|Women Who Hate Men
Author: Indigo Assassin PM
When Lisbeth and Blomkvist take on the challenge of tracking down the missing Salander sister, they find themselves in deeper than they ever imagined. Reviews and constructive criticism appreciated. WORKING THROUGH A HIATUS.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Mystery - L. Salander & M. Blomkvist - Chapters: 16 - Words: 67,409 - Reviews: 131 - Favs: 52 - Follows: 52 - Updated: 11-17-12 - Published: 01-26-12 - id: 7777432
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Authors Note: Well, my Lisbeth Salander obsession has reached new heights, so I've decided to write this fanfic. Beware; it's probably not that great. This was written over the course of about a week so there may be some discrepancies in my day-to-day writing style.
Disclaimer: Applies to all chapters. I make no mullah writing this. I could never be as awesome as Stieg Larsson so don't sue me for this pathetic bit of innocent entertainment. Okay? bueno? Good. ONWARDS!
When the count hit 6 seconds to midnight, a slender white hand shot out from beneath white sheets on a platform bed. Plague, the fucker, had pinged her Palm.
Wasp, where the fuck are you?
Getting your coffee.
She opened up the gilded cigarette case Mimmi had given her over Christmas. With it came the reminder not to use it as a digging implement in the near future or she wouldn't be seeing a third one. Fireworks for 2007 erupted in the west and rocked the glass of the apartment with every flash as Salander smoked quietly on her side of the bed.
Bullshit. You've been gone for three hours.
You're right. I went home to make you coffee.
And fuck your girlfriend.
It was good, thanks for asking.
Just get over here and take your turn already. I just bought out fifth place in line!
The platform bed didn't make a single sound as Salander rolled out of bed. Mimmi was sprawled on her stomach and dead to the world, the red fireworks over Gamla Stan accentuating her recently acquired cherry blossom tattoo on her hip. It had too much color for Salander's tastes, but on Mimmi it looked quite delightful.
As she shut the bedroom door behind her, she pinged Plague back. Do you still want coffee?
She shuffled through the halls of the 21-room Fiskargatan apartment, slipping on the clothes that had been so haphazardly scattered about the floor earlier that evening. What wasn't hers was scooted into an unceremonious pile where they would likely remain until late morning. Salander was not afraid to admit that Mimmi was the first to christen her bed at Fiskargatan 9.
Her Powerbook G4 was open as she walked into the kitchen and started up her coffee maker. She stubbed out her cigarette in an overflowing ashtray perched on top of the machine. The screen on her laptop was black with sleep and seemed to snore while it copied her hard drive over to her external drive. Ninety-five percent of the laptop's contents had been transferred over since she and Mimmi had stumbled into the apartment three hours earlier.
She looked fondly at her Powerbook. Like all her electronics, it had been state of the art when she had first got it. It had cost her 38,000 krona at the time and the process to get it was much more tedious than any of her other previous computers. Now it was getting dangerously dated and Salander was not about to let the machine hinder her path through the cyber world.
Standing once more, she walked into her office overlooking Gamla Stan across the water and opened the top right drawer of her desk.
She came back carrying a screwdriver.
She turned the computer off for the last time before she removed all the interior components, being less than gentle with the hard drive. She placed it in an oversized pocket on her jacket.
She locked up the apartment at the top of Fiskargatan 9 and dumped the rest of the Powerbook down the garbage chute. The hard drive went into a wood chipper parked across from the Slussen tunnelbana. She had forgotten her pot of coffee by the time she exited Medborgaplatsen station on Götgatan.
The TVs on the walls of Kvarnen erupted in with the same fireworks Lisbeth had watched from her picture window at Fiskargatan. It was perhaps Mikael's first New Years alone since his teens. Erika was in Växjö. Her mother had died on Boxing Day. Monica…well he didn't really give a damn anymore about where or how she spent her holidays.
An obnoxious ringtone rang out in the bar and it took him a moment to realize the sound came from his leather breast pocket. Speak of the devil, he thought when he flipped the phone open.
"Look, I don't have much time to talk. I'm on my way over to your apartment to grab my stuff. I'll leave the key on the counter when I'm done." She paused, "I'm sorry Mikael."
Neither had bothered with a goodbye as neither had anything left to say to the other. Blomkvist returned the phone to his pocket and leaned back against the fake brick façade behind him at his lonely corner table. He watched couples kiss and friends slap each other on the back in congratulations of surviving yet another year. In the crush of people, he watched as a familiar face tried to squeeze its way back to his table.
