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Authors: David Lagercrantz

The Girl Who Lived Twice (29 page)

BOOK: The Girl Who Lived Twice
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“So we’ve finally got you here,” she said.

Salander was silent. She only looked around the room and saw Blomkvist and his badly burned legs and the furnace beyond. She seemed to be searching for her own reflection in the shiny metal, and that gave Kira a small boost. Perhaps Salander was a little scared after all.

“You’re going to burn, just like Zala,” Kira said, and finally her sister responded.

“Will it feel better afterwards, do you think?”

“You ought to know.”

“It doesn’t feel better.”

“For me it will.”

“Do you know what I regret, Camilla?”

“I couldn’t care less.”

“I regret that I didn’t see.”

“That’s crap.”

“I regret that we didn’t stick together, against him.”

“It would never…” Kira began, but then she stopped, either because she had no idea what she wanted to say, or because she knew that whatever she said would be wrong. Instead she yelled:

“Shoot her in the legs and take her over to the furnace,” and that did send a shiver of excitement through her chest.

Those bloody idiots did open fire, but they must have hesitated for one second too long. Salander managed to roll over and Blomkvist was suddenly on his feet, though God knows how he did it. Kira backed away, seeing that her sister had grabbed a rusty iron rod that was lying on the floor.

With all the attention now fixed on Salander, Blomkvist had been able to pull his hands out of the leather straps and had tried to stand up. His legs could scarcely carry him, but the adrenaline rush enabled him to stay upright and grasp hold of one of the knives on the nearby table.

A few yards away, Salander had rolled across the floor holding an iron rod and managed to make it over to her motorcycle. With one sudden and violent wrench, she pulled it up on its wheels, and for a second or two used it as a shield against the bullets. Then she jumped up onto it and started the engine, and rode out through the window and disappeared across the field. It was so unexpected that the gang even stopped shooting. Was she fleeing?

It seemed inconceivable. But the engine noise really did grow fainter and eventually die away. Blomkvist felt as if a cold wind was sweeping through him.

He looked into the burning furnace and down at his horribly wounded legs, and felt that the knife in his hand was pathetic, like a wooden stick in a battle to the death, and he collapsed on the floor in excruciating pain.

Everything had come to a sudden stop. There was disbelief in the air, and heavy breathing and grunting, and the sound of his tormentor, Galinov, getting to his feet. His nose was bloodied and smashed, he had bloodstains and ash all over his white suit, and he was muttering that they ought to get out of there immediately. Camilla met his eyes and made an indeterminate movement with her head, which could have meant yes or no or nothing at all. She seemed as shocked as everyone else. She swore under her breath and kicked one of the men lying wounded on the floor. Further off a man was calling out something about Bogdanov.

At that precise moment Blomkvist heard a new sound, an engine racing, accelerating towards the building. It had to be Salander. What was she doing? She was heading towards them again, but not so fast this time, and she was not making for the hole she had smashed through the window. She was riding towards him and the furnace, and the thugs started shooting again, wildly and recklessly now. But the engine noise kept coming closer and now the motorcycle came thundering through the window straight ahead of him.

Once again, Salander made her entrance in a vast spray of broken glass, which cascaded over the floor and hit Galinov’s head and shoulders, and made him jump as if he’d seen a ghost. It was easy to understand why. Salander was deathly pale and looked completely crazed, and this time she was not holding on to the handlebars. Wielding the iron rod, she knocked a gun out of the hands of one of the men before ramming into the stretcher and falling over Blomkvist, straight into the wall. But she was back on her feet in a trice, and she grabbed the weapon which had slid along the floor and began to shoot.

There were flashes all around the building, and Blomkvist could no longer grasp what was going on. He heard only the shots and the yelling, the footsteps and breathing, the grunting and the falling bodies. When the noise finally died down, at least for a moment, he decided to act, to do something…anything.

He realized that he was still holding the knife and tried to get up. But the pain was extreme. He took a deep breath and tried again, and made it up onto his feet this time. Dazed, he looked around, and saw that now only three people remained standing: Salander, Galinov and Camilla.

Only Salander held a weapon. The situation had swung in her favour and it was time to wrap it all up. But she remained strangely still, as if her movements had frozen. Even her eyes were immobile, she hardly blinked. There was something wrong. Blomkvist felt it as a stab of fear in the chest, and now he saw it too: Salander’s hand was shaking.

She could not shoot, and Galinov and Camilla dared to move forward, each from a different direction, Galinov bleeding and stunned and Camilla shaking with fury. For a few seconds Camilla glared at Salander, her eyes full of hatred and something like madness. Then suddenly, as if wanting to be shot, she ran straight at her sister. But Salander did not fire at her—not this time either.

Instead she fell backwards and banged her head on the bricks close to the furnace. Galinov ran to her, took hold of her. A man lying further away lumbered to his feet. Once again, it looked to be the end for them.


