The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series (12 page)

BOOK: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series
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It was 7.30 a.m. Malin was still asleep and out on Riddarfjärden it looked as if it was going to be a nice day. In a few hours they would be off to listen to Mannheimer at the Fotografiska Museum on Stadsgårdskajen. But first Blomkvist wanted to check out Mannheimer’s past. It did not help that it was Sunday, when help desks and other friendly souls would be off work. And furthermore, after his conversations with Malin, he had begun to feel some sympathy for the man. But he was not going to give up. If he had understood correctly, he would first have to request Mannheimer’s birth record from the Stockholm City Archives. If he was not allowed access, that would confirm his suspicions, but it would not be enough. The birth record could have been stamped confidential for all kinds of reasons, not necessarily adoption. Blomkvist would then have to get hold of the parents’ personal files as well as Mannheimer’s and compare them. The personal files – kept confidential only in exceptional cases – would contain information about where they had lived at various stages. If Leo Mannheimer and his parents were not registered in the same parish – presumably Västerled parish in Nockeby – at the time of Leo’s birth, that would be a clear sign: Herman and Viveka could not be his biological parents.

Blomkvist therefore wrote an e-mail application for Mannheimer’s birth record from the Stockholm City Archives as well as his and his parents’ personal files. Yet he never sent it. Blomkvist’s name was like a warning bell. People were always interested in why he wanted this or that information. The rumour mill would begin to turn – Mikael Blomkvist is snooping around again – and news of his application would almost certainly spread, which would be counterproductive if there really was something to the story. He decided instead to telephone the archive the next day, Monday, using his right to access public documents while remaining anonymous.

Then it occurred to him that Holger Palmgren might already know the answer. Against all odds and probably in defiance of his doctors’ recommendations, Palmgren had been to see Salander at Flodberga. It would be nice to talk to him anyway, to hear how he was. Blomkvist picked up his mobile and checked the time. Was it too early? No, no, Palmgren woke at the crack of dawn and never distinguished between weekends and weekdays. But Blomkvist could not get through, there seemed to be something wrong with the old man’s mobile. The number was not currently in use, a voice said. Blomkvist tried his landline. No answer there either. He was about to try again when he heard the sound of bare feet behind him. He turned around with a smile.

Palmgren had also discovered that his mobile was not working. Typical, he thought, nothing worked, least of all himself. He was in pitiful shape. He had been lying awake ever since the small hours, suffering appalling pain. What on earth had got into him?

He was by now convinced that the conversation yesterday had been a big mistake. Sitting on grand committees and commissions did not prevent Steinberg from being a crook. It was damning enough that the man had signed the document that sent Salander to a foster home against her and her mother’s wishes.

Lord in heaven, what an idiot he was! What should he do? First of all, he had to reach Salander and talk it through with her. But his telephone was not working. Palmgren had stopped using his landline because all he got these days were sales pitches and calls from people he wanted nothing to do with. With great effort he turned in his bed and could see that the telephone was no longer even plugged in. He reached past the mattress, his chest leaning over the bed rail, and finally succeeded in pushing the plug back in. Then he lay back for a while, panting, before he picked up the old handset on the bedside table. There was a dial tone. That was already an improvement, he was operational again. He dialled Directory Enquiries and asked to be put through to Flodberga Prison. He wasn’t expecting anyone especially friendly to come on the line, but he was nonetheless shaken by the arrogance and rudeness of the voice on the prison’s switchboard.

“My name is Holger Palmgren,” he said with all the authority he could muster. “I’m a lawyer. Please put me through to whoever is in charge of the maximum security unit. It’s a matter of the utmost importance.”

“Hold the line.”

“There’s no time for that,” he said, but he was kept waiting all the same and only after endless delays was he connected to some guard in the unit, a Harriet Lindfors. Lindfors was abrupt but he told her how urgent the matter was. He needed to speak to Lisbeth Salander without delay. Her answer put a chill through him:

“You can’t. Not the way things are right now.”

“Did something happen?”

“Are you working on her case?”

“No. Or rather yes, I am.”

“Which is it?”

