Als Annilie heb ik mijn beste fanfictie geschreven. Als Han schreef ik mijn eerste boek. Om het met Franz Kafka te zeggen: Da ich nichts anderes bin als Literatur und nichts anderes sein kann und will."
Mijn eerste gepubliceerde boek.
Na lang wachten ben ik er in 2018 dan toch in geslaagd de tijd te vinden om dit verhaal af te werken en dit boek te laten publiceren.
En ik ben er trots op!!!
Voor 22,50 kan jij met Jentel mee op haar hallucinante reis. Hieronder vind je je ticket!
Of laat een berichtje achter op deze blog en ik bezorg je een exemplaar!
Voor wie niet kan wachten of nog twijfelt, een klein voorsmaakje:
Jentel maakt de reis die elke boekenwurm vroeg of laat wil maken: een reis naar de fantastische wereld achter een verhaal dat je leest. Ze komt terecht in De Vijf Steden, de wereld die ze in haar eigen boek schiep en waarin er een moord op de kroonprins beraamd wordt.
Ze ontmoet er haar eigen personages, maar geheugenverlies berooft haar van dit besef.
Schijnbaar niemand, zelfs Jentel niet, weet dat ze nu een dimensiër is en dat ze haar bestaan in het universum van De Vijf Steden te danken heeft aan de Mantix.
Elke dimensiër is gebonden aan onbekende regels. Een daarvan is dat een dimensiër de grote stromingen en de loop der dingen niet mag verstoren of beïnvloeden. Doen ze dat toch, dan worden ze door de Mantix gestraft.
Sander Wumi eveneens een dimensiër wil dit gebod met de voeten treden. Wanneer hij door Jentels moeder ingehuurd wordt als ghostwriter om haar dochters verhaal na haar dood tot boek te bewerken, herschrijft hij de plot zodanig dat een ander dan de oorspronkelijke daders de moord pleegt
Dimensiërs is een wervelend fantasyverhaal dat zich in en tússen vele werelden afspeelt.
Heb je intussen zin gekregen in een trip naar de tussendimensie? Goed zo! Aarzel niet langer en koop je ticket enkele reis om deel uit te maken van de annalen die elke verbeelding tarten!
Dan moet het maar zoals het kan, citeerde Leo
in gedachten Marcel Kiekeboe uit het album De doedelzak van Mac Reel terwijl
hij zijn vaders sjaal om de nek van zijn nietsvermoedende moeder sloeg. Kanker
hield zijn vader aan zijn bed gekluisterd en bespaarde Leo nu al weken zijn
dagelijkse portie slaag en slavernij. Leo was vastbesloten om dat zo te houden.
Zijn vader had de zeldzame bloedgroep AB. Dat zou het moelijker maken om op
korte termijn een geschikte donor te vinden, had de dokter met oprecht
medeleven aan zijn moeder meegedeeld. Jammer genoeg had zijn moeder bloedgroep
O en bleek zij na onderzoek een perfecte match.
De hoop die in Leo opgeweld was, werd
stukgeslagen. Dit kon hij niet laten gebeuren. Hij kon zich deze uitgelezen
kans om eindelijk van zijn vader verlost te raken niet laten ontnemen. Hij
moest voorkomen dat zijn moeder haar beenmerg doneerde. Dat zou hem in elk
geval wat ademruimte geven zodat hij rustig kon nadenken wat zijn volgende stap
zou zijn. Het zou gemakkelijker zijn als hij erover kon praten. Als hij zijn
moeder zou kunnen vertellen wat zijn vader allemaal tegen hem had gezegd en met
hem had gedaan. Maar zijn moeder aanbad zijn vader. Ze zou hem nooit geloven.
En al deed ze dat wel, ze zou hem alles vergeven en doen alsof er niets gebeurd
Nee, hij mocht deze kans op vrijheid niet laten
schieten. Hij moest zichzelf beschermen. En als dat niet kon zoals het moest,
dan moest het maar zoals het kon.
Stap voor stap - inzending dialoog wedstrijd "Het bankje"
Oh, ja hoor, absoluut.
Mag ik gaan zitten?