August 28

“I was growing more and more desperate at the time, and it wasn’t just fear,” Forsell said. “It was also the self-contempt. Lindberg was not only threatening me. He also managed to distort my whole perception of myself. The accusations he claimed to have against me seeped into my veins, and I started to feel like someone who doesn’t deserve to live. I mentioned all the hate in the media a little while ago. I never paid much attention to it. But after the exchange with Lindberg in his car, everything that had been said seemed true and real, as if in fact it were a part of me, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I just lay in bed on Sandön, paralyzed.”

“And yet I heard you yelling into the telephone,” Rebecka said. “You still seemed prepared to fight.”

“That’s true, I did want to fight. I had rung Janek here, and told him, and often I had the telephone in my hand and was on the point of calling the prime minister and the head of police. I was getting ready to take some sort of action. At least that’s what I’d like to believe. And it must have worried Lindberg when I took time off. He came out to Sandön. Looking back on it, I wonder if he didn’t do that just to keep an eye on me.”

“Why do you say that?” Lindås said.

“Because one morning, when Becka had gone shopping, he turned up unannounced and we stood on the beach and talked. That’s when he showed me the dossier. It was all fake, but it was quite uncanny how well it had been put together, with pictures of women who’d been beaten black and blue and witness statements, copies of reports to the police and supporting evidence, certificates which looked like proper scientific or technical proof. It was a comprehensive set of documents, clearly the work of professionals, and I realized at once that enough people would be taken in by it for long enough to cause irreparable damage. I remember walking back into the house and looking around. Every object in there—every kitchen knife, the upstairs windows, the electric sockets—had turned into something with which to injure myself. At that moment, I wanted only to die.”

“Not quite, I don’t think, Johannes,” Kowalski said. “You still had some fight left in you. You called me again and told me everything.”

“That’s true, I did.”

“And you provided enough information for us to be able to confirm that Svante Lindberg had been recruited by Zvezda Bratva early in the 2000s. Not only did we realize that he was corrupt through and through, we also finally understood what had really happened.”

“That he drugged Grankin and Klara Engelman?”

“We knew exactly what his motives were all along. Just like Stan Engelman, he was deeply concerned about what Klara and Viktor could reveal. We don’t believe that Grankin knew about Lindberg’s role in the syndicate, but that’s not so important. Once you’ve been sucked into an organization like that, you do as you’re told. By this time, Zvezda Bratva had every reason to get rid of Viktor and Klara.”

“I’m beginning to understand,” Lindås said.

“Then you’ll appreciate that Lindberg had more than one reason to leave Klara up there to die—it wasn’t only to help a friend.”

“He wanted to silence her.”

“Her rising from the dead meant that the syndicate was once again in danger. But the sad thing was that we were so focused on the material we had, we forgot to keep Johannes in the picture.”

“You left him in the lurch,” Rebecka said.

“We forgot to give him the support he deserved, and that pains me deeply.”

“I should hope so.”

“You’re absolutely right. It was very regrettable and unfair, and I hope that’s what you think too, Catrin, having listened to all this.”

“What?” she said.

“That all along, Johannes was only trying to do the right thing.”

Lindås did not answer. She was staring at a news flash on her mobile.

“Has something happened?” Rebecka said.

“There’s a police operation going on in Morgonsala, it may be something to do with Mikael,” she said.

Salander’s head banged against the brick wall, and she could feel the rush of heat from the furnace. She knew she had to get a grip on herself, and not only for her own sake. What the hell was her problem? She could burn men with irons. She could tattoo words onto their bellies. She could go completely wild. But she could not shoot her sister—not if her own life depended on it.

She had hesitated once more, and now, in the midst of the whirling madness around them, Camilla grabbed hold of her injured arm and tried to drag her towards the furnace. Her hair hissed as the fire singed it, and she was close to falling into the flames. But she stayed upright and saw how one man, Jorma she thought it was, was aiming a pistol at her from across the room. She shot back and hit him in the chest. There was movement and danger on all sides, and now Galinov bent to pick a weapon off the floor, and she was about to shoot him as well. But she did not have time.

Blomkvist collapsed, grimacing with pain, but in his fall he managed to grab hold of Galinov’s shoulder. Just then Camilla took a step back and stared at Salander with a hatred that knew no bounds. Her whole body was shaking as she braced herself. She rushed forward to shove her into the furnace. But Salander stepped to one side, and Camilla’s own momentum carried her forward. It was over in no time at all.

Yet it seemed to take forever. Not just the movement itself and the fall and the flailing hands. It was also the crashing sound, the noise of her body landing in the flames, the sizzle of scorched skin and her hair catching fire, and the screaming that followed and was stifled by the blaze and her desperate effort to get out, and then the first staggering steps back onto the floor, her hair and blouse ablaze.

