Authors: David Lagercrantz
Blomkvist did not show up at the magazine the following week, nor did he spend any time on his story about troll factories. He tidied up the apartment, went for some runs, read two novels by Elizabeth Strout and had dinner with his sister Annika Giannini, mainly because she was Salander’s lawyer. But Annika did not have much to report, except that Salander had been in touch, asking about German lawyers specializing in family law.
Mostly he just whiled away the days. Sometimes he would spend hours lazing around, and talking on the phone to his old friend and colleague Erika Berger about the latest developments in her divorce. There was something strangely cathartic in that, as if they were teenagers again, chattering away about their love lives. But in reality it was a difficult process for her, and on the Thursday she rang again, sounding completely different. She wanted to talk about work and they had a row. He should stop being so self-absorbed, she told him, and she really gave him a piece of her mind.
“It’s not that, Ricky,” he said. “I’m knackered. I need a holiday.”
“But you said the story was basically finished. Send it over and we’ll fix it.”
“It’s just a load of old rubbish.”
“I don’t believe that for one second.”
“Well, it’s true, unfortunately. Did you read the
“They show me up on every point.”
“It doesn’t all have to be scoops, Mikael. Just to get your perspective is worth a great deal. You can’t always be the one with the breaking news. It’s crazy even to think so.”
“But the article just isn’t good enough. The writing is tired. Let’s can it.”
“We’re not canning anything, Mikael. But OK…let’s hold it for this issue. I think I’ve got enough content for this one anyway.”
“I’m sure you do.”
“What will you do instead?”
“I’ll go and spend a few days at Sandhamn.”
It was not their happiest conversation, but still he felt as if a burden had been lifted, and he took a suitcase out of the wardrobe and began to pack. It was slow work, as if he didn’t want to go there either, and every now and then Salander drifted back into his thoughts. He cursed the fact that he could not get her out of his head; however much she promised not to do anything stupid, he was worried about her, and angry too. In fact he was furious with her for being so uncommunicative, so cryptic. He wanted to hear more about the threats and the surveillance cameras, and about Camilla, and Svavelsjö M.C.
He wanted to turn everything inside out to see if he could do something to help, remembering what she had said at Kvarnen. He could still hear her footsteps disappearing into the evening on Medborgarplatsen. He stopped packing, sauntered into the kitchen and was drinking yoghurt straight from the carton when his mobile rang. Number unknown. But now he was off work, he thought he might as well answer. He could even put on a cheery voice:
Hey, how fucking great of you to call and give me some more abuse.
Medical Examiner Dr. Fredrika Nyman got to her home in Trångsund outside Stockholm and found her daughters on the living-room sofa, absorbed in their phones. She was no more surprised by that than to see the lake still in its usual position through the window. The girls spent every spare moment on their phones, watching YouTube or whatever it was, and she wanted to snap at them to put them away and read a book instead, or play the piano, or not skip their basketball training again. Or at least to get out into the sunshine.
But she had no energy. It had been an awful day, and she had just been talking to an idiot of a policeman who, like most idiots, thought he was a genius. He had looked into the matter, he said, which meant that he had simply read the Wikipedia entry and was now an expert on Buddhism.
That weirdo was probably sitting around somewhere, feeling enlightened.
It was so disrespectful and stupid that she had not even bothered to answer, and now she found a place next to her daughters on the grey sofa and hoped that one of them would say hello. Neither did. But Josefin did at least reply when Fredrika asked what she was watching.
“A thing,” she said.
Fredrika wanted to scream, but instead she got to her feet, went into the kitchen and wiped the counter and the table clean. She scrolled through Facebook on her phone to show that she could keep up with the girls, and then daydreamed of going far away. She searched a few things on Google and, without quite knowing how, ended up on a website for holidays to Greece.
She was looking at a photograph of an ancient man sitting at a beachside café when an idea came to her, and she thought immediately of Mikael Blomkvist. She was reluctant to call him again. The last thing she wanted was to be the boring woman who keeps hassling the famous journalist. But he was the only person she could think of who might be interested, so she dialled his number after all.
“Hello there,” he said. “How nice of you to call!”
He sounded so cheerful that she felt at once it was the best thing that had happened to her all day, which was not saying much.
“I was thinking—” she said.
“You know what,” he interrupted. “It dawned on me that I had actually seen your beggar, at least it must have been him.”
“It all fits, the down jacket, the patches on the cheeks, the truncated fingers. It can’t have been anyone else.”
“So where did you see him?”
“In Mariatorget. In fact, it’s astonishing that I’d forgotten him,” he went on. “I can hardly believe it. He used to sit totally still on a piece of cardboard by the statue on the square. I must have passed him ten or twenty times.”
His enthusiasm was contagious.
“That’s amazing. What was your impression of him?”
“Well…I’m not really sure,” he said. “I never paid him much attention. But I remember him as broken. And proud—the way you described him when he was dead. He’d sit bolt upright with his head high, a bit like a Sioux chieftain in the movies. I don’t know how he managed to stay like that for hours on end.”
“Did he seem under the influence of alcohol, or drugs?”
“I can’t really say. He could have been. But if he’d been out of it he’d hardly have been able to hold that position for so long. Why do you ask?”
“Because this morning I got the results of my drug screening. He had 2.5 micrograms of eszopiclone per gram of femoral blood in his body, and that’s an awful lot.”
“A substance you find in some sleeping pills, in Lunesta, for example. I’d say that he must have had at least twenty tablets, mixed with alcohol, and on top of that quite a lot of dextropropoxyphene, a painkilling opiate.”
“What do the police say?”
“Overdose or suicide.”
“On what grounds?”
“On the grounds that it’s easiest for them, I’d guess. The person in charge of the investigation seemed to be focusing on doing as little work as possible.”
