was beside herself. Sofie Melker, who was standing closest to her, was afraid that Erika was about to collapse and rushed over to put an arm around her. Berger was desperately trying to concentrate on coming up with a plan of action. They had written that she was absolutely not to call the police, not under any circumstances. But was that really an option? Not only was this the worst thing she had ever seen, it was Blomkvist, her oldest friend and great love, and she had been totally unprepared. She had checked her e-mails in the casual way you do when you’re not even aware that you’re doing it. You just go in as a matter of reflex and then, all of a sudden, this…
When she rang Salander, she had still not taken it in, nor ruled out the possibility that it might just be some macabre joke, a fake film sequence. But any such thoughts were immediately dispelled when she heard her voice and understood that this was pretty much what Salander had been anticipating: absolute evil.
It was indescribable, she swore loudly and incoherently, and only then realized, as if she had been in an entirely different dimension, that Sofie was hugging her. For a brief moment she considered telling the team exactly what was going on, but then she shook herself free and muttered:
“Sorry, but I need to be alone. I’ll explain later.”
Then she went into her office and slammed the door, and there was no need even to say it: She would not survive if anything she did were to cost Blomkvist his life. But that didn’t mean she could sit around and do nothing, still less simply follow the bandits’ instructions. She needed to…well, what?…think! Focus, of course, and wasn’t that always the pattern with this kind of crime?