The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Page 30

 H.m. ward

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"When do you want to meet him?"
"Friday afternoon, if that would work. Ask if I can visit him at home."
Baksi spoke for a short while before he hung up.
"Idris lives in Angered," he said. "Do you have the address?"
Blomkvist nodded.
"He'll be home by 5.00 on Friday afternoon. You're welcome to visit him there."
"Thanks, Kurdo."
"He works at Sahlgrenska hospital as a cleaner," Baksi said.
"I know."
"I couldn't help reading in the papers that you're mixed up in this Salander story."
"That's right."
"She was shot."
"I heard she's at Sahlgrenska."
"That's also true."
Baksi knew that Blomkvist was busy planning some sort of mischief, which was what he was famous for doing. He had known him since the '80s. They might not have been best friends, but they never argued either, and Blomkvist had never hesitated if Baksi asked him a favour.
"Am I going to get mixed up in something I ought to know about?"
"You're not going to get involved. Your role was only to do me the kindness of introducing me to one of your acquaintances. And, I repeat, I won't ask him to do anything illegal."
This assurance was enough for Baksi. Blomkvist stood up. "I owe you one."
"We always owe each other one."
Cortez put down the telephone and drummed so loudly with his fingertips on the edge of his desk that Nilsson glared at him. But she could see that he was lost in his own thoughts, and since she was feeling irritated in general she decided not to take it out on him.
She knew that Blomkvist was doing a lot of whispering with Cortez and Eriksson and Malm about the Salander story, while she and Karim were expected to do all the spadework for the next issue of a magazine that had not had any real leadership since Berger left. Eriksson was fine, but she lacked experience and the gravitas of Berger. And Cortez was just a young whippersnapper.
Nilsson was not unhappy that she had been passed over, nor did she want their jobs  -  that was the last thing she wanted. Her own job was to keep tabs on the government departments and parliament on behalf of Millennium. It was a job she enjoyed, and she knew it inside out. Besides, she had had it up to here with other work, like writing a column in a trade journal every week, or various volunteer tasks for Amnesty International and the like. She was not interested in being editor-in-chief of Millennium and working a minimum of twelve hours a day as well as sacrificing her weekends.
She did, however, feel that something had changed at Millennium. The magazine suddenly felt foreign. She could not put her finger on what was wrong.
As always, Blomkvist was irresponsible and kept vanishing on another of his mysterious trips, coming and going as he pleased. He was one of the owners of Millennium, fair enough, he could decide for himself what he wanted to do, but Jesus, a little sense of responsibility would not hurt.
Malm was the other current part-owner, and he was about as much help as he was when he was on holiday. He was talented, no question, and he could step in and take over the reins when Berger was away or busy, but usually he just followed through with what other people had already decided. He was brilliant at anything involving graphic design or presentations, but he was right out of his depth when it came to planning a magazine.
Nilsson frowned.
No, she was being unfair. What bothered her was that something had happened at the office. Blomkvist was working with Eriksson and Cortez, and the rest of them were somehow excluded. Those three had formed an inner circle and were always shutting themselves in Berger's office... well, Eriksson's office, and then they'd all come trooping out in silence. Under Berger's leadership the magazine had always been a collective.
Blomkvist was working on the Salander story and would not share any part of it. But this was nothing new. He had not said a word about the Wennerstrom story either  -  not even Berger had known  -  but this time he had two confidants.
In a word, Nilsson was pissed off. She needed a holiday. She needed to get away for a while. Then she saw Cortez putting on his corduroy jacket.
"I'm going out for a while," he said. "Could you tell Malin that I'll be back in two hours?"
"What's going on?"
"I think I've got a lead on a story. A really good story. About toilets. I want to check a few things, but if this pans out we'll have a fantastic article for the June issue."
"Toilets," Nilsson muttered. "A likely story."
Berger clenched her teeth and put down the article about the forthcoming Salander trial. It was short, two columns, intended for page five under national news. She looked at the text for a minute and pursed her lips. It was 3.30 on Thursday. She had been working at S.M.P. for exactly twelve days. She picked up the telephone and called Holm, the news editor.
"Hello, it's Berger. Could you find Johannes Frisk and bring him to my office asap?"
She waited patiently until Holm sauntered into the glass cage with the reporter Frisk in tow. Berger looked at her watch.
"Twenty-two," she said.
"Twenty-two what?" said Holm.
"Twenty-two minutes. That's how long it's taken you to get up from the editorial desk, walk the fifteen metres to Frisk's desk, and drag yourself over here with him."
"You said there was no rush. I was pretty busy."
"I did not say there was no rush. I asked you to get Frisk and come to my office. I said asap, and I meant asap, not tonight or next week or whenever you feel like getting your arse out of your chair."
"But I don't think  - "
"Shut the door."
She waited until Holm had closed the door behind him and studied him in silence. He was without doubt a most competent news editor. His role was to make sure that the pages of S.M.P. were filled every day with the correct text, logically organized, and appearing in the order and position they had decided on in the morning meeting. This meant that Holm was juggling a colossal number of tasks every day. And he did it without ever dropping a ball.
The problem with him was that he persistently ignored the decisions Berger made. She had done her best to find a formula for working with him. She had tried friendly reasoning and direct orders, she had encouraged him to think for himself, and generally she had done everything she could think of to make him understand how she wanted the newspaper to be shaped.
Nothing made any difference.
An article she had rejected in the afternoon would appear in the newspaper sometime after she had gone home. We had a hole we needed to fill so I had to put in something.