“I’m not directly involved, but—”

“Then you’ll have to call back later,” Lindfors said and hung up. Palmgren was furious. He pounded on the bed with his good hand. He worried that the worst had happened, and that it was all his fault. Though he tried to pull himself together, his mind raced in wild speculation. He wanted to stand up and take control of the situation. But his fingers were twisted and stiff, his body was crooked and half lame. He could not even get into his wheelchair without help. Oh, the indignity of it. If the night had been his Calvary, he now felt nailed to his cross, his wretched mattress. Not even good old Ekelöf and his clenched fist among the water lilies could comfort him any longer.

He looked at the base unit of the telephone. The light was flashing, someone must have tried to call while he was holding for Flodberga’s switchboard, and sure enough it was Mikael Blomkvist’s voice that played back. Good news – Blomkvist would be able to help, he would know what to do with the information. Palmgren dialled his number. At first there was no reply, so he rang again, and again, until Blomkvist came on the line. He was breathing heavily and Palmgren recognized at once that it was a better sort of breathlessness than the one which afflicted him.

“Is this a bad time?”

“Not at all,” Blomkvist answered, still short of breath.

“Do you have female company?”

“No, no.”

“He certainly does,” said a woman’s voice in the background.

“Now don’t you upset the lady, Mikael.”

Even in the midst of a crisis, Palmgren could be scrupulously polite.

“Wise advice,” Blomkvist said.

“Well, you look after her then. I’ll ring your sister instead.”

“Wait!” Blomkvist must have picked up the worried tone in his voice. “I’ve been trying to reach you. You’ve been to see Lisbeth, haven’t you?”

“Yes, and I’m worried about her,” Palmgren said hesitantly.

“Me too. What have you heard?”

“I’ve …” He remembered Blomkvist’s old advice not to disclose sensitive information on the telephone.

“Yes?”

“She seems to be trying to look into things again,” he said.

“What things?”

“From her childhood. But I feel awful, Mikael, I think I’ve put my foot in it. I wanted to help her, I really did. But instead I’ve messed everything up. If you come out here I can tell you.”

“Of course, I’m on my way.”

“Oh no you’re not!” the woman could be heard to say.

Palmgren thought about the woman, whoever she might be. And he thought about Marita who would soon be stomping in to begin the whole laborious, degrading process which would result in him sitting in his wheelchair, freshly changed and drinking his watery coffee which tasted like tea. The most important thing right now was to reach Salander. Somehow he had to get the message to her that Professor Martin Steinberg was most likely the man in charge of the Registry for the Study of Genetics and Social Environment.

“Maybe it’s better if you come over later, this evening after nine,” he said. “Then we can have a drink too. I could really use one.”

“O.K., great, see you this evening,” Blomkvist said.

Palmgren ended the call and picked up the old documents about Salander from his bedside table. Then he tried calling first Giannini, and then Rikard Fager, Flodberga’s governor. He did not get through to either of them. A few hours later he realized that his landline was now not working either, and that the meddlesome Marita seemed not to be coming.

Leo Mannheimer often thought of that October afternoon. He was eleven then. It was a Saturday. His mother was having lunch with the Catholic bishop and his father was away on an elk hunt in the forests of Uppland. The house stood silent and Leo was alone. Not even Vendela, the housekeeper, was there to keep an eye on him, so he had abandoned all the extra homework his private tutors had given him. He sat at the grand piano, not to play any sonatas or études, but to compose.

He had only just begun to write music and his pieces had so far been received with little enthusiasm. His mother had referred to them as “snippets of musical nonsense, darling”. But he loved to compose. He longed for it during the hours of classes and study. That afternoon he was working on a melancholy, melodic song which he would go on to play throughout his life, despite its disturbing similarity to “
Ballade pour Adeline
” and despite his having grasped perfectly well what his mother had said. It did not strike him as strange that she could say such a thing to her eleven-year-old son, all he could see was that she had a point.

His first compositions were too pompous. He was not yet sophisticated, and he still had to discover jazz, which would make his harmonies grittier and more spiky. Above all he had not yet learned to handle the amplified sound of insects, rustling bushes, footsteps, distant engines, voices, fans – all those things which only he could hear.