Oh, tuurlijk. Alstublieft, ga uw gang. Wat stom van me.
Oh, nee, helemaal niet. Zo. Dank je. Mijn oude knoken zijn
niet meer wat ze geweest zijn toen ik nog danste om mijn brood te verdienen.
Bent u een professionele danseres?
Was. Je ziet wel dat ik al jaren met pensioen ben. Maar het
bloed kruipt waar het niet gaan kan. Mijn dochters en kleindochters lagen
allemaal nog in de wieg toen ze aangestoken werden door het dansvirus. Mijn
zoon en kleinzoon voelen zich vaak als vreemde eenden in de bijt. Maar vooral
voor mijn man vind ik het verschrikkelijk jammer dat hij zijn talent en passie
niet heeft kunnen doorgeven aan zijn enige zoon en deze op zijn beurt niet aan
zíjn zoon. Mijn man was een begiftigd danser. Beter dan ik, mag ik wel zeggen.
Persoonlijk vond ik hem in het begin nogal een stijve hark. Hij bewoog zich
altijd heel gracieus en hij heeft zelfs op zijn oude dag nog de elegantie van
een ware meester, maar zijn dansen heeft altijd een zekere flair gemist, dat
persoonlijk tintje dat waar meesterschap menselijk laat lijken dat daardoor des
te meer bewondering oogst. Ik daarentegen danste altijd zoals ik leef: spontaan
en eigenwijs. Mijn man en ik hadden veel gemeen maar net in het dansen, dat ene
grote ding dat we deelden en dat ons tot op vandaag verbindt, verschillen we
vaak als dag en nacht. Maar ik durf stellen dat de mensen stiekem harder voor
mij applaudisseerden dan voor Henk. Sorry. Verveel ik je? Ik zit hier maar te
ratelen over mijn jeugdherinneringen
Oh, nee. Het klinkt allemaal heel leuk, zon algemene
passie in de familie. Het is juist dat Nee, laat maar.
Dans jij ook?
Nee. Ik ben niet zo goed met mijn lichaam. Elegantie en
Onzin, lieverd. Oh, sorry, vergeef me mijn familiariteit.
Hoe mag ik je noemen?
Aangenaam, Katrijn. Ik ben Gabriëlle. Mag ik eens iets
vragen? Als het te persoonlijk is, zeg je t maar.
Je ziet er een beetje pips uit, kindje, als ik dat mag
opmerken? Ik vond al dat je er treurig uitzag toen ik je zag zitten.
"Wat? Oh. Ja, nee, dat is het niet."
Toch geen liefdesperikelen? Daar mag je je absoluut niet
door op de kop laten zitten. Ik spreek uit ervaring. Henk en ik Wij hebben al
heel wat watertjes doorzwommen. Hele zeeën en oceanen! Maar er zijn overal
eilandjes en vroeg of laat bots je op een van de vele schepen die dezelfde zee
of oceaan waarin jij voortploetert bedwingen. Als hen dat lukt, waarom jou dan
niet? Dat dacht ik altijd als Henk en ik weer eens ruzie gemaakt hadden over
een mislukte dancemove. We konden het niet eens worden en deden dan maar elk
onze zin. Maar hier laat ik mij alweer meeslepen door mijn eigen troubles. Zeg eens,
wil je erover praten met tante Gabriëlle. Ik kan er geweldig op los tateren
maar ik kan ook goed luisteren.
Dat is heel lief, maar liever niet. Ik moet jou op mijn
beurt niet lastigvallen met míjn troubles.
Oh, maar je valt me niet lastig. Soms is het gemakkelijker
om je zorgen te spuien tegen een vreemde, in een neutrale omgeving. Welnu, hier
ben ik en voor de rest zijn er alleen de bomen, het gras, de vogels en
misschien een verdwaald eekhoorntje, allemaal heel onschuldig en onschadelijk.
Spui naar hartenlust.
Dat is echt heel vriendelijk van u, maar ik Ik kan er niet
over praten. Het lukt me niet om het onder woorden te brengen.
In a way.
Ruzie met je ouders?
Met mijn vader. Hoe hebt u dat geraden?