Camilla howled and shook her head, writhing in agony, while Salander just stood there motionless, observing the scene. For a brief moment she wondered if she should help her sister. But she remained immobile, and something else happened instead. Camilla fell silent, paralyzed. She must have caught sight of her own reflection in the metal frame of the furnace, because suddenly she started screaming again:

“My face, my face!”

It was as if she had lost something more precious than life itself. Yet somehow she was still able to act. She bent down, picked up the weapon Galinov had dropped and aimed it at her sister, and that galvanized Salander. Now she was prepared to shoot back.

Camilla’s hair was still burning, which had to be affecting her vision. She stumbled around with the pistol held high, and Salander had her finger on the trigger of her gun, ready to fire. For a split second she thought she had. A shot went off. But it was not from her own pistol.

It was from Camilla’s. She had shot herself in the head and, without realizing what she was doing, Salander held out a hand and was about to say something. But whatever it was, it remained unsaid. Camilla crumpled and Salander stood and looked down at her sister while a whole world flashed by in her thoughts, a world engulfed by fire and destruction.

She thought of her mother, and of Zala burning in his Mercedes, and soon after that the hammering of a helicopter’s blades could be heard overhead and she looked down at Blomkvist, still lying on the floor, not far from Camilla and Galinov.

“Is it over?” he mumbled.

“It’s over,” she said, and at the same moment she heard the police shouting outside as they approached the building.


August 28

Bublanski—or Officer Bubble as he was sometimes known—was walking in the field in front of the old glassworks. There were policemen and medical personnel all over the place. A TV crew was broadcasting live, and he was informed that Blomkvist and many of the injured had already been taken away. But to his surprise he caught sight of a familiar outline sitting inside an ambulance a little way off.

The doors were open and the figure was covered in cuts and dirt, and had singed hair and a bandaged arm. She was staring blankly at a stretcher being carried away from the building, on it a body wrapped in a grey blanket. Bublanski approached hesitantly.

“Lisbeth…how are you?” he said.

She did not answer. She did not even look at him, and so he continued:

“We have you to thank. Without you—”

“This wouldn’t have happened,” she cut in.

“Don’t be hard on yourself. Dare I ask you to promise—”

“I’m not promising anything,” she said in a voice which frightened him. He thought again of the fallen angel in paradise:
Serves nobody, belongs to nobody,
and he smiled self-consciously and urged the ambulance crew to take her to hospital as quickly as possible.

He turned to Sonja Modig, who was walking across the field towards him, and for the thousandth time he thought that he was too old for this sort of madness. He longed for the sea, or for anywhere at all which was peaceful and lay far away.

They sat there glued to their mobiles. Someone was reporting live on national television that Blomkvist and Salander had been carried out of the building, injured but conscious, and Lindås felt the tears welling up in her eyes. Her hands shook and she stared emptily ahead. She felt a hand on her shoulder.

“It looks as if they’re going to make it,” Kowalski said.

“Let’s hope so,” she said, wondering if she had not better leave at once.

But then she realized that she would not be able to help at all at this stage. She might as well finish what she had started, and there was still one question which needed to be answered.

“I should imagine that people will sympathize with your predicament, Johannes, at least those who want to understand,” she said.

“There aren’t usually too many of those,” Rebecka said.

“Nothing I can do about that now,” Forsell said. “Can we drop you off somewhere, Catrin?”

“I’ll be all right, thanks,” she said. “But there’s one more thing I’d like to ask you. You said you didn’t visit Nima Rita all that often at the South Wing. But you went there a few times, didn’t you, and surely you must have noticed that he wasn’t doing well?”

“I did.”

“So why didn’t you ask for something to be done? Why didn’t you see to it that he was moved to a better place?”

“I insisted on all sorts of things. I even yelled at the people there. But not enough, I suppose, and perhaps I gave up too easily. I ran away from it. Maybe it was more than I could handle.”

“In what way?”

“We all have things we can’t deal with,” he said. “In the end you just look away and pretend they’re not happening.”

“Was it that bad?”

“To begin with, I was there quite often. Then I waited for almost a year. It just turned out that way, and I remember feeling nervous and uncomfortable when I went back. He came shuffling towards me, wearing grey clothes. He looked like a prisoner who had been crushed. I got to my feet and put my arms around him, but his body was stiff and lifeless. I tried to talk. I asked him endless questions. His answers were monosyllabic. He seemed to have given up, and I had a violent reaction. I felt this tremendous rage.”

“Towards the clinic?”

“Towards him.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s how it was, quite simply, guilt can do that to you. It ends up breeding a load of anger. Nima was like…the flip side of me. He was the price I had paid for having such a happy life.”

“Can you explain that?” Lindås said.

“Don’t you understand? I owed him a debt I could never repay. I couldn’t even thank him without going back to the very thing that had torn him apart. I was alive because Klara had been sacrificed. Because
had been sacrificed, and in the end his wife too, and I couldn’t bear it. I never went back to the South Wing. I looked away.”

BOOK: The Girl Who Lived Twice
3.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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