Amsterdam

I

Henrick opened the door. It was a black and unforgiving night and he could only just see the waves of the canal in the light of the dimly lit moon.

He couldn’t see anything. The sudden smash that had made him get up to investigate had left no obvious legacy. He stood on his tip toes to see over the other side of the canal but saw nothing. Turning back and picking up his book he continued to read and, after a few minutes, was completely absorbed in his novel.


Henrick had been writing novels for years. Ten years to be precise, but thus far publishers from Amsterdam to London had rejected his work. He hadn’t a clue why; his work was as good, at least as good, as dozens of published writers he’d read. “My work is good” he’d say to himself over and over dreaming of one day walking into a book shop and seeing his name on the front cover of his newly published book.

The thought of that thrill was what kept him going writing book after book that were then rejected with speed.
“Winston had been shot – shot in the stomach. His face was full of agony as he clung to Edwin’s arm terrified to die.” Henrick liked his work. His latest novel was set in occupied Amsterdam during 1943. He read on “Blood poured from Winston’s frail starved body as Edwin carried him to the car”. Henrick stopped reading. Another smash had interrupted his focus and he leapt out of his favourite chair and opened the front door to his apartment building and starred out into the dark dimly lit street.

Looking out to the side of the canal Henrick saw a man lying on the floor. He looked drunk or stoned, maybe both. Warily he walked across the street slowly approaching the man who was now only 5 or six feet away from him. Henrick was now nearly standing right over him and still the man did not move. “Hey” Henrick said trying to be forceful but not wanting to get into a blazing row with a sleeping drunk. Cautiously Henrick put his nervous hand on the drunk’s shoulder. Nothing, not a single reaction came from the cold body. Henrick touched him again and suddenly the drunk came to life grabbing Henrick’s arm and pulling him to the ground. Only a few seconds past as a dark van pulled up next to the drunk and Henrick and three people climbed out of the side door. Henrick was kicked in the stomach by the drunk and thrown into the van by the three others. Henrick was struggling, fighting for his life as tape was stuck around his mouth and his hands tied tightly together. Henrick was rolling from side to side trying to shout for help and kicking the side of the van. But, Henrick couldn’t win, he was overpowered and after being kicked and punched he could no longer resist. Slowly Henrick began to lose consciousness after another blow to the face.

II

Officer Kurt Van Buyden of the AIVD looked at the face that stared back at him on his computer screen.

Victor Messemba was a Cameroonian living illegally in Amsterdam. There were five addresses that Messemba had been linked with; two in Amsterdam, one in Rotterdam and two in Utrecht. But since Van Buyden’s failed attempt at arresting him two years earlier Messemba had gone to ground. All that Van Buyden knew was that it was 99% likely he was still in Holland.

Van Buyden looked up at the clock and saw that it was after 19:00 and decided to get home to his wife and child. Since his failed attempt to arrest Messemba Van Buyden’s private life had been a monumental success. He’d made his girlfriend his wife and he’d welcomed Yentle into the world who had the same light blue eyes and dark blond hair that he had. But his professional life had been a catastrophe; missing Messemba had finally finished his chances of promotion and the only thing he was known for in the intelligence world, even outside Holland, was for messing up the simple arrest of one of West Africa’s most corrupt arms dealers. “He had him he was right there” Van Buyden had heard CIA officer Frank James say to his immediate superior Filomena Bogarde when they thought he’d hung up the phone. To make it worse Bogarde, who’d been his colleague for 15 years said nothing in his defence.

Opening the front door of his central Amsterdam apartment Van Buyden slowly took of his coat and went into the living room to find Sophie and Yentle sitting in his rocking chair. Both were sound asleep and for a brief moment Van Buyden forgot about Victor Massemba. The brief few moments where his family dictated his life rather than his less than personal relationship with Messemba gave Van Buyden a sense of calmness. A calmness that was quickly interrupted by his yearnings for work.