Standing before him was his dear sister Annika. "Get your feet off the chair, Mikael." She folded her arms across her chest and pursed her lips at him. When he stubbornly refused she grabbed the tips of his toes and squeezed with a power he never would have thought she possessed before dropped his feet roughly to the floor.
"Had enough of the in-laws, Annika?" She shot him and annoyed glance.
A group of women dressed in smartly tailored clothes sat down at the table behind her and Mikael could have sworn Cilla Norén was one of them. So these were the modern Evil Fingers, he thought. Gone was their provocative dress, replaced with guise of the average Swedish inhabitant. He realized it had been over two years since he had last seen them here along with Salander and the leather-clad Parisian Miriam Wu.
A hand waved in his face caught his attention. "Mikael?"
"I'm sorry?" He continued to watch the Evil Fingers laugh and giggle at their table, oblivious to his attention.
"Mikael, when was the last time you saw Lisbeth?"
He immediately felt drained when her name was mentioned. "Oh I don't know. Christmas, Christmas Eve? Why?"
Annika pulled a thick sheaf of papers from her briefcase and ordered a scotch. It was most unusual for her, Blomkvist noted.
"I've been trying to have her take these since the end of November and the estate lawyer will have my head if she puts this off for much longer." She rubbed her temples and to Blomkvist it looked as though she had aged a decade since the beginning of the Zalachenko affair.
He picked up the stack of papers before Annika could even mention the words 'breach of confidentiality' and thumbed through the sixty-four pages. There were four deeds to various small scale businesses scattered throughout southwestern Sweden that if sold would probably be valued at about four million krona; a small drop in the bucket if Blomkvist could recall how much Lisbeth swindled from Wennerström's assets three years earlier. It was also specified that worth of the businesses were to be divided up between Lisbeth and her sister, Camilla.
His face remained fastidiously blank as he flicked his eyes up towards the now empty Evil Fingers table as Annika smiled and thanked the waiter when he brought her scotch. Mikael was no stranger to Lisbeth's tendency to right a wrong with her fists. He had been privy more times than probably anyone alive to the power the nearly pint-sized girl had hidden in her. He could only wonder what could have possibly set Lisbeth off in that particular instance.
When the waiter was safely out of earshot, Annika continued on. "Anyways, Camilla Salander has not existed in public records since the police report against her sister was filed. All I can find is that her file is listed as confidential and out of the country."
Blomkvist was silent for a moment. "Sounds like she ran away." He replied, still mulling over that there was yet another Lisbeth Salander out there in the world. Suddenly he pulled a pen out of his breast pocket and grabbed a napkin from the Evil Finger table.
Annika raised an eyebrow skeptically at her older brother. "What are you up to?"
"I am," he scribbled several illegible lines on the napkin and crossed all but one out, "practicing my Camilla Sjölander signature."
He held it up for her to see. "Is that good enough?"
"I can't let you do that, Mikael."
"Of course you can. All you do is hand the papers to me and Camilla Salander will sign them." His hand began to reach for the deeds but Annika was too fast for him and once again they disappeared into her briefcase.
"I know you're Lisbeth's…" she paused to find a word that could adequately describe the obviously complex relationship Mikael shared with Salander. She could find none.
She tried again, leaning forward, her voice low. "I know you fully support Lisbeth, but you can't go around trying to solve all her problems for her. If you want to do that than you might as well have applied to become her guardian." His face fell immediately and Annika decided that she might have been a tad too harsh; at least his heart was in the right place.
He tittered dangerously back in his chair with his hands folded over his chest. "So the question still remains: what do we do?"
"We? Micke, you can't interfere in this. If I can't track down this Camilla whatever-her-name-is by mid February, the courts will seize both Camilla's and Lisbeth's share of Zalachenko's assets and there won't be a damn thing I could do about it."
Blomkvist leaned further back in his chair and stared at cobwebbed filled rafters. He wondered how hard it would be to really track down Camilla Sjölander. Someone as striking as Lisbeth wouldn't be hard to find, he reasoned. If he had no luck in Sweden he could easily extend his search into nearby countries without overdoing it. Salander was the only problem. At anytime she wanted she could look into his computer and see what he was up to. He shuddered at what that could possibly mean for their brittle friendship.
He relented anyways, "Annika, would you still be horribly obstinate if I said I could track down Camilla for you?"
