Authors: David Lagercrantz
“I like to take responsibility for my actions,” she said.
“I was trying to protect you.”
“Bullshit. You wanted to feel a little better about yourself. But that’s O.K., Alvar. You can go now.”
He wanted to say something more. He wanted to explain himself, but he could tell it would only sound ridiculous. He turned away and heard her mumble behind his back:
“I hit her on the windpipe.”
The windpipe? he thought, as he locked the door. Then he fought his way through the mayhem in the corridor.
As Palmgren waited for Lulu, he tried to remember what the documents had actually said. Could there be something new and important buried in them? He found it hard to believe he would uncover more than he already knew: that there had been plans for Salander to be put up for adoption when things were really bad with her father, including his sexual assaults against Agneta.
Well, he would find out soon enough. On the four days of the week she worked, Lulu always arrived punctually at 9.00 p.m. He longed to see her. She would help him into bed, put on the morphine plaster and make him comfortable, and then retrieve the papers from the bottom drawer in the chest in the living room where she had put them the last time, after Maj-Britt Torell’s visit.
Palmgren vowed to devote his utmost attention to them. This might give him the pleasure of helping Salander one last time. He groaned and felt a sharp pain in his hips. This was the worst time of day and he said a small prayer: “Dear, wonderful Lulu. I need you. Come now.” And indeed he lay there for five, perhaps ten minutes, drumming his good hand against the bed cover, when steps he thought he recognized echoed in the hallway.
The door opened. Was she twenty minutes early? How wonderful! But there was no cheerful greeting from the front door, no “Good evening, my old friend”, only footsteps stealing into the apartment and coming towards his bedroom. This scared him, and he was not easily scared. One of the advantages of age was that he no longer had much to lose. But now he was anxious, perhaps because of those papers. He wanted to read them properly, to use them to help Salander. All of a sudden he had something to live for.
“Hello,” he called out. “Hel
“Oh – are you awake? I thought you would be asleep.”
“But I’m never asleep when you arrive,” he said, perceptibly relieved.
“I don’t think you realize how exhausted and run down you’ve been these last days. I thought that visit to the prison might be the end of you,” Lulu said as she came through the doorway.
She was wearing eye make-up and lipstick and a brightly coloured African dress.
“Has it been that bad?”
“You have been almost impossible to talk to.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll try and do better.”
“You’re my number one, you know that. Your only flaw is that you keep saying sorry.”
“What’s with you today, Lulu? You’re looking particularly lovely.”
“I’m going out with a Swedish guy from Västerhaninge. Can you imagine? He’s an engineer and owns a house and a new Volvo.”
“He’s smitten with you, of course?”
“I hope so,” she said. She straightened out his legs and hips, making sure he was lying properly on the pillow and raised the backrest into a sitting position. As the bed moved with a soft buzzing sound she chattered on about the man from Västerhaninge who was called Robert, or possibly Rolf. Palmgren was not listening, and Lulu laid a hand on his forehead.
“You’re in a cold sweat, silly. I should shower you.”
No-one could call him silly with as much tenderness as Lulu. Usually he enjoyed this banter, but today he was impatient. He looked down at his lifeless left hand, which seemed more pitiful than ever.
“I’m sorry, Lulu. Could you do something for me first?”
“Always your service.”
your service,” he corrected her. “You know those papers you put away in the chest last time? Can you fetch them? I need to read them again.”
“But you said it was awful to read them.”
“It was. But I have to take another look.”
She hurried off and reappeared a minute or two later with a larger sheaf than he remembered having looked through in the first place. Maybe she had grabbed more than one file. He began to fret. Either there would be nothing of significance in the papers, or else there would be, in which case who could predict what Lisbeth would get up to.
“You seem chirpier today. But you’re not a hundred per cent, are you? Is it that Salander woman you’re thinking about?” Lulu said, setting down the bundle of papers on the bedside table next to his pill boxes and books.
“I’m afraid so. It was awful to see her in that prison. Can you fetch my toothbrush and put on my morphine plasters? Move my legs a little bit over to the left please. It feels as if the whole lower part of my body has—”
“—knives sticking in it?” she said.