Van Buyden went into his study and turned on his Laptop. As soon as his computer was loaded he opened the file on Massemba. According to Van Buyden’s investigations into Massemba he had made over the last twenty years in the region of twenty million Euro’s in the illegal arms trade. An ex officer in the Cameroonian army he’d gone rogue in 1996 and stolen vast quantities of weaponry and sold it on the international black market. Hamas, Hezbollah, Farc, ETA, IRA, Al-Qaeda. Any terrorist group going had done business with Massemba. Van Buyden read on and the hurt he’d felt at not putting this guy in jail was still as raw now as it was two years ago when he’d failed to arrest him. Whenever he read Massemba’s file, which was every day without fail, the pain raced from the pit of his stomach to the very forefront of his thoughts.

III

Henrick couldn’t see anything. The tape was stuck to him so tightly that he couldn’t even see his toes or see any light.

Wherever he was it was dead quiet and Henrick could tell he was alone. He’d given up trying to free himself the tape around his legs and the rope around his hands was too tight. Henrick let his head fall onto the top of his chest as an act of resignation. He tried to think about why he was here. The amount of dangerous people he’d crossed in his years as an investigative reporter must now be in the hundreds. From the caves of Afghanistan to the Cocaine routes in South America Henrick had fucked a lot of people.

Suddenly the door opened and Henrick’s head jerked up from his chest and he tried to shout, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t say anything. He couldn’t shout or scream or even ask who was in the room with him.
“Hello Henrick” a deep voice said.
“Hello” Henrick responded trying to identify the voice. Without even hearing the person walking up to him Henrick felt hands on his face that made him pull himself back and struggle.
“Stop – stop” the voice said as he took the tape away from Henrick’s face.
“You know me?”
“No – I don’t think so”.
“My name is Victor Mussemba and you’ve become a very inconvenient person in my life”.
Mussemba. Fuck Henrick shouted to himself in his head as he thought on his investigation into Mussemba’s links to Amsterdam. He didn’t look like the photo Henrick had of him. His skin was lighter and his facial features were softer. Henrick’s eyes were still blurred and he still couldn’t focus on Mussemba properly after hours of having tape around his eyes.
“I read with interest your work in The Telegraph – you’re a good Journalist – but your work is making me news again Mr Henrick – that is very inconvenient for me” Mussemba said as he walked up to Henrick and ripped the tape away from Henrick’s ankles and untied Henrick’s hands. “You see what keeps me out of jail is quite – everybody’s focused on terrorism not guys like me – your Journalism is making my life a lot harder” Mussemba said pulling out a small pistol and pointing at Henrick’s knee.

IV

Van Buyden arrived at his desk late. He didn’t like being late.

It upset his routine if he didn’t start a day’s work at a fast pace.
“Van Buyden a word with you” Filomena Bogarde said demanding that Van Buyden follow her to her office.
“Sit – we’ve got some news The Telegraph has reported that their reporter Dennis Henrick has gone missing – he’s not in his apartment – he’s spoken to no one and he hasn’t used his e-mail account or cell phone for three days” Bogarde said watching Van Buyden’s reaction closely.
“Henrick is a little shit”
“Is he – you worked with him”
“Yeah I worked with him but I haven’t spoken to him for months” Van Buyden said.
“How closely did you work with him?”
“We exchanged some information on Mussemba – but”
“But what?” Bogarde demanded.
“The little shit lied to me he was closer to Mussemba’s known associates than he said he was and this led to our – my fuck up” Van Buyden confessed.
“Right – well can you lead this investigation even though you don’t like him?”
“Us why should we investigate a missing person. Give it to the police’” Van Buyden answered uninspired by the thought of searching for a missing journalist.
“Because I want us to handle this and I want you to lead the investigation’” Bogarde ordered handing Van Buyden the file.
“Right” Van Buyden said and made his way back to his desk.

V

Henrick was still in the dark. Mussemba had left the room and he was sitting completely alone.

He tried to come to terms with what he now believed to be his last hours on this earth. Death to him now seemed certain. Mussemba was just playing with him any minute he would in a put a bullet in his head and his life would be over.

Henrick’s thoughts went right back to his childhood when he was just a small boy. No older than 4 or 5 years old. Memories of his mother and father filled his mind. Memories of Sienna, the girl he’d loved in high school. Memories of school football tournaments when he’d been a star left back and worshipped the Dutch team. He thought on how he’d ended up here from where he was then. He hardly ever spoke to his parents. Once a month if that. Why did he no longer have time for people in the way he did when he was young. He no longer had close friends; only close associates who he had a professional relationship with rather than a personal one.