She knew by this point it was futile to deny Mikael's investigative side, but it didn't stop her from rejecting him once more. "Mikael, stay out of this. It might be for the best if the courts seized Zalachenko's assets and bulldozed the rest. Not a single öre in his account was earned through legal or ethical means. It's all blood money from the scandal Dag was trying to expose."
Annika slid what was left of Lisbeth's legal work into her briefcase and snapped if shut harder than she needed to. She ordered a second scotch and begrudgingly handed over her car keys to the waiter when her drink arrived.
"Now Micke," He groaned when he realized where she were about to go and her use of Erika's pet name for him. "Why did I find you herealone?"
"Well, you see, Erika is in Växjö for her mother's funeral, Malm has absolutely no interest in New Years, and Eriksson is probably asleep like an other single mother aught to be."
"Currently cleaning out her side of my wardrobe."
"Well I can't say I blame you." He quirked an eyebrow at her while she sipped her scotch.
"Oh don't give me that look, Mikael. You should have seen the alpha-bitch looks she would have if you even mentioned Erika or Lisbeth." Amusement crossed his features for the first time that night as he shrugged. Yes, he had noticed the 'alpha-bitch' glances and so had both Erika and Lisbeth, although Lisbeth just regarded Figuerola as a blonde bimbo and not much else. At first he was mildly offended, thinking she meant Erika, but she later clarified that Erika was for the moment at least, still considered a step above bimbo.
They sat staring at each other across the battered table, neither bothering to disturb the peace that had settled over them with talk of Mikael's former paramour. When he could take the idleness no longer, Mikael shook his wrist to reveal the Seiko gold watch Pernilla had sent him for Christmas. It had since been a constant reminder of how undeserving he was of her love over the years he'd spent apart from her. "It's getting early."
Annika set her tumbler down with a heavy thunk on the coaster and pulled out 40 krona from her purse. "Can you grab my keys? Their scotch is so watered down that even a seven year old couldn't get a DUI charge on it."
"If a seven year old could drive, you mean."
She casually slipped the tip under the drink coaster as Mikael stood. As he walked to the bar, she whispered in his ear, "You'd be surprised at what your niece did while I was on one of my trips to Göteburg over the summer."
"She gets it from her mother, surely." He exchanged her keys for a slap on the shoulder. "I remember back when you were seven or eight and tried to drive papa's truck. You wound up sticking it in neutral and went rolling backwards down the hill into the neighbors mailbox."
"Well, no mailboxes were involved this time."
Giannini kissed her older brother on his stubbled cheek at the door of Kvarnen before they parted ways in opposite directions. He stood outside the bar until Annika drove past him in her Audi, waving until she had turned right onto Götgatan and could be seen no longer.
He pulled his jacket closer to him as a sudden wind gust caught him off guard. The unseasonably cold minus fourteen weather was sinking through his layers and into his bones worse than it had on Hedeby Island. The streets were clear; it was as if it were too cold to even get a good, proper snowfall.
Turning left onto Götgatan, he'd be damned if he saw who he thought he did. Sitting on the thin ledge of Kvarnen's windowsill completely absorbed in her PDA was none other than Lisbeth Salander.
He walked up casually before addressing her. "It's a bit cold out here to be waiting for a new toy." When she didn't acknowledge him he leaned up against the windowsill with her and tried to look over her shoulder at whatever she was furiously typing out.
She tapped the screen with her stylus for the last time before dropping it back into an oversized pocket and looking straight ahead. She hoped Plague would finish up the Hostile Takeover soon as she pulled her hood down another inch over her eyes.
Blomkvist watched her out of the corner of his eye, noticing that even with her face mostly obstructed, she lacked her normal amount of makeup and piercings. It made her strangely look more mature without sacrificing the air and attitude that was uniquely Lisbeth. He decided he liked it.
A clock tower tolled once somewhere in the distance as Lisbeth opened her new cigarette case and lit one. He took one look at her taking a drag off of it and felt the familiar craving come back as he sheepishly asked if he could bum one off of her. She held out the one she had just lit before sinking down to the ground below the windowsill.
"I threw my computer down the garbage chute." She picked the cigarette from Blomkvist's dangling hand while he continued to stand. "And the hard drive into a wood chipper."
"Sounds a bit overcautious to me."
He didn't really expect to get an answer back so he sighed and sunk down against the wall to sit cross-legged next to her. She held out the cigarette for him to finish off before pulling the hood of her jacket down over her eyes again like a shield.