Het was een pure gok. Weinig origineel, geef ik toe. Als
dit een tv-serie zou zijn, had je waarschijnlijk ja geantwoord.
Maar jouw antwoord zou het ook niet slecht doen. Mijn
tweede gok was eigenlijk, dat je geen ruzie had mét je vriend maar óver hem,
met je ouders. Daar weet ik alles van, met mijn Henk. En hij was al even erg
als onze meisjes hun vriendjes meebrachten. Het zou me niet verbazen als onze
dochters op jouw leeftijd ook een voor een op een bankje in het park beland
Ik heb geen vriend. Ik betwijfel zelfs sterk dat ik er ooit
een zal hebben. Toch een ding waarover mijn vader en ik nooit ruzie zullen
Waarover maken jullie dan wel ruzie?
Mijn vader kwam me vandaag ophalen aan de tennisclub. Dat
doet hij anders nooit. Vroeger als ik klein was, ook niet. Hij had het steeds
te druk met het werk en zijn vrienden. Mama en ik kwamen altijd op de laatste
plaats. We spelen tweede viool, zoals mama altijd zegt als ze het onderwerp
probeert weg te lachen tegenover familie of vrienden. Ik heb er nooit een punt
van gemaakt. Wat ik nooit gehad heb, kon ik niet missen, zei mama vroeger wel
eens. En ze had gelijk. Nu ik in het middelbaar zit, is het absoluut not done
om opgehaald te worden door je ouders. En daar was mijn vader gisteren opeens, in
zijn glimmende Maserati. Ik zakte door de grond! Ik dacht er zelfs niet aan dat
de anderen niet wisten dat hij míjn vader was. Al wat ik had hoeven doen was
met mijn rug naar de straat toe blijven staan en hem negeren. Of beter nog: ik
had kunnen ontsnappen naar het toilet of het secretariaat, met het excuus dat
ik iets vergeten was in de klas.
Dat zou niet erg netjes geweest zijn.
Weet ik. En ik wist het toen ook. Daarom draaide ik mij om
en zwaaide naar mijn vader. Zo gênant!
Het gesprek was stilgevallen achter mij en ik had het
gevoel dat iedereen naar me keek terwijl ik de straat overstak en zwijgend in
de auto stapte. Toen we thuiskwamen en mijn moeder vroeg waarom ik zo stil was,
flapte ik eruit dat papa al mijn kansen die ik ooit had om populair te worden
op school verkloot had. Mijn moeder reageerde natuurlijk onmiddellijk op
het feit dat ik zon taal niet mocht gebruiken, alsof ik nog een kind ben.
Over het feit dat mijn reputatie op school aan diggelen lag in mijn ogen,
althans werd niet gesproken. Bovendien dwong ze me te vertellen waarom ik
boos was en begon vervolgens een uur lang te preken. Ze vond het beneden alles
dat ik mijn vader ervan had beschuldigd dat hij me betuttelde. Nadat ik enkele
minuten zwijgend geluisterd had en mijn eten naar binnen gewerkt had, sloeg ik terug.
Ik vroeg mijn moeder waarom ze mijn vader zo verdedigde. Tenslotte, zei ik, zit
er vaak iets achter als mannen zich plots anders of romantisch gaan gedragen.
Waarschijnlijk had hij een affaire. Of anders in elk geval last van zijn
En nu heb je spijt van wat je gezegd hebt.
Ja. Toen ik vanmorgen op school kwam, was iedereen vol lof
over de Maserati. We wisten niet dat je ouders zo rijk waren, hoorde ik een
paar keer. En Lukas, een van de knapste binken op de hele school kwam naar me
toe! Alle meisjes waren verliefd op hem. En hier was hij, híj kwam naar míj
toe! Het duurde zelfs even voor hij over de Maserati begon, die natuurlijk de
reden was dat hij contact zocht. Maar contact moet ergens beginnen. Het
belangrijkste was dat ik niet verstoten werd. Mijn vrienden behandelden me niet
anders dan anders. En de cool kids negeerden of pestten me niet. All
was fine with the world! Maar niet voor mij. Een ogenblik was ik zo
gelukkig omdat het hele voorval op school letterlijk niets te betekenen had
gehad. Behalve dan dat de Maserati mij misschien zelfs geholpen had om echt
populair te worden.
