The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Page 21

 H.m. ward

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"Good. No time to waste."
"I know. But it has to be done in one fell swoop. If we don't lift all the copies simultaneously, it won't work."
"It's a bit complicated, since Giannini left for Goteborg this morning. I've sent a team of externals to tail her. They're flying down right now."
"Good." Gullberg could not think of anything more to say. "Thanks, Fredrik," he said at last.
"My pleasure. This is a lot more fun than sitting around waiting for a kidney."
They said goodbye. Gullberg paid his hotel bill and went out to the street. The ball was in motion. Now it was just a matter of mapping out the moves.
He started by walking to Park Avenue Hotel, where he asked to use the fax machine. He did not want to do it at the hotel where he had been staying. He faxed copies of the letters he had written the day before. Then he went out on to Avenyn to look for a taxi. He stopped at a rubbish bin and tore up the photocopies of his letters.
Giannini was with Prosecutor Jervas for fifteen minutes. She wanted to know what charges she was intending to bring against Salander, but she soon realized that Jervas was not yet sure of her plan.
"Right now I'll settle for charges of grievous bodily harm or attempted murder. I refer to the fact that Salander hit her father with an axe. I take it that you will plead self-defence?"
"To be honest with you, Niedermann is my priority at the moment."
"I understand."
"I've been in touch with the Prosecutor General. Discussions are ongoing as to whether to combine all the charges against your client under the jurisdiction of a prosecutor in Stockholm and tie them in with what happened here."
"I assumed that the case would be handled in Stockholm," Giannini said.
"Fine. But I need an opportunity to question the girl. When can we do that?"
"I have a report from her doctor, Anders Jonasson. He says that Salander won't be in a condition to participate in an interview for several days yet. Quite apart from her injuries, she's on powerful painkillers."
"I received a similar report, and as you no doubt realize, this is frustrating. I repeat that my priority is Niedermann. Your client says that she doesn't know where he's hiding."
"She doesn't know Niedermann at all. She happened to identify him and track him down to Gosseberga, to Zalachenko's farm."
"We'll meet again as soon as your client is strong enough to be interviewed," Jervas said.
Gullberg had a bunch of flowers in his hand when he got into the lift at Sahlgrenska hospital at the same time as a short-haired woman in a dark jacket. He held the lift door open for her and let her go first to the reception desk on the ward.
"My name is Annika Giannini. I'm a lawyer and I'd like to see my client again, Lisbeth Salander."
Gullberg turned his head very slowly and looked in surprise at the woman he had followed out of the lift. He glanced down at her briefcase as the nurse checked Giannini's I.D. and consulted a list.
"Room twelve," the nurse said.
"Thank you. I know the way." She walked off down the corridor.
"May I help you?"
"Thank you, yes. I'd like to leave these flowers for Karl Axel Bodin."
"He's not allowed visitors."
"I know. I just want to leave the flowers."
"We'll take care of them."
Gullberg had brought the flowers with him mainly as an excuse. He wanted to get an idea of how the ward was laid out. He thanked the nurse and followed the sign to the staircase. On the way he passed Zalachenko's door, room fourteen according to Jonas Sandberg.
He waited in the stairwell. Through a glass pane in the door he saw the nurse take the bouquet into Zalachenko's room. When she returned to her station, Gullberg pushed open the door to room fourteen and stepped quickly inside.
"Good morning, Alexander," he said.
Zalachenko looked up in surprise at his unannounced visitor. "I thought you'd be dead by now," he said.
"Not quite yet."
"What do you want?"
"What do you think?"
Gullberg pulled up the chair and sat down.
"Probably to see me dead."
"Well, that's gratitude for you. How could you be so bloody stupid? We give you a whole new life and you finish up here."
If Zalachenko could have laughed he would have. In his opinion, the Swedish Security Police were amateurs. That applied to Gullberg and equally to Bjorck. Not to mention that complete idiot Bjurman.
