Below is the 2nd chapter of this little Amsterdam crime story, a flash fiction project initiated by The Holland Times, published in the expat monthly’s March issue of 2013. You will find the remaining 9 chapters here. This chapter was written in response to the first segment of the story, which introduced the main character, police chief Harry, a dead girl in the Amsterdam canals, and a mystery box…
Harry finally returned to the station, tired. Took off his coat and hat, as he dropped down in his desk chair. More paper work. He was getting too old for this.
It didn’t hit him until he had seen the blonde chick’s blue cheeks, her lifeless hair wet with bike rust from the Amsterdam waters. Indeed, that’s how they usually came out.
But this one was different. This one wanted to suddenly make him put an end to the career he had so fervently built. Instead, he was forced to report on the dame’s unfortunate fate, and what a misery it would be for the department to deal with her mysterious death.
And his heart skipped a beat.
Harry logged onto his computer, and immediately had at it: “October 7, 2011. 9:54 PM: Commander’s call to Keizersgracht…”
The phone rang.
Harry sighed, hesitated, but finally picked up. “Van Breukelen,” he said strictly, and listened. He squinted his eyes, leaned forward just to the right of his computer screen.
“What? Again!?” He jumped up from his chair as he held the phone to his ear with his right shoulder, and put on his coat.
“What?” Harry spit into the phone. The person on the other end replied, while Harry sped out of his office. “Never mind ‘again,’ I’ll be right there.”
The lights looked bigger through the windows when he looked to his left. The windows that were damp with condensation from the sweat and adrenaline he was overcome by. He was holding on to the wheel like a cruise crash survivor holding on to his life. It just didn’t feel right. One night, two gals – that had never happened before.
He ran a red light, and another. 40 mph across the humps and bumps of the city canals. Bikes flailing to the sidewalk, flabbergasted by the speed flying past.
He arrived at the scene, hit the breaks but didn’t turn off the lights. “Get yourself together soldier,” he thought. “Your men can’t see you like this.” He wiped his forehead clean, reached for the glove compartment, and took out a pack of cigarettes sealed in duct tape. Ripped it apart and lit up two cigarettes at the same time. Four drags.
He got out of the car, promptly closed his blue jacket, and saw Remco approaching him. The rest of the unit stayed huddled by the edge of the canal, researching the crime scene, and paid no mind to Harry.
“What the hell is this, Remco?” Harry asked.
“We don’t know much yet, boss, but this one just didn’t fall into the water on her own.”
Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This boy was made of stone. “How in the hell do you figure?”
Remco continued, “Well, there are several fresh and older wounds on different parts of her body that she probably didn’t get from…”
Harry had to interrupt, “How do you figure you don’t know much yet?” He couldn’t keep himself from spitting at Remco’s face like he had spat into his phone. Steam was practically coming out of his ears at this point, and his heart had started racing.
“…simply falling into the water,” Remco continued dryly and with a hesitant stutter. “Also, she is carrying all sorts of stuff in her jacket that is more than a bit out of the ordinary.”
“You silly dog, you’re getting confused,” he said. “This is all getting too much for you, isn’t it?” He figured out what was going on, and had managed to calm himself down. This boy Remco was just as dumbstruck as he. Two canal deaths in one night. That had to be hard on such a young officer. A virgin soul. Harry was starting to feel bad for him.
“What are you talking about, boss? You can go see for yourself, if you like,” Remco said while pointing at the huddled unit by the canal. Harry looked over the broad young shoulders in front of him, and saw the blonde hair from the body sticking out from underneath the cops’ feet.
And his heart skipped a beat.
He started walking toward the group in a nervous pace, commanding them from a distance to make way. And so they did. And there she was: the same woman they had found 80 minutes ago.
Harry’s face turned pale. He had started sweating again. He turned around and rushed to his car. “What in the hell is going on here?” He mumbled to himself with shaky, wet lips. “What in the hell…”
“Harry! Sir.” It was Linda. She had noticed the change on Harry’s face after seeing the body. And she knew he had become more sensitive to such horrors lately, getting older and stuff, but not like this. “Everything alright?”
At the sound of her calling, Harry had turned around and was now looking at Linda in fear. “Tell me you didn’t come after me to tell me: ‘The coroner should be here soon and the homicide detective should be not much later.’”
“They couldn’t find them at first,” Linda responded regrettably. “They had to call them out of bed. But now they’re on their way.”
Harry’s shrugged shoulders, by now, had dropped like wet bricks and his eyes were getting bigger. He approached Linda as if in shock, or like a zombie approaching its expecting victims. “What are you saying? We haven’t been through this before?”
“Of course we have, many times,” Linda confirms.
His face illuminated with mad curiosity. This time Harry was so close to Linda that his sweat tainted her made up skin.
“Sir. Have you been smoking?”
Harry moved away in furious rage, stomping up and down the sidewalk, with his crazed and soaking wet head swinging from left to right. Linda saw a psycho babbling shift commander on the edge of madness. But Harry felt like the sole survivor in a time-warped universe, although even that was just a wild guess.
“This is the same girl,” he thought, “the same hair, the same markings, the same death… Heck, even Remco’s words were the same.” And he realised how Remco hadn’t mentioned the passports this time, but that he knew they were there anyway.
“Only thing different is the location,” Harry stopped moving. He turned back ‘round to Linda. “What is this location!?”
“We’re at Keizersgracht-Berenstraat, Sir.”
“GOD-DAMMIT!” Harry screamed. The others noticed him and quickly turned their heads; then went back to work. Harry had fallen to his knees. Still sweating.
In a single frame of time, he imagined what would happen next; how Linda would pick him up, knee in his butt, and ask him what the hell was going on; how he would not grab Linda by her arms, and make clear to her they’d already been through this exact scenario this very same night; how he could prove this to her by sharing the information about the passports, the loaded gun, and the small metal lock box with no key; how he would ask her how on earth it could be possible that he was aware of these details even though Remco hadn’t shared them yet; how Remco would slowly have moved up behind Linda after hearing his name and concurred that, indeed he hadn’t told Harry about the passports, the loaded gun and the small metal lock box with no key; how this would leave Harry looking suspicious – wet and crazy on a cold and sober night – because he knew things about the crime scene that he wasn’t supposed to at this point; how it would be useless to continue his rant, his cry for help; how it would be better if he avoided all of it by making his silent escape, after pretending to be suffering from some unforeseen medical condition.
And his heart skipped the beat.
“What the hell is going on, Harry?” Linda whispered while she leaned forward. She grabbed him underneath his armpits, and forced him on his feet. Knee in his butt.
Harry didn’t grab Linda by the arms. Put himself together, somewhat relaxed then. He wiped and shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry, soldier.” He joked, but looked serious. Linda was serious too.
“Have tell you something,” Harry crooned. “But you ought to say nothing back, you hear?” Harry sighed.
“I thought I was suffering from some insufferable heart or mental condition, but I have to make sure it’s not the other thing. And I need your help…” Harry paused, if only to test her patience. He was about to take a serious risk.
“I’m leaving,” he resumed cryptically. Time stood still again for a cold moment. Or maybe this was just an awkward silence. “I know about the passports, and I have to figure out why. That’s all you get.”
Linda kept following her orders, but didn’t see the point. She thought she was not as surprised as Harry had seemed to expect her to be.
And the last remains of the shift commander stepped back, turned around, staggering. Disappeared in his car.