Dat is tof.
Ja. Maar ik heb er niets aan als mijn ouders me het liefst
van al even helemaal niet meer zouden zien.
Is het zo erg? Ze hebben er nu een nachtje over kunnen
slapen. Heb jullie al gepraat?
Nee. Mijn vader was al weg toen ik opstond en mijn moeder
was nog niet wakker. Ze moet niet gaan werken op woensdag.
Denk je dat je erover zal kúnnen praten?
Nee, ik ben geen prater. Zeker niet over zulke dingen. Ik
durf papa zelfs geen smsje te sturen.
Dat moet je misschien toch maar doen. Je vader zal het
appreciëren. Bovendien je vrienden zullen zeker die prachtige Maserati nog
eens willen bewonderen Ah! Zie ik daar een glimlach?
Mijn vader zal zeker niet snel meer komen om me op te
pikken aan school.
Dat zal wel meevallen. Zeker als je hem dat smsje stuurt.
Tja, het kan waarschijnlijk geen kwaad.
Nee. Goed zo. Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat je vanavond al de
kans zult hebben om het goed te maken. Maar vraag hem niet om je morgen al naar
school te brengen in die chique bak. Dan leg je het er iets te dik op.
hahaha, wees gerust, Gabriëlle. Dank je.
Graag gedaan, lieverd. Sorry, Katrijn.
Ah! dat is mijn gsm Papa
Oh, lieverd. Niet huilen. Hier. Wat schrijft je vader? Mag
ik? Laat eens zien. Als hij het gewaagd heeft om Lieve Katrijn, als je het
goed vindt, geef ik verstek voor de vergadering straks en kom naar huis. Dan praten
we het uit. Liefs, papa.
so cute! Of hou zouden jullie jongeren dat tegenwoordig uitdrukken? Oh,
maar lieverd toch, kom hier. Droog je tranen. Oh, damn, daar begint de mijne
Mijn kleinzoon. Of ik hem kan komen ophalen aan de voetbalclub. Ha! Hij moest
eens weten Ah, ik zie je weer lachen. Dat is goed.
U zou een goede psycholoog zijn.
Dat mag ik hopen. Ik heb ervoor gestudeerd. Maar zoals je
gemerkt hebt, net als in mijn tijd als danseres zou ik als zielenknijper zo
mijn eigen methoden hebben gehad.
Zolang de mensen ermee geholpen zouden zijn. Psychologie
heeft me altijd geboeid.
Oh? Dat is leuk. Dan weten we nog wel even waarover te
babbelen. Weet je, een relatie of een goed gesprek zijn eigenlijk zoals een danspas:
je bereikt het meeste stap voor stap. Mijn kleinzoon mag dan wel nooit een groot
danser worden, hij heeft alle potentieel om, net als zijn vader, een groot
psycholoog te worden. Met een mooie carrière, een groot huis, een lieve vrouw en
prachtige kinderen en kleinkinderen, die op hun beurt óf vrolijk door het leven
zullen dansen, of anderen zullen helpen om dat te doen. Ja, hij zal het zeker
maken in het leven. En jij ook.
Charlies had found the evidence Erik and Tom had been looking for for weeks: a concrete trail to one and possibly more associates of the planters. What an incredible coincidence, said Tom. Indeed. Its almost certainly the same location. I told her to stay away and not to interfere. Good. I only hope she will. If Robert is really involved... Thats not certain yet. No, but suppose it is. Lets not get ahead of ourselves. We know that he allowed himself to be treated by the planters at the time. That may have been imprudent, but the doctors who were to perform the operation did indeed turn out to be respected surgeons one by one. You cannot blame participants like Robert for seizing this opportunity with both hands. If, like Robert, the slightest noise often drove me crazy, and I could have something done about it for free, I would probably not hesitate either. Certainly not if, on top of that, I was promised a hefty sum in compensation if it fails. And that, unfortunately, was the case with Robert. It would seem so. Its dangerous to rummage around in someones head, Tom. Even if its for what is called in the medical world a simple operation. Look what Inge did to Nele... The thought of his daughter almost being strangled by her mother took his breath away for a moment. Dont think about it anymore, Erik. Nele has nothing to show for it and Inge will be back to her old self. I dont know if Ill ever be able to see her as the old Inge again, Tom. In a way, Im more damaged than Nele by the whole thing. He rubbed his hand through his hair as he shivered. The sweat that hung in his clothes from walking made him feel cold. Lets get home. Im craving for a hot bath.