"If you want me to leave, I won't be hurt."
"I'm not put off with you, I'm just fucking cold." She said through a firmly set jaw. She would be damned if anyone saw her sitting there shivering if they where anyone besides Blomkvist. It was completely unfair that Plague could sit out here all night with only a light jacket and still be entirely comfortable while she could only sit there under the windowsill watching as the drunken New Year revelers slowly stumbled out of the bars.
After a while, a hand went to her shoulder and she reflexively jerked away. "I'm going to go get coffee. You look like you could use some, too." He stood, offering a hand that she wouldn't have taken before shrugging and walking off towards the tunnelbana. At least he knew where the good coffee was. Forget all the trendy twenty-four hour expresso bars along Götgatan; years of living paycheck to paycheck had taught her that sometimes the best things came relatively dirt-cheap.
Somewhere towards Fiskargatan she noticed a fire engine wailed faintly. Maybe a kid's roman candle set a tree on fire, she thought.
Resting her head back against the wall, she narrowly resisted the urge to jump when her pocket vibrated violently.
Success. Doors open in 5. Plague promptly messaged before going offline. Another mission accomplished, she smiled to herself as workers in the store started to mill around in confusion. One in the morning, five in the morning; it was a negligible difference when two hackers put their minds together. The fact that the target had been Apple was just an added bonus and in that moment she decided to message Trinity.
Plague already told me. Next you should try joyriding in a nuclear sub. Cracking into Apple is child's play.
I'm going to get a new phone and computer. I'll message you the new number when I get it.
Hmmm. Do at least try to stay out of trouble, then. She swore she could hear an ounce of his occasional English snobbery, but she reminded herself that he was entitled to it more than most.
It's trouble that always seems to follow me. She wrote.
All the same. He concluded his message with a stupid little letter configuration that Plague had once told her was supposed to be someone sticking out their tongue, but she couldn't see any resemblance.
A sleep-deprived employee pulled the bars that had blocked the door of the Apple store to the side as Salander walked over to the storm drain, promptly dropping her old Palm into it before striding into the store.
It was the first time she had been in any official Apple store and she immediately decided she would rather go to the Mac Jesus store behind Milton Security for any future dealings with Apple. Bright and spacious, it was not the type of place someone like her would bother with on a regular basis.
She was thankful that the configurations she required were too complex to be bought directly in the store. Three days ago she had placed a pre-order online and was assure that what she needed would be available at the store when she went to pick it up. With a show of her recently renewed drivers license to one of the tech support employees, two computer boxes were placed in her arms with her iPhone added almost as an afterthought. The store was beginning to fill up considerably and Salander could see Blomkvist had just walked in as well to soak in the atmosphere that was the cult of Mac while carrying to cups of coffee.
At that moment another employee walked up wearing a fake salesmen smile. She wondered if they paid sales commissions here. "Find everything you were looking for?"
"Do you have a…" she glanced over to where Blomkvist had been standing, "32 gigabyte touch?" The man looked at her as if she had two heads but nodded anyways before grabbing one off a merchandise shelf that had been cordoned off. She couldn't recall the last time she made an impulse buy for another person as she rang everything up under Wasp Enterprises. Well, that might have been a lie; there had been that ratty metal Elvis Presley sign she had seen at a novelty shop in Strömgatan. But that had only made it as far as the dumpster after seeing Berger and Blomkvist walking arm in arm on Hornsgatan.
She tapped him on the shoulder as she walked by and he dutifully followed, holding out a cup of coffee before sheepishly noticing she didn't have any free hands. He could have been a gentleman and offered to carry the larger bag, but Salander would insist on being independent so he need not bother. He was just content he wasn't completely alone, even if his company wasn't of the chatty variety.
When they arrived at the train station they took seats at opposite ends of the bench and Blomkvist had to almost force the second cup of coffee into her hands as they waited. It was lukewarm but better than nothing; he had even remembered that she took hers black with one sugar cube.
The train arrived and they should in the doorway even though most the seats were empty. Two security officers walked by inspecting tickets, eyeing Lisbeth suspiciously before continuing on down the train talking quietly to each other.
"I don't suppose Apple originally planned to open an hour after midnight." He waited for the security guards to be a safe distance away before addressing her. For some reason he didn't think they would be very understanding if they just happened to overhear that the woman next to him had broken into Apple and had essentially reordered virtual time.
