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Janwillem Van De Wetering

The Mind-Murders



It was Friday night and the lush heat of summer hung under a clear and starry sky. An old model Volkswagen, dented and rusty on the edges, hesitated before entering the bridge crossing the Emperorscanal at the side of the Brewerscanal. An ordinary car, containing two ordinary men.

Perhaps not too ordinary; the driver had been called handsome, mostly by women, and some of that quality could be seen even through the dirty window that the sergeant was in the process of winding down, unveiling such currently acceptable features as a straight nose above a sweeping mustache, soft, expressive eyes, and thick, carefully combed curls.

"Doesn't work!" Rinus de Gier said. The sergeant, employed by the Amsterdam Municipal Police, criminal investigation department, and veteran of the murder brigade, turned to address his superior. "That window doesn't work. It worked yesterday. Since then you drove the car. You forced it again."

"Yes," Adjutant Grijpstra said, •'you're right. Whatever I touch malfunctions. Now drive on."

De Gier concentrated on Grijpstra's face, trying to determine the validity and seriousness of the order. He smiled. The adjutant looked peaceful and solid in the dignity of his crumpled pinstripe suit; a father figure, ten years older than the sergeant who, having passed forty, was aging himself. Grijpstra's body attitude showed what he was: a man of substance, substance of the spiritual variety, an experienced officer,* trustworthy, matured while grumpily serving the abstract state, committed to uphold order so that its millions of wayward citizens could carry on in their egocentric ways. Grijpstra's grizzled heavy head remained impassive under de Gier*s scrutiny, but his pale blue eyes reflected restrained impatience.

"Drive on," Grijpstra said, kindly but insistently.

De Gier observed the growing crowd milling about on the bridge. He appraised the crowd's nature and nodded approvingly. He subsequently studied the row of gabled houses displaying their seventeenth-century splendor through the branches of majestic elms lining both canals.

"A lovely spot, Grijpstra. This, I believe, is one of the better locations of the inner city. We are surrounded by decorative and beautiful architecture."

Grijpstra slipped his watch off his wrist and dangled it in front of de Gier's eyes. "It's past ten-thirty, sergeant. We are overdue at Headquarters. The job is done and we aren't working this weekend. The weekend has started."

De Gier didn't respond. Grijpstra sighed.

"We don't have to be here, Rinus, we have to be in a pub. We should be ordering our first drink. You could be telling me a story and I could be listening to you."

De Gier pointed at a cafe" ahead, a little to the right It occupied the lower story of a proud and delicate building, and its sign, the goal of the sergeant's long and straight index finger, proclaimed BEELEMA in elegant script; the word was surrounded by a garland of iron leaves.

"I haven't been to Beelema's for years, but I believe that it still attracts an intelligent clientele."

Grijpstra's calm persisted, but the wrinkles around his eyes moved.

"Beer!" he said slowly. "But I won't have it there, and you can't have any. It makes you linger near trees and I get tired of waiting for you. I'll buy you a jenever. Let's go."

De Gier's gaze slipped back to the crowd. The crowd had doubled in the last few moments and began to obstruct the quay.

"Go!" Grijpstra's elbow prodded de Gier's sensitive side. "This has nothing to do with us. Crowds are for the uniformed police. They're here. See? Their car is parked behind that truck, and there's a constable. He can take care of this. He's an excellent constable. His name is Ketchup. He's of the local station."

De Gier, after a swift glance at the adjutant's face, decided to play for time.

"Ketchup?" he asked politely.

Grijpstra tried to wave the question away.

"Yes. The constable has a somewhat violent reputation, he has been known to occasionally bloody a suspect. His mate is of the same caliber, fellow by the name of Karate. Rough maybe, but you can expect it in this area. Ketchup has been talking into his radio, he must have called for assistance. For the last time, sergeant, let's get away while we still can."

De Otter's even but slightly protruding teeth flashed. He parked the car and got out. "Half a minute, adjutant, 111 be right back."

"Evening," Ketchup said. "Did you hear my radio call for assistance? Quick service, sergeant. I know you. Do you remember that evening on the range the other night? When Karate won all the prizes? Pity that Headquarters couldn't win, but we get more practice, I suppose. You were on the team too, I believe."

"I was?"

"Oh yes. Karate is a real crack shot of course, a winner, but right now he's having a bit of trouble. He's in the canal. He's trying to save a drowning man who prefers to drown." Ketchup had to shout the last part of his sentence. The crowd's enthusiasm was increasing.

"Goal!" the crowd shouted. "Hurrah!"

De Gier shouldered his way to the bridge. The blue uniform of the swiniming policeman contrasted nicely with the deep green color of the slimy and fertile surface of the canal; then the courageous constable became invisible for a moment, as he dived to avoid the splashing attack of the drowning man's stick.

The stick was a crutch. The sergeant addressed Ketchup who had followed him to the railing.

"Is that civilian an invalid?"

"He is, sergeant."

Ketchup smiled eagerly. He was a small man, and de Gier bent down to address his subordinate.


Ketchup obeyed, immediately and subserviently. Most of his report was lost in the assorted noise produced by the crowd. De Gier frowned.

"Tell me," the sergeant bellowed, "how did this start?"

Ketchup tried to step away, but the crowd pushed him back against the sergeant's chest. He repeated his narrative, shouting, abbreviating his sentences.

"Aha." De Gier had heard. He now fitted the facts together. Karate and Ketchup, driver and observer in a patrol car, were ordered to investigate a disturbance. A street seller, dispensing raw herring and onions from his stall, had telephoned his complaint to Headquarters. Hippies, so the herringman said, were interfering with his trade. The patrol car, delayed by heavy traffic and slowed by many neally fenced areas where streets were being repaired, arrived late. The herringstall was closed, and there were no hippies in sight. The constables, disappointed, did not return to their car. The evening, so far, was uneventful, and they would welcome some action. Insisting on locating disorder, they were attracted by sounds coming from cafe Beelema. The sounds were of breaking glass and raised voices. They charged the cafe. Karate, who led the charge, was hit by a crutch wielded by a drunk.

The sergeant cupped his hands and aimed his shout at Ketchup's forehead. "So you felt threatened?"

"Right, sergeant!"

"And you removed the threat by depositing your man in the Emperorscanal?"

"Right! So that we could create a temporary point of rest. There were other troublemakers: a fat man dressed in leather, a male model in his nighties, and a younger female who yelled. They supported the crutchclubber. They were ringleaders. There was a dog."

"It attacked you?"

"It growled."

De Gier observed the policeman in the canal, popping up in various places. He shrugged. "You didn't go for your guns?"

Ketchup smiled politely. "No."

The drowning man renewed his attack. His crutch hit the spot that had held Karate's head. The crowd approved. "016!"

"Please sergeant, assist Karate. I'll discipline the crowd." Ketchup had found a hole; he slipped away.

De Gier began to undress. He removed the silk scarf from his tapered shirt and looked around. Grijpstra approached and held up his arm. De Gier deposited the scarf. He took off his jacket. He slipped out of the straps that held the gun holstered under his armpit. He stepped out of his trousers. A girl pushed Grijpstra away and admired the stripping sergeant. The girl's girlfriend also pushed Grijpstra.