A few hours later, they sat together in the sofa with their usual cup of hot chocolate. Tom had slept over several times since Inge had been admitted, and Erik and he had picked up the old habit from their childhood. Tom leafed through the newspaper while Erik helped Nele with her homework, after which the girl went upstairs until it was time to eat. They would probably make it a small party with chips, sweets and the second season of Star Trek Original Series. Maybe we shouldnt watch too much of that stuff, Tom had said half-jokingly as Erik and Nele stood in front of the rack of DVDs. The warning in his words had not escaped Eriks notice but he waved it away. The telephone conversation with Charlies, however, did not let him go, and when Nele was out of earshot, he called Robert. He put his mobile phone on speaker so that Tom could listen in. He was surprised when they his call was answered almost immediately. It turned out that Roberts mobile phone was also on speaker. Robert rarely carried his mobile phone when he was at home. Often he hardly knew where he had left the damn thing this time, only to realise that it was upstairs when he was downstairs or vice versa. Or the battery had been flat for days. And if he wasnt at home, he often didnt hear the thing. Roberts voice sounded hoarse for a moment when he asked, Yes, Erik? He coughed and blew his nose. Got a cold? asked Erik, on his guard. Robert rarely caught a cold. No shit, Sherlock. I woke up with it this morning, he said. Are you in Germany at the moment? Yes. Erik heard that Robert was also immediately wary at that question. He didnt know what to make of the unwillingness that came through in Roberts voice when he asked seemingly impatiently, Why are you calling, Erik? Erik looked at Tom who shrugged and nodded. I wont beat around the bush. I have heard from good sources that there is a connection between you and the old train station. A silence fell in which Erik heard Robert first cough and then sigh irritably. In the background was a voice, and then Roberts, who answered, Yes, Im fine. I borrowed that scarf from our dad. Now leave me alone, Im on the phone. A door opened and closed and Robert sighed again before saying in a soft, urgent tone, I have nothing to do with the illegal practices of the planters, Erik. How many times do I have to repeat that? Theres no point denying it, Robert. Robert sighed again irritated. Listen, Erik I know Ive done wrong things. Yes, I have been involved with drugs. Yes, I was involved in two or three regrettable incidents classified as burglary, robbery and theft respectively, and yes, the latter involved violence. And yes, I believe the witness statements that say I was guilty of some of that violence. But I have nothing to do with the planters or their corpses. Erik was sure that Robert had been drinking. Only when he had consumed a certain amount of alcohol could he talk so openly and uninhibitedly about his criminal activities. When he was sober, he could not talk about it at all. He pushed it all away as far as possible, full of shame and remorse. But what had he just meant by the planters and their corpses? Whats the matter, Robert? Nothings the matter, Erik. It sounded bored. What should there be? Erik was sure that all sorts of things were wrong. The tie pin, Robert picking up his phone almost as soon as it rang, the cold, the scarf. Robert barely wore a thicker coat in the winter, let alone a scarf. Adding all that to Roberts criminal past and the sketch... Could there be old friends of Roberts among the planters, whom he wanted to protect? Or was he being blackmailed by them? Why dont you get yourself examined, Robert? I know you hardly had the chance to do so at the time because your mother never left your side for a moment and you didnt want her to know what happened, But now- Now is no different. She can live with the fact that Im suspended and as far as Im concerned it stays that way. I would rather have her believe that I made a serious professional mistake than that I committed crime and violence under the influence of drugs. Even though I took those drugs in a fit of insanity caused by a chip in my head. A chip that was planted there by an imposter who, moreover, used the name of an innocent person for his or her wrongdoing. The latter seemed to make some impression on Robert but to Eriks great frustration he asked, Whats the point? Its all over. For you it may be over, but not for other victims. Not for Inge and Nele nor for the surgeon whose name was so shamefully misused. It could mean the end of his or her career. If you dont do it for yourself, do it for them. Erik had started talking louder and faster. He stopped to take a sip of his strongly cooled chocolate milk. Robert coughed again and blew his nose, as irritated with himself as he was with the conversation. So what do you want me to do? File a complaint? The planters did nothing illegal when I was dealing with them. It was a medical experiment that went wrong for some of the test subjects and that now has unpleasant consequences for some. That can always happen. Everyone was aware that they were taking that risk. On Roberts side of the line, a door opened. Robert seemed to be startled. A woman who seemed to be in a panic spoke casually over Roberts protest until he silenced her with a few firm words. Then, with the same intransigence, he turned to Erik: I have to hang up. Before Erik could answer, Robert broke the connection.