The headline that Berger had decided to use was suddenly replaced by something entirely different. It was not always a bad choice, but it would be done without her being consulted. As an act of defiance.
It was always a matter of details. An editorial meeting at 2.00 was suddenly moved to 1.30 without her being told, and most of the decisions were already made by the time she arrived. I'm sorry... in the rush I forgot to let you know.
For the life of her, Berger could not see why Holm had adopted this attitude towards her, but she knew that calm discussions and friendly reprimands did not work. Until now she had not confronted him in front of other colleagues in the newsroom. Now it was time to express herself more clearly, and this time in front of Frisk, which would ensure that the exchange was common knowledge in no time.
"The first thing I did when I started here was to tell you that I had a special interest in everything to do with Lisbeth Salander. I explained that I wanted information in advance on all proposed articles, and that I wanted to look at and approve everything that was to be published. I've reminded you about this at least half a dozen times, most recently at the editorial meeting on Friday. Which part of these instructions do you not understand?"
"All the articles that are planned or in production are on the daily memo on our intranet. They're always sent to your computer. You're always kept informed," Holm said.
"Bullshit," Berger said. "When the city edition of the paper landed in my letterbox this morning we had a three-column story about Salander and the developments in the Stallarholmen incident in our best news spot."
"That was Margareta Orring's article. She's a freelancer, she didn't turn it in until 7.00 last night."
"Margareta called me with the proposal at 11.00 yesterday morning. You approved it and gave her the assignment at 11.30. You didn't say a word about it at the two o'clock meeting."
"It's in the daily memo."
"Oh, right... here's what it says in the daily memo: quote, Margareta Orring, interview with Prosecutor Martina Fransson, re: narcotics bust in Sodertalje, unquote."
"The basic story was an interview with Martina Fransson about the confiscation of anabolic steroids. A would-be Svavelsjo biker was busted for that," Holm said.
"Exactly. And not a word in the daily memo about Svavelsjo M.C., or that the interview would be focused on Magge Lundin and Stallarholmen, and therefore the investigation of Salander."
"I assume it came up during the interview  - "
"Anders, I don't know why, but you're standing here lying to my face. I spoke to Margareta and she said that she clearly explained to you what her interview was going to focus on."
"I must not have realized that it would centre on Salander. Then I got an article late in the evening. What was I supposed to do, kill the whole story? Orring turned in a good piece."
"There I agree with you. It's an excellent story. But that's now your third lie in about the same number of minutes. Orring turned it in at 3.20 in the afternoon, long before I went home at 6.00."
"Berger, I don't like your tone of voice."
"Great. Then I can tell you that I like neither your tone nor your evasions nor your lies."
"It sounds as if you think I'm organizing some sort of conspiracy against you."
"You still haven't answered the question. And item two: today this piece by Johannes shows up on my desk. I can't recall having any discussion about it at the two o'clock meeting. Why has one of our reporters spent the day working on Salander without anybody telling me?"
Frisk squirmed. He was bright enough to keep his mouth shut.
"So...," Holm said. "We're putting out a newspaper, and there must be hundreds of articles you don't know about. We have routines here at S.M.P. and we all have to adapt to them. I don't have time to give special treatment to specific articles."
"I didn't ask you to give special treatment to specific articles. I asked you for two things: first, that I be informed of everything that has a bearing on the Salander case. Second, I want to approve everything we publish on that topic. So, one more time... what part of my instructions did you not understand?"
Holm sighed and adopted an exasperated expression.
"O.K.," Berger said. "I'll make myself crystal clear. I am not going to argue with you about this. Just let's see if you understand this message. If it happens again I'm going to relieve you of your job as news editor. You'll hear bang-boom, and then you'll find yourself editing the family page or the comics page or something like that. I cannot have a news editor that I can't trust or work with and who devotes his precious time to undermining my decisions. Understood?"
Holm threw up his hands in a gesture that indicated he considered Berger's accusations to be absurd.
"Do you understand me? Yes or no?"
"I heard what you said."
"I asked if you understood. Yes or no?"
"Do you really think you can get away with this? This paper comes out because I and the other cogs in the machinery work our backsides off. The board is going to  - "
"The board is going to do as I say. I'm here to revamp this paper. I have a carefully worded agreement that gives me the right to make far-reaching editorial changes at section editors' level. I can get rid of the dead meat and recruit new blood from outside if I choose. And Holm... you're starting to look like dead meat to me."
She fell silent. Holm met her gaze. He was furious.
"That's all," Berger said. "I suggest you consider very carefully what we've talked about today."
"I don't think  - "
"It's up to you. That's all. Now go."
He turned on his heel and left the glass cage. She watched him disappear into the editorial sea in the direction of the canteen. Frisk stood up and made to follow.
"Not you, Johannes. You stay here and sit down."
She picked up his article and read it one more time.
"You're here on a temporary basis, I gather."
"Yes. I've been here five months  -  this is my last week."
"How old are you?"
"I apologize for putting you in the middle of a duel between me and Holm. Tell me about this story."
"I got a tip this morning and took it to Holm. He told me to follow up on it."
"I see. It's about the police investigating the possibility that Lisbeth Salander was mixed up in the sale of anabolic steroids. Does this story have any connection to yesterday's article about Sodertalje, in which steroids also appeared?"
"Not that I know of, but it's possible. This thing about steroids has to do with her connection to boxers. Paolo Roberto and his pals."
"Paolo Roberto uses steroids?"
"What? No, of course not. It's more about the boxing world in general. Salander used to train at a gym in Soder. But that's the angle the police are taking. Not me. And somewhere the idea seems to have popped up that she might have been involved in selling steroids."