“What’s his name?”
“The officer in charge? Hans Faste.”
“Oh, brilliant…” he said.
“Do you know him?”
Blomkvist knew Faste all too well. He had once convinced himself that Salander belonged to a lesbian satanic hard rock gang, and on the basis of no evidence whatsoever—other than some good old-fashioned misogyny—had her accused of murder. Bublanski used to say that Faste was punishment for the sins of the police force.
“I’m afraid so,” he said.
“He called the man ‘the weirdo.’ ”
“Sounds very much like Faste.”
“When he got the test results he said right away that the weirdo had got a bit too fond of his pills.”
“But you don’t seem convinced?”
“An overdose would be the most straightforward explanation, but I find it odd that it should be eszopiclone. You can get hooked on it, of course, but addiction usually involves benzodiazepines, and when I pointed that out and said the man was probably a Buddhist, that really got your policeman going.”
“In what way?”
“He called back a few hours later having done some research. Which involved reading the Wikipedia entry on suicide. Apparently it says Buddhists who consider themselves especially enlightened have the right to take their own lives, and he seemed to find that funny. He said that the man had probably been sitting under a tree, feeling enlightened.”
“It made me furious. But I let it go. I didn’t feel like having a row, not today anyway. But then I got home and was feeling generally frustrated, and it occurred to me that it simply made no sense.”
“In what way?”
“I kept thinking about his corpse. I’ve never seen such evidence of hardship. Everything about him, every single sinew and muscle, speaks of a life which has been a terrible struggle. This may sound a bit like pop psychology, but I find it very hard to believe that a person like that suddenly stops fighting and stuffs himself full of pills. I don’t think we can rule out that somebody was responsible for his death.”
Blomkvist gave a start.
“You’ll have to tell them that, of course. They’ll need more people working on the investigation, not just Hans Faste.”
“And I will. But I wanted to tell you anyhow, as a sort of insurance in case the police don’t do their stuff.”
“I’m grateful for that,” he said and thought of Catrin Lindås, who Sofie had told him about.
He remembered her well-pressed suits and the mark on her jacket, and the hippie commune she had grown up in. He wondered if he should mention her name. Maybe there was something she could tell the police. But then he decided he ought to spare her Hans Faste’s attentions for the time being, and instead he said:
“And you still don’t know who he is?”
“No, no hits anywhere. No-one with those distinguishing features has been reported missing. But I wasn’t expecting that anyway. What I do have is a DNA sequence analysis from the National Forensics Lab, which has just come in. But it’s still only shallow, autosomal. I’m going to ask for an analysis of his mitochondrial DNA as well, and his Y chromosome, and then I hope that’ll get me further.”
“I’m sure there are going to be many others who remember him,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“He was someone you’d notice. It was just me being too self-absorbed this summer. The police ought to have a word with people around Mariatorget, lots of them will have seen him.”
“I’ll pass that on.”
Blomkvist was beginning to find this interesting.
“You know what? If he really was taking those tablets, he’s unlikely to have got them on prescription,” he said. “He didn’t look like someone who makes an appointment with a psychiatrist, and I know from experience that there’s a black market for drugs like that. The police are bound to have informants in those circles.”
Nyman was silent for a second or two.
“Oh, damn it,” she said.
“I’ve been an idiot.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“No, I have. But listen…I’m glad you remember him. It really does mean something to me.”
Blomkvist looked at his half-packed suitcase and found that he no longer wanted to go to Sandhamn after all.
Blomkvist had said something appreciative in return, but Fredrika had barely heard it. She ended the call and almost didn’t notice Amanda, who was standing next to her asking what was for dinner. Maybe she even apologized for having been so sulky earlier. Fredrika simply told them to order a takeaway.
“What?” they both said.
“Whatever you want. Pizza, Indian, Thai, chips, liquorice sweets…”
The girls looked at her as if she had gone off her rocker. She went into her study and closed the door, and e-mailed the forensics lab asking them to run a segmental hair analysis right away, something she should have done at the start.
Not only would that show how much eszopiclone and dextropropoxyphene had been in the man’s bloodstream when he died, it would also give her the levels for every week going back several months. In other words, she would know if he had been taking the drugs over a period of time or on only one occasion. It could become an important piece in the jigsaw, and all of that made her forget her daughters, the back pain, the lack of sleep and the feeling that life might be meaningless in the end. That puzzled her. She spent her life investigating suspicious deaths, and nowadays it was rare for her to become so emotionally involved. But she had been fascinated by this character, and perhaps she even hoped that he had had a dramatic death. It was as if his ravaged body deserved more of a story, so much so that she spent many hours looking at images of the corpse, each time noticing new details. Every so often she said to herself:
What have you been through, my old friend?
What hellish trials have you had to suffer?
Blomkvist sat down by his computer and googled Catrin Lindås. She was thirty-seven years old, held a master’s degree in economics and political science from Stockholm University, and had now established herself as a conservative commentator and writer. She ran a successful podcast and wrote columns for
She had lobbied for begging to be made illegal and often discussed the risks of welfare dependence and the shortcomings of the Swedish educational system. In addition to being a monarchist and an advocate for a robust national defence, she felt strongly about safeguarding the nuclear family, although she did not seem to have one of her own. She claimed to be a feminist, but feminists had often criticized her. She faced a barrage of hatred online from both the Right and the Left and had a disturbingly long comments thread on the Flashback Forum. “We must have standards,” she often said. “Standards and responsibilities allow us to grow.”
She hated woolliness, she frequently wrote, and superstition, and religious convictions, although she was more cautious on the last. Writing in
about constructive journalism—stories which not only describe problematic situations but actually suggest a way out of them—she said that “Mikael Blomkvist claims to want to fight the populists, but then plays into their hands with his pessimistic view of society.”