She gave him a crooked smile. "It hardly matters what time a store opens when you can easily change it."
He toed the bags that Salander placed on the floor. She gave him a death stare before he held opened his hands in surrender. "You never told me what was worth standing outside at minus sixteen for."
"A 24-inch polycarbonate iMac with a 2.6 gigahertz processor, a seventeen inch polycarbonate MacBook Pro with a potential for eight gigabytes of RAM and an iPhone."
"Why get an iMac if you're getting a laptop?"
"I owe Plague for finding Poison Pen. He needed a new computer so he gets a new computer." She shrugged and looked out the window at the rapidly passing subway stone. Blomkvist knew he probably wouldn't get anything else out of her for the night. It was nice that she wasn't purposely avoiding him anymore, but at times it still felt as if he were talking to a complete stranger.
The train crept into Slussen station just after two that morning, Salander and Blomkvist tossing their empty coffee cups into a bin at the top of the escalators before walking up the hill towards Fiskargatan. Salander didn't protest that he had chosen to see her home. She just walked briskly and left Blomkvist to gradually huff and puff his way up the stairs. She sat on the railing waiting for him while smoking her last cigarette, smirking at him.
"Laugh all you want, Lisbeth, but get back to me on that when you're forty." Now that was an interesting thought. Lisbeth Salander at forty. Neither of them could even begin to picture it. Even thirty was only two years away, and what a feat that would be.
What were you supposed to do when you turned thirty? Did you just wake up one day and start walking around like Cilla Norén in designer polo shirts with your hair tied back in a neat little ponytail? Salander didn't consider herself youthful by any means; on the contrary she felt almost timeless. Her childhood had been robbed from her and she had to make the choice to grow up or be left behind. She chose the former, but now she was stuck in another case of having to move on and this time she wasn't sure if she wanted to proceed.
So absorbed in her thoughts she plowed right into Blomkvist, who had stopped outside the door to her Fiskargatan apartment. At a loss for words, he nodded and turned around to head back down the hill. She suddenly remembered the iPod and dropped her things on the doorstep to chase after him.
She held out the box, looking at his feet as she spoke. "It has 32 gigabytes of memory as well as wi-fi access. Might come in handy some time."
"Lisbeth, this is-" He spoke as she spun on her heel and marched up the hill back to her apartment. He sighed, supposing he should have expected her not to stick around after willfully giving him such an expensive gift. He thought he could hear the entryway door slam shut behind her, but he simply shook his head and headed west on Svartensgatan.
Salander climbed the stairs to her fifth floor apartment, using the stairs as an ecuse to stomp around without anyone giving her grief. Her hands shook and she dropped her keys twice trying to open the door to her apartment. On her third try the door was wrenched open from the other side. Mimmi stood before her in a silk robe with an embroidered golden dragon and nothing else, her face filled with the gravest worry.
"Holger Palmgren has been calling insistently for the last hour asking if I knew where you were." She looked over at the wall phone in the kitchen area as it began to ring. Salander dropped everything in the doorway before racing to the phone. "Something about a fire on-"
"Lisbef!" She nearly jumped at the sound of his voice yelling into the phone. "Are you alright? Is Herr Blomkist alright?"
"I'm fine." Blomkvist? She dropped her jacket on the breakfast island and hopped on the counter. Suddenly she really needed a cigarette.
"What about Blomkist? Haf you seen him?"
"About ten minutes ago. Palmgren, why?"
"There was an explusion at Belfsmangatan . It's on all the newfs channels."
Salander placed her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and asked a shaken looking Mimmi to turn on the TV. From the living room the TV blared loud enough to wake the neighbors, but Salander only caught the last bit of it.
'…Natural gas explosion shortly after midnight at what is believed to be the residence of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Authorities have confirmed one fatality but have yet to release the identify of the victim.'
"Palmgren, I'll call you back in the morning."
"Lisbef? Lisbef!" He shouted as she unceremoniously hung up on her former guardian. Next she called Blomkvist but was greeted by his voicemail. She slammed the phone back into the cradle before picking up and throwing her jacket across the floor.
"Shit!" Where the sudden bout rage came from she couldn't pinpoint, but as she watched plumes of black smoke billowing from Bellmansgatan to the west, she made up her mind. Before she could stop herself she grabbed her jacket and was out the door. The wooden frame splintering as it slammed shut. She was going to have to chase Mikael all the way down the hill again.
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