Suddenly the door opened and Mussemba returned. He’d changed his clothes since the last time that Henrick saw him. He was now wearing a black suit and a dark blue shirt with no tie.
“Henrick get up” Mussemba said as he untied Henrick’s feet and arms.
Henrick hadn’t stood up for three days and his legs felt like jelly as he tried to pull himself up of the chair. Henrick’s entire body now felt like it was going to malfunction any minute as he took small tentative steps towards the door.
“Quicker”.
“I can’t – I haven’t walked for days my legs will hardly move”.
“Quicker” Mussemba shouted again.
Henrick tried to rub and shake his legs to get the blood flowing through them. It slowly started to work and Henrick felt his legs returning to normal and he was increasingly keeping up with Mussemba. Henrick and Mussemba walked down some steep metal stairs that were in virtual darkness. Only a little light was managing to get through the gaps in the walls and Henrick tried to see out. The gaps weren’t big enough. All Henrick could tell was he was near water as the seagulls flew overhead making their unmistakeable cries.
“In” Mussemba ordered pointing at the van that was parked at the bottom of the stairs that Mussemba and Henrick had finally walked down.
Henrick climbed in the back where he was accompanied by two of Mussemba’s bodyguards who tied his hands with rope and didn’t even take their eyes of him for a single second.
The van left the old building heading to what seemed like to Henrick north.

VI

“You know this man?” Van Buyden asked as Charles Obbi looked at the photo of Henrick that Van Buyden had given him.

“No” Obbi answered.
“Common Obbi you tell me where Mussemba would take someone he’d kidnapped and I’ll make life easier in here for you”.
“I don’t know him”.
Van Buyden had been questioning Obbi for nearly an hour and all that Obbi had said was “I don’t know him” or “I’m not sure”. Van Buyden thought that this interview with one of Mussemba’s former associates, now imprisoned in Holland for murder, had been a complete waste of time when Van Buyden decided that this was one of the very few occasions that he would need to break his ethics.
“I could get your wife out of prison much earlier if you tell me some things Obbi” Van Buyden said trying to sound as innocent as possible. Van Buyden hated involving families. It flew in the face of everything he believed but when needs must.
“How so?” Obbi snapped back.
“Well she’s only been convicted of accessory to supply illegal firearms. A relatively minor offence in the world of terrorism and arms trafficking. I could put a word in the right ear and she could walk. She’ll be deported back to the Cameroon but she would be free’.”
“Mussemba would kill her – he’d know she’d only been released early because me or her had done a deal” Obbi said slightly contemptuously.
“No that’s not the case. She’s served two years of a five year sentence. Convicts are released early for good behaviour all the time. I here she’s been teaching the illiterate to read and write. That sort of thing always looks good to a judge. She wouldn’t even have to know that she was released as a result of a deal between us” Van Buyden said confident that he’d made an impact on Obbi.
“You could guarantee that she would be safe?’” Obbi said. Even a murderer and arms dealer like Obbi could feel love for his wife.
“Yes, I could – even in the Cameroon’.”
Obbi reflected. He knew his wife hated being in prison and that she had never wanted to come to Europe anyway. Obbi thought on his two children in the Cameroon who were living with his wife’s parents. They needed their mother. He owed Mussemba nothing. Mussemba hadn’t lifted a finger to help Obbi or his wife since they were convicted. Not even giving them some money to make their lives easier. Obbi no longer felt any loyalty to Mussemba and he believed that Van Buyden would keep his word and look after his wife.
“What about me?” Obbi asked.
“You – no deals Obbi – you’ve been sentenced to murder and frankly Mr Obbi you’re never going to be released with everything we know that you and Mussemba supplied to everyone from Jihadis to Colombian drug cartels”.
Obbi looked resigned to his fate to live out his life in a Dutch jail cell. Thinking hard about the future of his wife and children he asked Van Buyden what he wanted to know.
“Where would Mussemba take a kidnapped journalist – you’ve known him for thirty years – you’ve worked with him in Holland for ten – you must know more about his operation and how he thinks than anyone?”.
“I know about his operations when I worked with him, that was two years ago. All the places he used then he wouldn’t use now in case I turned on him” Obbi said.
“He would use the same areas – the areas full of African immigrants who would be worried about going to the police?’”
“Maybe Utrecht, he wouldn’t want to be in Amsterdam’” Obbi saidd. “He would use industrial areas with plenty of escape routes. Next to the sea ideally”.
“Somewhere specific, you’re not being specific enough” Van Buyden snapped.
“Maybe the Port of Rotterdam – he used to run a shipping company from there called 5Star logistics. Mussemba used it only for legitimate business but now it would be one of the few places that you guys wouldn’t know about’.”
“5 Star logistics Rotterdam Port”.
“You’ll help my wife?”
“When we get Mussemba” Van Buyden said and quietly took his leave.