"Once again we have to haul you out of the furnace."
The expression did not sit well with Zalachenko, once the victim of a petrol bomb attack  -  from that bloody daughter of his two doors down the corridor.
"Spare me the lectures. Just get me out of this mess."
"That's what I wanted to discuss with you."
Gullberg put his briefcase on to his lap, took out a notebook, and turned to a blank page. Then he gave Zalachenko a long, searching look.
"There's one thing I'm curious about... were you really going to betray us after all we've done for you?"
"What do you think?"
"It depends how crazy you are."
"Don't call me crazy. I'm a survivor. I do what I have to do to survive."
Gullberg shook his head. "No, Alexander, you do what you do because you're evil and rotten. You wanted a message from the Section. I'm here to deliver it. We're not going to lift a finger to help you this time."
All of a sudden Zalachenko looked uncertain. He studied Gullberg, trying to figure out if this was some puzzling bluff.
"You don't have a choice," he said.
"There's always a choice," Gullberg said.
"I'm going to  - "
"You're not going to do anything at all."
Gullberg took a deep breath, unzipped the outside pocket of his case, and pulled out a 9 mm Smith&Wesson with a gold-plated butt. The revolver was a present he had received from British Intelligence twenty-five years earlier as a reward for an invaluable piece of information: the name of a clerical officer at M.I.5 who in good Philby style was working for the Russians.
Zalachenko looked astonished. Then he burst out laughing.
"And what are you going to do with that? Shoot me? You'll spend the rest of your miserable life in prison."
"I don't think so."
Zalachenko was suddenly very unsure whether Gullberg was bluffing.
"There's going to be a scandal of enormous proportions."
"Again, I don't think so. There'll be a few headlines, but in a week nobody will even remember the name Zalachenko."
Zalachenko's eyes narrowed.
"You're a filthy swine," Gullberg said then with such coldness in his voice that Zalachenko froze.
Gullberg squeezed the trigger and put the bullet right in the centre of Zalachenko's forehead just as the patient was starting to swing his prosthesis over the edge of the bed. Zalachenko was thrown back on to the pillow. His good leg kicked four, five times before he was still. Gullberg saw a red flower-shaped splatter on the wall behind the bedhead. He became aware that his ears were ringing after the shot and he rubbed his left one with his free hand.
Then he stood up and put the muzzle to Zalachenko's temple and squeezed the trigger twice. He wanted to be sure this time that the bastard really was dead.
Salander sat up with a start the instant she heard the first shot. Pain stabbed through her shoulder. When the next two shots came she tried to get her legs over the edge of the bed.
Giannini had only been there for a few minutes. She sat paralysed and tried to work out from which direction the sharp reports had come. She could tell from Salander's reaction that something deadly was in the offing.
"Lie still," she shouted. She put her hand on Salander's chest and shoved her client down on to the bed.
Then Giannini crossed the room and pulled open the door. She saw two nurses running towards another room two doors away. The first nurse stopped short on the threshold. "No, don't!" she screamed and then took a step back, colliding with the second nurse.
"He's got a gun. Run!"
Giannini watched as the two nurses took cover in the room next to Salander's.
The next moment she saw a thin, grey-haired man in a hound's-tooth jacket walk into the corridor. He had a gun in his hand. Annika recognized him as the man who come up in the lift with her.
Then their eyes met. He appeared confused. He aimed the revolver at her and took a step forward. She pulled her head back in and slammed the door shut, looking around in desperation. A nurses' table stood right next to her. She rolled it quickly over to the door and wedged the tabletop under the door handle.
She heard a movement and turned to see Salander just starting to clamber out of bed again. In a few quick steps she crossed the floor, wrapped her arms around her client and lifted her up. She tore electrodes and I.V. tubes loose as she carried her to the bathroom and set her on the toilet seat. Then she turned and locked the bathroom door. She dug her mobile out of her jacket pocket and dialled 112.
