Excerpt: 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest'

"On the other hand," Ellis went on, "I had a forty-two-year-old patient in Stockholm some years ago who banged his head on a windowsill. He began to feel sick immediately and was taken by ambulance to the ER. When I got to him he was unconscious. He had a small bump and a very slight bruise. But he never regained consciousness and died after nine days in intensive care. To this day I have no idea why he died. In the autopsy report, we wrote brain haemorrhage resulting from an accident, but not one of us was satisfied with that assessment. The bleeding was so minor, and located in an area that shouldn't have affected anything else at all. And yet his liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs shut down one after the other. The older I get, the more I think it's like a game of roulette. I don't believe we'll ever figure out precisely how the brain works." He tapped on the X-ray with a pen. "What do you intend to do?"

"I was hoping you would tell me."

"Let's hear your diagnosis."

"Well, first of all, it seems to be a small-calibre bullet. It entered at the temple, and then stopped about four centimetres into the brain. It's resting against the lateral ventricle. There's bleeding there."

"How will you proceed?"

"To use your terminology, get some forceps and extract the bullet by the same route it went in."

"Excellent idea. I would use the thinnest forceps you have."

"It's that simple?"

"What else can we do in this case? We could leave the bullet where it is, and she might live to be a hundred, but it's also a risk. She might develop epilepsy, migraines, all sorts of complaints. And one thing you really don't want to do is drill into her skull and then operate a year from now when the wound itself has healed. The bullet is located away from the major blood vessels. So I would recommend that you extract it, but?..."

"But what?"

"The bullet doesn't worry me so much. She's survived this far and that's a good omen for her getting through having the bullet removed too. The real problem is here." He pointed at the X-ray. "Around the entry wound you have all sorts of bone fragments. I can see at least a dozen that are a couple of millimetres long. Some are embedded in the brain tissue. That's what could kill her if you're not careful."

"Isn't that part of the brain associated with numbers and mathematical capacity?" Jonasson said.

Ellis shrugged. "Mumbo jumbo. I have no idea what these particular grey cells are for. You can only do your best. You operate. I'll look over your shoulder."

Mikael Blomkvist looked up at the clock and saw that it was just after 3:00 in the morning. He was handcuffed and increasingly uncomfortable. He closed his eyes for a moment. He was dead tired but running on adrenaline. He opened them again and gave the policeman an angry glare. Inspector Thomas Paulsson had a shocked expression on his face. They were sitting at a kitchen table in a white farmhouse called Gosseberga, somewhere near Nossebro. Blomkvist had heard of the place for the first time less than twelve hours earlier.

There was no denying the disaster that had occurred.

"Imbecile," Blomkvist said.

"Now, you listen here-"

"Imbecile," Blomkvist said again. "I warned you he was dangerous, for Christ's sake. I told you that you would have to handle him like a live grenade. He's murdered at least three people with his bare hands and he's built like a tank. And you send a couple of village policemen to arrest him as if he were some Saturday night drunk."

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