Chapter One

"And that is where The pejorative sense of fear moves axels"- John Ashberry

Mikael watched Erika's naked chest rise and fall against the mattress, so carelessly, so effortlessly, it made him wonder how many times Erika had ever had to put in effort into the miracle that was breathing. He rubbed the scar around his neck as the memories of Martin Vanger's sadistic torture basement flashed before his weary eyes. He thought back to the chains, the smoke from the cigarette, the cruel cold laughter and the horrific revelation of Gottfried's sick impressions left on his poor son's mind. A cold sweat broke out over his body and a shiver crawled through his limbs like a spider, tapping at his nerves, making him squirm at thoughts of horror unravelling in his mind like a ball of twine. His breathing became heavy and came in short gasps as the rope tightened around his neck, he couldn't breathe, he-

"Mikael!"

Erika's voice shattered through the visions. He snapped back to reality and was taken aback by the closeness of Erika's frightened eyes.

"Mikael, Mikael look at me. It's okay, it's okay..." Her hands gently caressed his face as he tried to focus. Mikael's breath slowly returned to him and the rest of the room materialised.

"It happened again, didn't it?" she whispered quietly. Mikael nodded, still trying to remember what had happened before. Erika sighed. "I thought you said it had stopped. Mike, you need to go and see someone about this. It's not good." Mikael pushed her hand away from his cheek.

"I don't need to see a shrink, Ricky, because I'm not ill, ok?" He held his face in his hands. "I just... need time."

"I didn't mean a shrink. What about Lisbeth?"

"Salander? Oh, I don't know Ricky... She would have called me by know if she wanted to talk. I know her."

"Maybe she's waiting for you to call her."

"No, no, no, she would have called, she would have come over. You know her, she's... difficult sometimes." Mikael said carefully.

"What if she's in the middle of a case?" Erika offered. "She mightn't have had the time."

"Lisbeth isn't like that. She doesn't let something like work stop her from doing anything. If she wasn't so good, I doubt she'd even have a job anymore."

"But-"

"NO Erika!" Mikael shouted. Even he was shocked by the volume of his voice. Erika immediately shut her mouth. Her eyes showed a flash of hurt, but it was gone so quickly, Mikael wondered his he had seen it at all. She got up from the bed and slipped on her bath robe.

"I'm going to get you some sleeping pills. I have work soon anyway."

Mikael could sense it took all her effort not to slam the door on the way back. He flung himself back onto the bed with a sigh. He gazed at the ceiling, deep in thought. Why hadn't Salander called? It had been weeks since he'd seen or heard from her. It didn't add up. Before she had seemed so... happy just be with him, but now...

Mikael let out an anguished cry. It wasn't just why she hadn't called that bothered him, but why it bothered him so much. He'd never felt so strange inside. Not for Ricky, not for his ex-wife. So why Lisbeth?

When Erika returned, he drifted to an uneasy sleep. Vanger's basement reappeared before his very eyes, but this time it was different. It wasn't him in the rope, but Lisbeth. He stood helplessly as her face turned red as she struggled hard to breathe. Vanger stood infront of her, laughing at her tiny squirming body as she clung desperately to life. Mikael tried hard to move, but he could not budge. He looked down at his legs and arms and saw they were bound by chains. He screamed and screamed, but no sound escaped his life. His throat was mercilessly painful, he couldn't breathe, he-

He woke up screaming to the sound of his ringing phone. He looked down at the display screen, desperately hoping, dreaming, that Salander's name was written across it.

No such luck. Unknown number. He soberly picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" he said sleepily.

"Mikael Blomvist?"

"Yes, who is this?"

"I have some... information for you, about the Vangers."

"Sorry, I no longer work for the Vangers. Would you like me to give you a number?"

"No, you must know. Harriet lied."

"What do you mean?

"Harriet lied to you, Mikael. Gottfried Vanger is still alive. And he knows. He's coming for you Mikael."

"What? No, you must be mistaken. "

"I'm sorry, I can't help you any further."

"Who is this? Wait, don't hang up- damn." Too late.

Mikael sat down on the bed, pondering what had just occurred.

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