The Girl in the Spider's Web

By: David Lagercrantz

A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series

PROLOGUE


ONE YEAR EARLIER

This story begins with a dream, and not a particularly spectacular one at that. Just a hand beating rhythmically and relentlessly on a mattress in a room on Lundagatan.

Yet it still gets Lisbeth Salander out of her bed in the early light of dawn. Then she sits at her computer and starts the hunt.





PART 1


THE WATCHFUL EYE


NOVEMBER 1–21

The NSA, or National Security Agency, is a U.S. federal authority that reports to the Department of Defense. The head office is in Fort Meade, Maryland, by the Patuxent Freeway.

Since its founding in 1952, the NSA has been engaged in signals surveillance—these days mostly in connection with Internet and telephone traffic. Time after time its powers have been increased, and now it monitors more than twenty billion conversations and messages every twenty-four hours.





CHAPTER 1


EARLY NOVEMBER

Frans Balder had always thought of himself as a lousy father.

He had hardly attempted to shoulder the role of father before and he did not feel comfortable with the task now that his son was eight. But it was his duty, that is how he saw it. The boy was having a rough time living with Balder’s ex-wife and her obnoxious partner, Lasse Westman.

So Balder had given up his job in Silicon Valley, gotten on a plane home to Sweden, and was now standing at Arlanda airport, almost in shock, waiting for a taxi. The weather was hellish. Rain whipped onto his face and for the hundredth time he wondered if he was doing the right thing.

That he of all self-centred idiots should become a full-time father, how crazy an idea was that? He might as well have gotten a job at the zoo. He knew nothing about children and not much about life in general. The strangest thing of all was nobody had asked him to do it. No mother or grandmother had called him, pleading and telling him to face up to his responsibilities.

It was his own decision. He was proposing to defy a long-standing custody ruling and, without warning, walk into his ex-wife’s place and bring home his boy, August. No doubt all hell would break loose. That damn Lasse Westman would probably give him a real beating. But he put that out of his mind and got into a taxi with a woman driver who was dementedly chewing gum and at the same time trying to strike up a conversation with him. She would not have succeeded even on one of his better days. Balder was not one for small talk.

He sat there in the backseat, thinking about his son and everything that had happened recently. August was not the only—or even the main—reason why he had stopped working at Solifon. His life was in turmoil and for a moment he wondered if he really knew what he was getting himself into. As the taxi came into the Vasastan neighbourhood Balder felt as if all the blood was draining from his body. But there was no turning back now.

He paid the taxi on Torsgatan and took out his luggage, leaving it just inside the building’s front entrance. The only thing he took with him up the stairs was an empty suitcase covered with a brightly coloured map of the world, which he had bought at San Francisco International. He stood outside the apartment door, panting. With his eyes closed he imagined all the possible scenarios of fighting and screaming, and actually, he thought, you could hardly blame them. Nobody just turns up and snatches a child from his home, least of all a father whose only previous involvement had consisted of depositing money into a bank account. But this was an emergency, so he steeled himself and rang the doorbell, resisting the urge to run away.

At first there was no answer. Then the door flew open and there was Westman with his piercing blue eyes and massive chest and enormous fists. He seemed built to hurt people, which was why he so often got to play the bad guy on screen, even if none of the roles he played—Balder was convinced of this—were as evil as the person he was in real life.

“Christ,” Westman said. “Look what we have here. The genius himself has come to visit.”

“I’m here to fetch August,” Balder said.

“You what?”

“I’m taking him away with me, Lasse.”

“You must be joking.”

“I’ve never been more serious,” he tried, and then Hanna appeared from a room across to the left. True, she was not as beautiful as she had once been. There had been too much unhappiness for that and probably too many cigarettes and too much drink as well. But still he felt an unexpected wave of affection, especially when he noticed a bruise on her throat. She seemed to want to say something welcoming, even under the circumstances, but she never had time to open her mouth.

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