Henrik offers Blomkvist yet another piece of evidence: a photograph proving that someone opened the window in Harriet’s bedroom the day she disappeared. Convinced by Henrik’s documentation of events and the fact that many people searched the island for Harriet’s body to no avail, Blomkvist comes to the conclusion that Harriet’s disappearance could have been a murder. Henrik wryly acknowledges that many members of the Vanger family could be suspects. The two have dinner together, and Henrik mentions that, as a child, Harriet used to give him a pressed flower for each birthday. Since her disappearance, he still receives them, and accepts the flowers as proof that Harriet’s murderer wishes to torment him. Startled, Blomkvist agrees with Henrik’s assessment of the situation but still remains reluctant to accept the job until Henrik promises to offer him incriminating information about Wennerström as part of the final payment. Meanwhile, Salander pays a visit to Plague, a socially awkward hacker, and pays him five thousand kronor for an electronic cuff, which is a hacking device. Afterwards, she snoops through Milton Security as a matter of habit and then returns home.
Blomkvist goes to see Berger and announces his intention to take the freelance job. Incensed, Berger argues with the decision and for some time they debate over the fate of Millennium and whether or not Blomkvist’s presence at the magazine remains necessary. Christer Malm, Millennium’s art director and designer, forces himself to intervene when it becomes clear that the two will not be able to come to terms and announces that Blomkvist should step back from the magazine and accept the freelance job. He convinces Berger that Blomkvist will return and that Millennium will survive. In a last attempt to keep Blomkvist at Millennium, Berger expresses her concerns that Janne Dahlmann, the managing editor, will become a problem, but Blomkvist encourages her to fire him if she feels the need. Meanwhile, Armansky announces quite suddenly to Salander that Frode no longer wishes for her to investigate the Wennerström matter.
Blomkvist arrives in Hedeby to find the climate unbearably cold and the situation generally miserable. He settles into the Vanger guesthouse, then Henrik gives him a tour of the surrounding area and the family’s lodgings. When Henrik senses that Blomkvist remains concerned over the fate of Millennium, he indicates that he might be willing to prop the magazine up financially if necessary. Desperate for Blomkvist to start on the case, he helps Frode bring over many packing crates full of information he’s obsessively collected over the years about Harriet’s disappearance. For a while, Blomkvist familiarizes himself with life in Hedeby, sets up the guesthouse, and attempts to acquaint himself with the neighbors. Then he diligently studies the material, focusing on Superintendent Morell’s interviews of the family. He finds himself surprised by the depth of Morell’s work, but notes that indeed no further clues about Harriet’s fate seem to exist. Isolated, he takes in a stray cat while Berger persists in ignoring his frequent calls and voicemails.
In these chapters, the setting of bleak, isolated, and miserable Hedeby acts as a metaphor for Blomkvist’s dark prospects and dismal future. Initially, Blomkvist finds it difficult to secure even the most fundamental services when he arrives on the island, and the lack of technology, communication, and internet access in particular underscores the gap between his present situation and his life in Stockholm as a well-known journalist. Berger’s stubborn refusal to communicate further isolates him and imprisons him on the island with nothing but his own musings to divert him. That he turns to a stray cat for company and willingly accepts it into his cabin exhibits the depths of his loneliness and his sadness. Though some of the Vangers and neighbors welcome Blomkvist, his bare-bones existence serves as a metaphor for the sudden shift in his life, while the many stumbling blocks of life in Hedeby only emphasize the impossible nature of his predicament.
Henrik’s explication of the flowers in this chapter both contextualizes their appearance in the prologue and, more importantly, symbolizes the poignant nature of Harriet’s disappearance. The flowers, all from far-off climes, arrive only after being plucked from their natural environment and being meticulously preserved. Similarly, the mysterious events of 1966 destroyed Harriet but also preserved her, in a sense, in Henrik’s memory. In this way the flowers exemplify Henrik’s loving conception of Harriet as an eternally youthful and innocent young girl. Interestingly, though, Henrik’s interpretation of the flowers as a mocking taunt reflects profoundly on his own mental state and his obsession with Harriet’s disappearance. The flowers originally served to remind him of Harriet and to exemplify the unique nature of their bond, but the positive connotation has disappeared over time as the flowers became devastating reminders of Harriet’s tragic fate.
Finally, Henrik’s recounting of Harriet’s disappearance at times calls his credibility, and the credibility of his story, into question. Blomkvist notes frequently throughout his interview with Henrik the way that Henrik manipulates information and the story in order to receive the responses he wants to hear. In particular, Blomkvist finds Henrik to be psychologically astute and well-versed in how to manipulate others’ responses to meet his needs, and realizes nearly instantly that Henrik planned both the interview and Frode’s secrecy to lure him in. In other words, Henrik’s vested interest in Harriet’s disappearance and his own studious research into the case dictates his presentation of the case, his narrative to Blomkvist, and what he chooses to reveal about the other members of the Vanger family. His obvious bitterness about his family history and his quickness to reveal decades of family secrets exposes his desperation but simultaneously throws his revelations into question.
In this section we additionally see more of Salander’s behavior, which suggests a deep-seated distrust of even those who help her. Despite the fact that Armansky has employed her, given her the leeway to dress and act as she wants, and defended her work and professionalism to clients, she still breaks into his office and snoops around his private papers. She has evidently broken in to collect information repeatedly in the past. It isn’t clear why exactly she wants to know everything about Armansky’s business, but her behavior suggests that she’s collecting the information just in case she ever finds herself at a disadvantage with him. This mindset becomes perhaps more understandable knowing that Armansky has made it clear that he finds Salander physically attractive, and given that he’s her boss, and therefore in a position of power over her, learning his secrets becomes a way of leveling the playing field.