Gullberg went to Salander's room and tried the door handle. It was blocked. He could not move it even a millimetre.
For a moment he stood indecisively outside the door. He knew that the lawyer Giannini was in the room, and he wondered if a copy of Bjorck's report might be in her briefcase. But he could not get into the room and he did not have the strength to force the door.
That had not been part of the plan anyway. Clinton would take care of Giannini. Gullberg's only job was Zalachenko.
He looked around the corridor and saw that he was being watched by nurses, patients and visitors. He raised the pistol and fired at a picture hanging on the wall at the end of the corridor. His spectators vanished as if by magic.
He glanced one last time at the door to Salander's room. Then he walked decisively back to Zalachenko's room and closed the door. He sat in the visitor's chair and looked at the Russian defector who had been such an intimate part of his own life for so many years.
He sat still for almost ten minutes before he heard movement in the corridor and was aware that the police had arrived. By now he was not thinking of anything in particular.
Then he raised the revolver one last time, held it to his temple, and squeezed the trigger.
As the situation developed, the futility of attempting suicide in the middle of a hospital became apparent. Gullberg was transported at top speed to the hospital's trauma unit, where Dr Jonasson received him and immediately initiated a battery of measures to maintain his vital functions.
For the second time in less than a week Jonasson performed emergency surgery, extracting a full-metal-jacketed bullet from human brain tissue. After a five-hour operation, Gullberg's condition was critical. But he was still alive.
Yet Gullberg's injuries were considerably more serious than those that Salander had sustained. He hovered between life and death for several days.
Blomkvist was at the Kaffebar on Hornsgatan when he heard on the radio that a 66-year-old unnamed man, suspected of attempting to murder the fugitive Lisbeth Salander, had been shot and killed at Sahlgrenska hospital in Goteborg. He left his coffee untouched, picked up his laptop case, and hurried off towards the editorial offices on Gotgatan. He had crossed Mariatorget and was just turning up St Paulsgatan when his mobile beeped. He answered on the run.
"Hi, it's Malin."
"I heard the news. Do we know who the killer was?"
"Not yet. Henry is chasing it down."
"I'm on the way in. Be there in five minutes."
Blomkvist ran into Cortez at the entrance to the Millennium offices.
"Ekstrom's holding a press conference at 3.00," Cortez said. "I'm going to Kungsholmen now."
"What do we know?" Blomkvist shouted after him.
"Ask Malin," Cortez said, and was gone.
Blomkvist headed into Berger's... wrong, Eriksson's office. She was on the telephone and writing furiously on a yellow Post-it. She waved him away. Blomkvist went into the kitchenette and poured coffee with milk into two mugs marked with the logos of the K.D.U. and S.S.U. political parties. When he returned she had just finished her call. He gave her the S.S.U. mug.
"Right," she said. "Zalachenko was shot dead at 1.15." She looked at Blomkvist. "I just spoke to a nurse at Sahlgrenska. She says that the murderer was a man in his seventies, who arrived with flowers for Zalachenko minutes before the murder. He shot Zalachenko in the head several times and then shot himself. Zalachenko is dead. The murderer is just about alive and in surgery."
Blomkvist breathed more easily. Ever since he had heard the news at the Kaffebar he had had his heart in his throat and a panicky feeling that Salander might have been the killer. That really would have thrown a spanner in the works.
"Do we have the name of the assailant?"
Eriksson shook her head as the telephone rang again. She took the call, and from the conversation Blomkvist gathered that it was a stringer in Goteborg whom Eriksson had sent to Sahlgrenska. He went to his own office and sat down.
It felt as if it was the first time in weeks that he had even been to his office. There was a pile of unopened post that he shoved firmly to one side. He called his sister.
"It's Mikael. Did you hear what happened at Sahlgrenska?"
"You could say so."
"Where are you?"
"At the hospital. That bastard aimed at me, too."
Blomkvist sat speechless for several seconds before he fully took in what his sister had said.