“Exactly, knives. Do I say that all the time?”
“Yes, all the time.”
“You see, I’m going senile. But I’ll read these papers, and you can disappear off to see your Roger.”
“Rolf,” she corrected him.
“Right, Rolf. I hope he’s nice. Being nice is the most important thing.”
“Is it really? Did you choose your lovers based on their niceness?”
“I certainly should have.”
“That’s what all men say, and then they go chasing after the first beautiful woman they see.”
“What? No, I never did.”
His mind was drifting. He asked Lulu to put the files on the bed beside him, but he barely managed to lift one even with his good arm. As Lulu unbuttoned his shirt and put on his morphine plasters, he began to read. Every now and then as Lulu got on with her work he broke off to say something kind and encouraging. He wished her an especially fond farewell and good luck with her Rolf or Roger.
Just as he had recalled, the papers mostly consisted of observations by the psychiatrist Peter Teleborian: medication protocols, notes on pills the patient had refused to take and accounts of treatment regimens during which she silently dug in her heels, decisions to use coercive measures, re-evaluations, second opinions, decisions to use even more coercive measures, clear indications of sadism, even if expressed in dry, clinical terms – all the things which had so tormented Palmgren.
But he could find none of the information Salander was looking for even though he had read very carefully. He began to go through it all once more, and to be on the safe side he would use his magnifying glass this time. He studied each page closely, and eventually he did pick up something, though not much: two minor confidential notes made by Teleborian soon after Salander had been admitted to the clinic in Uppsala. But they gave Palmgren precisely what he had been asked to find: names.
The first note read:
Already known from the Registry for the Study of Genetics and Social Environment (R.G.S.E.). Took part in Project 9. (Finding: Unsatisfactory.)
Placement in foster home decided by Professor of Sociology Martin Steinberg. Impossible to enforce. Liable to run away.
Fertile imagination. Serious incident with G. in apartment on Lundagatan – ran away at the age of six.
Ran away at the age of six? Was that the incident Salander had referred to during his visit to the prison? It must have been, which might make G. the woman with the birthmark on her throat. But there was nothing more about it in the documents and so he could not be sure. Palmgren thought hard. Then he had another look at Teleborian’s note and smiled a little. “Fertile imagination”, the man had written. It was the only positive comment that bastard had ever made about Salander. Even a donkey can sometimes … But this was no joke. The note confirmed that Salander had been on the verge of being sent away as a child. Palmgren read on:
Mother, Agneta Salander, severely brain-damaged by blow to the head. Admitted to Äppelviken nursing home. Had previously been seen by psychologist Hilda von Kanterborg – who is believed to have broken confidentiality and disclosed information about the Registry. Should not be given any opportunity to contact the patient. Further measures planned by Professor Steinberg and G.
Professor Steinberg, he thought. Martin Steinberg. Somehow the name seemed familiar. With difficulty – it was the same with everything these days – Palmgren Googled the man on his mobile, and he recognized him at once. How could he have missed it? Not that he and Martin had been close. But they had met about twenty-five years ago. Steinberg was an expert witness at a trial in which Palmgren had defended an underprivileged young man who had been charged with assaulting his father.
He recalled his delight at having a resource like Steinberg on his side. Steinberg served on a number of prestigious committees and inquiries. His views tended to be antiquated and even rigid, but he had been a useful person to have on the case and his client had been acquitted. They had a drink together after the trial, and had met several times since. Palmgren could perhaps get something out of him.
Palmgren lay in bed, the large stack of papers resting on his chest and stomach. He tried to think clearly. Would it be rash to attempt to contact Steinberg? He spent ten or fifteen minutes mulling it over while the morphine did its work and the pain in his hips began to feel more like needle pricks than knives. In the end, he dismissed the concern. Salander had asked for his help and he owed it to her to make an effort. So he worked out a strategy and then made the call. While the number was ringing he glanced at the clock. It was now 10.20 p.m. A little late, but not too late. He would be careful. But as soon as Steinberg came on the line, Palmgren almost lost his nerve and he had to pull himself together to sound convincing.