VII

Henrick woke up in a small room.

He didn’t have his eyes covered but his hands and legs were tied tightly to a chair. He tried to move but it was to tight.
“Henrick” Mussemba said agitatedly as he pushed his way into the room. “The Police are outside that asshole Obbi told them of my location. Get up” Mussemba bellowed as he untied Henricks arms and legs.
“Follow me – and keep up or I’ll kill you right here”.
Henrick followed Mussemba down a small flight of stairs where three of Mussemba’s men were waiting for him next to a dark black Mercedes. The Police were rapidly approaching Mussemba’s warehouse as Henrick, Mussemba and Mussemba’s men climbed into the car rapidly pulling out of the side door.

VIII

Van Buyden approached Mussemba’s warehouse alone.

He was ready with his gun waiting for Mussemba. He wanted it this time. If he could bring in Mussemba all the ghosts of his previous failures would be washed away. Driving slowly Van Buyden was in constant contact with Police Chief Eric De Clerk who was leading the assault on Mussemba’s warehouse. Suddenly Van Buyden spotted the Mercedes pulling away from the warehouse and his instinct told him that Mussemba was running. Van Buyden pulled off and pursued Mussemba.

VIIII

Mussemba checked his mirror to see a light silver Lexus fast approaching his rear.

“Fuck cops” Mussemba shouted as the others looked around. Mussemba pushed his foot down on the accelerator and headed for the highway at top speed.

X

Van Buyden saw Mussemba pulling away and hit top speed.

Van Buyden called through to De Clerk saying he was in pursuit of Mussemba and heading south. Van Buyden could still see Mussemba as his speed hit 100kmph. Swerving left and right to avoid coming traffic and shouting at pedestrians to move aside Van Buyden was only twenty metres from Mussemba.

XI

“Shoot the fucker” Mussemba ordered as the man sitting in the front passenger seat pulled his gun and wound down the window.

Shooting at Van Buyden’s car Mussemba saw that Van Buyden’s car had been hit. “Hit him not his fucking car” Mussemba screamed.

XII

“Shit” Van Buyden shouted as a bullet blew of his wing mirror.

Trying to fire back Van Buyden thought he hit the left side of Mussemba’s car. Firing again at Mussemba Van Buyden slammed on the breaks as he saw Mussemba’s car flying through the air.

XIII

Mussemba’s car was smashed to pieces when it hit the concrete. The car had dropped twenty feet from the bridge onto the road beneath.

Showing his ID Van Buyden forced back a crowd of people who’d gathered around. Holding his gun tightly he looked down into the upturned car. Mussemba’s men all looked dead. None of them were moving. Moving his eyes around the car Van Buyden looked at Henrick. Calling his name Van Buyden could just make out Henrick’s lips moving. Mussemba was slummed over the drivers wheel his face covered in blood. Van Buyden couldn’t see if he was alive or dead.

XIIII

Mussemba was dead. The doctors couldn’t save him. Van Buyden felt so many mixed emotions about this that he wasn’t sure if he was happy or sad.

He would’ve loved to have seen Mussemba in court, but, he supposed, that on this occasion dead would just have to do. Henrick had pulled through but his legs would never recover. He might even have to spend his life in a wheel chair. Van Buyden felt for him but wasn’t going to pretend now that he didn’t think that Henrick was an asshole.

Leaving his office Van Buyden took a walk all the way to Dam Square. Looking at the great beauty of the Royal Palace he thought that his job was worth it. It was worth it.