"I have a lover. A Colombian. Sometimes I visit him. He has had us photographed."
"The photographs are revolting."
"So you say."
"I could describe them to you. You would agree then."
"I would not."
"Are you homosexual?"
"Are you faithful to your wife?"
"Lately yes; I'm old and suffer advanced rheumatism."
"Ye*, I was unfaithful."
"There were certain bursts of activity."
"Were you ever blackmailed?"
"No, but it has been tried."
"What did you do?"
"I told the lady to go ahead. She did. Photocopies of what I wrote were sent to my wife and my chief."
"I had some trouble, not too much, the truth is the best lie."
"My trouble is more serious than yours was."
"I don't agree."
The machine hummed for nearly two minutes. The commissaris lit a cigar. He puffed and watched the paper in the machine.
"You know, Colombia is not The Netherlands. Guns are for hire here. My enemy is evil. I was set up. He'll go to the limit."
"The matter could be arranged, I know where to go. A colleague was in the same predicament. His problem was taken care of."
"What if there's a scandal? I will lose my job, my wife, my children. At my age I cannot find other employment, I'll rot somewhere in fear, in misery. I'll be alone."
"You won't, but even so, there is always something worthwhile to do. Murder is a lowly way out and will twist back on you."
The reply was prompt. "Yes." There was a pause. "What would you do in my case?"
The commissaris put his cigar on the edge of the machine. He typed slowly and carefully. "I would sit in my garden and communicate with my friend. Do you have a garden?"
"Yes. Who is your friend?"
"My friend is a turtle."
The machine was quiet.
"You're laughing, aren't you?" the commissaris asked.
"I am. Your advice is good. I have a small dog, I will communicate with him tomorrow morning when I'm sober."
"What sort of dog?"
"Small, white with black spots, ugly. I found him a year ago, starving, covered with vermin."
"He'll confirm my advice."
"Boronski?" the commissaris asked.
The machine picked up speed.
"No good. I know him fairly well. An amoral smalltime tycoon. Deals in lumber and anything else that is profitable. Smuggles whisky into the country, on a fairly large scale. Probably exports drugs. Owns a large villa in the suburbs. Originally a ship's steward, worked his way up rapidly. Goes to most of the parties of the foreign community to show off his importance. Unmarried, but attractive to women. There have been unsavory affairs."
"He uses women, then drops them when he feels bothered or as soon as they bore him. There have been divorces and at least one suicide."
The commissaris closed his eyes, opened them again, and typed out a description of the woman in the photograph. "Is she known to you?"
"Yes. She doesn't live here, she came on a South American vacation with her husband. They were due to go to Rio from here, but she stayed behind to continue her affair with Boronski."
"No. Boronski tired of her, he has a lot of choice here. She had no money and came to the embassy for help. We contacted her husband who paid for her ticket. About two months ago. She fell down the stairs in her hotel, slipped a disc and left in a wheelchair."
"I forget, I'll phone my wife. Hold on."
The commissaris stretched.
"I have her name. Marian Hyme. Her husband works for a publishing company in Amsterdam. Was Boronski killed?"
"He was harassed to death."
"Will you be able to prove that?"
"So why bother?"
The commissaris lit another cigar. He smoked peacefully.
"I see," the machine wrote. "Thank you for your advice. I trust you. Goodbye."
The commissaris got up and tore the sheet out of the teletyper. He crumpled it, together with the others that had slipped off the small table attached to the machine. He dropped the paper into a metal wastepaper basket, held the container on its side, and lit a match. The paper burned fiercely and the smoke hurt his eyes, but he held on until the flaming balls fell apart into black crisp shreds. He stirred the ashes with a ruler. Two girls came into the room.
"Is there a fire? Are you all right, sir?"
He coughed. "Yes. I'm sorry I made a mess. I threw a burning match into the trash can, silly habit of mine. My wife keeps warning me and I keep on doing it." He left the room while the constables opened windows and waved the smoke away with a plastic tablecloth.
It was quiet in the building as he walked to the corridor to take the elevator back to his office. He found Grijpstra and two middle-aged men waiting near his door.
"Sir," Grijpstra said, "I'm glad to see you. These gentlemen are Inspector Wingel and Subinspector Roider of the Hamburg Police. I have interrogated the suspect Mtiller, without success so far. These colleagues now request permission to speak with him. They have met him before and are interested to find out what connections he may have in Germany."
The two men straightened up and clacked their heels as the commissaris shook their hands.
"Why not? We're always happy to oblige."
Grijpstra smiled apologetically. "They want to see him right away, sir. They say it's better when the suspect is tired. We arrested MUller tonight because he was in possession of four pounds of high-grade cocaine and because he kicked and hurt Constable Asta's knee. She was in pain."
The commissaris stiffened. "She was, was she? How is she now?"
"De Gier took care of her, sir. They left together earlier on."
"Not too serious."
The commissaris looked into the cold eyes of the German inspector. "You may go ahead; my adjutant will find you a suitable office. Do you have a hotel?"
"We'll find a hotel later, Herr Kommissar, we know our way about in Amsterdam." Wingel bowed stiffly.
The commissaris watched the three men walk away, Grijpstra leisurely ahead, the German policemen marching slowly in step. He shuddered and his hand missed the door handle of his room.
"Good," the commissaris said while he read through the large menu, handwritten on elegant paper. "A new restaurant, but obviously handled by the right people. Even the chief constable recommends it. Hmmm, oysters. Hmmm, mushrooms. Hmmm, sirloin steak. Yes. Well, have you all made up your mind? I'm sorry I'm late, but I couldn't find a parking place easily and I've forgotten my cane, took a while to get here. Oysters, Grijpstra?"
The waiter took his time writing down the order and the commissaris sipped his drink. Asta sat opposite him.
"How's your knee, dear?"
"The swelling is going down, sir."
"I trust you had a restful night?"
Asta looked at de Gier. "Not quite. The sergeant has a cat. I woke up in the middle of the night because I thought my alarm went off." She pointed at an electronic watch that seemed far too large for her slim wrist. "I switched it off, but the beeping went on. It was the cat and a friend."
"The cat beeped?"
"No sir. The friend. A mouse. I suppose Tabriz wanted to catch the mouse, but the mouse didn't want to play. It got annoyed. When I switched on the light, I saw the mouse jumping, a foot high, right in front of the cat. Every time the mouse faced Tabriz, it beeped. It was a rhythmical sound, that's why I thought my alarm went off."