“I hope I’m not intruding, calling at this hour,” he said. “But I have a question for you.”
Martin Steinberg was not unfriendly but he did sound apprehensive, and he didn’t brighten up even when Palmgren congratulated him on all the grand appointments and assignments he had read about online. The professor dutifully enquired about Palmgren’s health.
“What can I say, at my age? I have to be thankful that my body hurts and reminds me that it exists,” Palmgren said, and tried to laugh. Steinberg laughed with him and they exchanged a few words about the old days.
Then Palmgren told him the reason for his call. He said he had been contacted by a client and would be grateful to know a little about the work Steinberg had been doing at the so-called Registry. Immediately he sensed that this was a mistake. Steinberg did not lose his cool, but he sounded distinctly nervous.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the professor said.
“Is that right? How strange. It says here that you made decisions on behalf of the authority.”
“It says that where?”
“In the papers I’ve got,” Palmgren said, vaguer now and more defensive.
“I do need to know exactly where, because this sounds absolutely wrong,” Steinberg said, in a surprisingly sharp tone.
“Very well, I suppose I had better have another look.”
“Yes, you really should.”
“Or perhaps I’ve got it all mixed up. At my age, you know …” Palmgren said.
“Ah well, that happens,” Steinberg said, trying to strike a friendly or even a casual note. But he could not hide the fact that he was shaken, and he knew it. He added an unnecessary caution:
“There’s also the possibility that something in your papers is inaccurate. Who is the client who contacted you?”
Palmgren mumbled that Steinberg would understand, would he not, being a medical man, that he could not disclose a name and ended the call as quickly as possible. But even before he had hung up, he realized that this call would have consequences. How could he have been such an idiot? He had wanted to help, but instead he had made things worse. As the hours passed and night fell over Liljeholmen, his anxiety and misgivings only grew and converged with the pain in his back and hips. Again and again he cursed himself for his stupidity and lack of judgement.
One had to feel sorry for poor old Holger Palmgren.
Blomkvist woke early on Sunday morning and stole out of bed so as not to disturb Malin. He pulled on some jeans and a grey cotton shirt, and made a strong cappuccino and a sandwich while he had a quick flick through the morning newspaper.
Then he settled down at his computer and wondered where to begin. He had dug into just about everything over the years: archives, diaries, databases, court proceedings, microfilms, stacks and stacks of paper, inventories of estates, tax returns, financial statements, wills, public tax returns. He had challenged confidentiality decisions, invoked the principles of public access to official records and the protection of whistle-blowers, found backdoors and loopholes. He had pored over old photographs, unravelled contradictory witness statements, stumbled upon material in cellars and cold storage rooms, and – quite literally – burrowed through dustbins. But he had never before tried to find out if someone had been adopted or born out of wedlock. He had never thought that was any of his business, and he wasn’t sure it was this time either. But he followed his instincts. Ivar Ögren had called Leo a gyppo and that was not just an old, unpleasant racist insult. If that blockhead was questioning Leo’s “Swedishness”, it was plain incomprehensible. The Mannheimer family had more noble lineage than the Ögrens by any reckoning, with a family tree and ancestors stretching back to the 1600s. But he had a feeling it might be worth looking into the past.
Blomkvist began a search that soon brought a smile to his face. Genealogy had become a popular pastime. There were innumerable archives, and an extraordinary number of church records, censuses and registers of emigrants and immigrants had been scanned and digitized. This was nothing short of a goldmine. Anyone with enough money and patience could go as far back as they wanted, tracing their forefathers’ meanderings across the steppes and continents through the millennia, even to our ancestral mothers in Africa.
Recent adoptions, however, were a problem. There was a seventy-year confidentiality period for those. They could be referred to the Administrative Court of Appeal, but that was only possible in certain particularly sensitive cases. Prying journalists who had no idea what they were looking for were unlikely to qualify. By the rules, this was the end of the road, but he knew better than anyone that there was always a way. He only had to work out how to go about it.