However, he was happy at the grand piano that day, as happy as a boy like him could be. Despite the fact that somebody was always keeping an eye on him, he was a solitary child, and he loved only one person – his psychologist Carl Seger. Leo had a session with him every Tuesday at 4.00 p.m. at his practice in Bromma, and he often rang him in the evenings without his parents knowing. Seger understood him. Seger fought Leo’s battles with his parents for him:

“The boy must be allowed to breathe! You have to let him be a child.”

It did no good, of course, but Seger was the only person who stood up for him, Seger and his fiancée, Ellenor.

Seger and Leo’s father were like night and day. Yet there was a bond between them which Leo did not understand. Seger had even agreed to go hunting, though he did not like killing animals. In Leo’s eyes, Seger was a different kind of person from his father and Alfred Ögren. He was no player of power games, he did not laugh loudly and condescendingly around the dinner table. He was not interested in life’s winners, and talked instead about the outsiders of the world. Seger read poetry, preferably French. He liked Stendhal and Camus, and Romain Gary, he loved Edith Piaf and played the flute, and he dressed simply, if in a deliberately bohemian style. Most important of all, he listened to Leo’s concerns; only he had the true measure of the boy’s talent – or curse, depending on your point of view.

“Be proud of your sensitivity, Leo. You’ve got so much strength in you. Things will get better, you’ll see.”

Leo took comfort in Seger’s words, and their meetings were the high point of his week. Seger’s practice was in his house on Grönviksvägen. There were black and white photographs on the walls of a mist-shrouded 1950s Paris, and a soft, worn-leather armchair in which Leo sat for an hour or sometimes two, talking about all those things his parents and friends could not understand. Seger was the best part of his childhood, although Leo was aware even then that he idealized him.

From that October afternoon onwards, Leo would spend the rest of his life idealizing him, and would return over and again to those last hours by the grand piano.

Leo was lingering over every note, each change in melody and harmony. He stopped abruptly when he heard his father’s Mercedes drive up to the garage. His father was not expected back before the following day, so the fact of his early return was already alarming. But that was not all. There was a peculiar kind of stillness in the air in the driveway, a hesitation as the car door opened, and then – like a contradiction – a fury as it was slammed shut. The footsteps crunching on the gravel were heavy and slow, the breathing rapid, and sighs could be heard from the entrance hall, mingling with the sounds of a suitcase being put down and things being put away, guns no doubt.

The curved wooden staircase to the upper floor creaked. Leo sensed the impending darkness even before his father’s figure appeared in the doorway. That is how he would remember it. His father was dressed in green hunting breeches and a black waxed jacket and the sweat shone on his bald pate. He looked fretful. Normally he reacted with arrogance when he was in a tight spot. Now he seemed frightened, and he took a few unsteady steps forward. Uncertainly, Leo stood up from the piano, and received an awkward hug.

“I’m sorry, my boy. So terribly sorry.”

Though Leo never doubted the sincerity of the words, his father’s account of what had happened and his inability to look Leo in the eye, while difficult to interpret, suggested that there was something more, something dreadful and unspoken. But just then that did not matter.

Carl Seger was dead and Leo’s life would never be the same again.

In spite of the warm weather, an unusually large crowd had turned up for the Shareholders’ Association event at the Fotografiska Museum. It was in keeping with the times. Anything to do with stocks and shares drew crowds, and on this occasion the organizers had spiced up these dreams of wealth with a small measure of uncertainty. “Rising Index or Bursting Bubble? An Afternoon on the Theme of the Galloping Markets” was the title of the seminar and a great many well-known figures in the industry had been invited.

Leo Mannheimer was not the headline act, but he was the first to speak and Blomkvist and Malin Frode arrived just as he was about to go on stage. They had hurried through the hot, wind-still city and managed to find seats at the back of the auditorium. Malin was nervous about seeing Mannheimer again, whereas Blomkvist was full of misgivings after his conversation with Palmgren. He scarcely listened to Karin Laestander, the young chief executive of the Shareholders’ Association, as she made her introductory remarks up on the podium.

BOOK: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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