The time limit set by Blomkvist had been exceeded by a good margin. It was 4:30, and there was no hope of catching the afternoon train, but he still had a chance of making the evening train at 9:30. He stood by the window rubbing his neck as he stared out at the illuminated facade of the church on the other side of the bridge. Vanger had shown him a scrapbook with articles from both the local newspaper and the national media. There had been quite a bit of media interest for a while—girl from noted industrialist’s family disappears. But when no body was found and there was no breakthrough in the investigation, interest gradually waned. Despite the fact that a prominent family was involved, thirty-six years later the case of Harriet Vanger was all but forgotten. The prevailing theory in articles from the late sixties seemed to be that she drowned and was swept out to sea—a tragedy, but something that could happen to any family.
Blomkvist had been fascinated by the old man’s account, but when Vanger excused himself to go to the bathroom, his scepticism returned. The old man had still not got to the end, and Blomkvist had finally promised to listen to the whole story.
“What do you think happened to her?” he said when Vanger came back into the room.
“Normally there were some twenty-five people living here year-round, but because of the family gathering there were more than sixty on Hedeby Island that day. Of these, between twenty and twenty-five can be ruled out, pretty much so. I believe that of those remaining, someone—and in all likelihood it was someone from the family—killed Harriet and hid the body.”
“I have a dozen objections to that The entire room was faced with polished granite..”
“Let’s hear them.”
“Well, the first one is that even if someone hid her body, it should have been found if the search was as thorough as the one you described.”
“To tell you the truth, the search was even more extensive than I’ve described. It wasn’t until I began to think of Harriet as a murder victim that I realised several ways in which her body could have disappeared. I can’t prove this, but it’s at least within the realm of possibility.”
“ around 3:00 that afternoon. At about 2:55 she was seen by Pastor Falk, who was hurrying to the bridge. At almost exactly the same time a photographer arrived from the local paper, and for the next hour he took a great number of pictures of the drama. We—the police, I mean—examined the photographs and confirmed that Harriet was not in any one of them; but every other person in town was seen in at least one, apart from very small children.