Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 905
Thursday, December 26
Henrik Vanger has examined every photo taken the day Harriet disappeared. She does not appear in any photo taken after 3:00 though virtually everyone else on the island is in many of the photos and their whereabouts are generally documented. In photos of the house taken before about 3:45, Harriet’s bedroom window is closed; after that time, the pictures show an open window. Vanger’s theory is that the “killer struck” at or around 3:00. He did not use a weapon (there was no blood), then he placed Harriet’s body in the trunk of his car. There was a path leading away from Vanger’s house and a car could easily have gone unnoticed. The extensive searches all concentrated on the grounds and land, not vehicles. When Mikael Blomkvist remarks that this would have been a “cold-blooded” act, Vanger laughs bitterly and tells him that term applies to nearly his entire family.
Blomkvist is still hoping to make the evening train. Over dinner, he asks Vanger to tell him exactly why he brought him here. Vanger is finally direct—he wants the journalist to find the killer. Searching and wondering about Harriet’s fate has consumed him for thirty-six years. Although he is well adjusted in every other way, he has ruined his life wondering if he inadvertently caused his niece’s death. His initial motive was grief; now he wants the killer brought to justice. He has spent years gathering information about and dwelling on one day of his life. When Blomkvist suggests the killer may already be dead, Vanger tells him with great conviction that he is sure this is not true. Henrik Vanger has one more bit of evidence to show him, and it is “the most perplexing of all.”
Lisbeth Salander “borrows” a Milton Security vehicle and rings the bell of an apartment precisely at 6:00. She is admitted and goes up two flights of stairs before entering a dimly lit apartment and greeting Plague. Salander is short and petite; Plague dwarfs her in every way. He is on a government pension because he is deemed “socially incompetent.” His house smells of rotten food and more. Salander hands him five thousand kroner of her own money; in return she gets an electronic cuff he mentioned to her months ago. He shows her how it works. Salander thinks Plague may be a social incompetent but he is “unquestionably a genius.”
Blomkvist feels impatient as he listens to the story of the flowers. Every year since she was eight years old, Harriet bestowed a pressed flower in a frame to her Uncle Henrik. The display begins with a bluebell amateurishly framed. Vanger explains that the tradition began in 1958; in 1966, the year Harriet disappeared, the tradition was broken. But every year, Vanger explains, he gets a pressed flower in a frame—and he is sickened at the thought that his lovely niece may have been killed by someone who wanted to get to him. Blomkvist asks what, exactly, Vanger wants him to do.
Salander returns the car to the Milton Security garage and takes the elevator to avoid the duty officer on the second floor main entrance. She uses the bathroom, gets some coffee from the machine, and goes to her office—a small glass cubicle. She only uses it five or six times a year; it is barren and impersonal. It is almost midnight on December 26 as she examines the electronic cuff, and she is reasonably certain she will not be interrupted. Using a pirated company card key she made several years before, Salander enters Armansky’s office. She has not snooped here for quite some time, but she does so now. There is an ongoing search for a company mole, an undercover Milton Security agent in a theft ring, and a plan to protect a child from a possible parental kidnapping. Salander puts everything back precisely as it was and walks home, satisfied.
Vanger refuses to die without making one last effort to discover what happened to Harriet. Blomkvist is confident he cannot solve a nearly forty-year-old crime that trained professionals have been unable to solve, but Vanger is persistent. He has a contract ready for Blomkvist to sign; all he asks of the journalist is that he try. If he fails, Vanger will know it is his fate to die with the mystery unsolved. Blomkvist feels uncomfortable and is ready to leave, but he listens to the proposal: live in Hedeby for one year, review every note and photo as an investigative reporter, and see what he can discover. It is an offer to buy a year of Blomkvist’s life for 2.4 million kroner—five million if he succeeds. A journalist with a tainted reputation is not likely to get a better offer, and Vanger has no desire to leave his money to most of his family.
Blomkvist reminds the older man that he could simply fritter away his year pretending to give the case his full attention, but Vanger is sure he would not do that. In fact, he is sure Blomkvist will work more diligently than ever before because at the end of a year Vanger can give him exactly what he wants—concrete evidence that Wennerstrom is a swindler; he has evidence of this starting thirty-five years ago in Wennerstrom’s business dealings with Vanger. Blomkvist can turn his defeat into victory at the end of a year.
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