Erik spent the next few days in a state of stubborn denial. Despite several attempts by Tom, he could not bring himself to visit his wife. Nele asked him once if they would visit her mother but Erik did not answer straightforwardly and Nele did not ask again. Since he was only half-time back at work, Erik threw himself fully into his running training. And here, too, he did not listen to Tom, who urged him to take it easy. He had just challenged Tom to a goodbye race when his mobile phone rang. He gasped as he brought the thing to his ear without looking at the screen to see who the caller was. Hello? Hey, Uncle. Charlies? Well have I ever! I thought you were out, prospecting. Or what you call prospecting. The latter came out in a thick wrap of feigned contempt. Erik knew that his niece did not go on a trip to do nothing for weeks on end. You dont have to travel for that, she always said, You can do that at home. Erik could do nothing but agree with her then. Charlies had gone to Wildewiese in Germany on Robert Claronés advice. They had met in the sports hall where Charlies and Robert seemed to share a passion for swimming in addition to running. Despite the age difference - he was 47, she 22 - the two got on very well. Charlies laughed. Call it research. Even a writer cannot draw endlessly from a single source of creation. Once in a while you need to refuel. And have you found the right fuel yet? Unfortunately, yes. What do you mean, unfortunately? Erik knew that Charlies didnt call him out of the blue, no matter how well they got along. Thats why she called him and not her parents or her boyfriend. There was silence at the other end of the line. Erik was aware of Toms questioning frown. He had, of course, seen the frown on Eriks own face. Charlie? Erik took a sip of water against the stomach acid that was mercilessly working its way down his gullet to his throat. Charlies let out a shrill cry and startled Erik, who choked and started coughing. Charlies said something but Erik couldnt answer until Tom had patted him on the back a few times. Uncle? came Charlies voice again from the mobile phone, this time worried. Here I am again. Everything okay? Yes, yes, no problem. I just choked. Tom chuckled. I was startled! said Erik in a harsh tone to him. How would you react if someone suddenly shouted in your ear? Sorry, uncle, but I was startled too. I was so lost in thought that I didnt see the people coming towards me. They wanted to ask for directions. Erik gestured impatiently with his hand even though Charlies couldnt see him. No problem, child. You dont have to apologise. Tom grinned but refrained from commenting. Am I disturbing something?, Charlies asked suddenly as a heavy truck thundered past on the big street behind them. No, not at all. I started training again, thats all. Because running used to relax me. But with this hangman as a trainer, its more like torture. Erik looked at Tom, who chuckled. He put his hand on his chest, bowed his head and said in a made solemn tone, My apologies, Your Excellency. Get lost. Rest assured, Uncle, before you know it, youll be running a half-marathon again with ease. I wont be at ease until I beat you in a whole marathon. Tom laughed. Charlies said affectionately, Im looking forward to that, Uncle. So am I, Charlie. But tell me, what are you calling for? First of all, I just want to say that Im not sure what I saw. Above all, I dont want to accuse anyone. But? Charlies sighed and continued a little unwillingly, I have thought about it for a long time but there is almost no doubt. There cannot be two copies of this tie pin. Ho, Charlies, wait a minute. I cant follow. Start again, from the beginning. Charlies took a deep breath. I was drawn to a special location today, a construction project on a stretch of old railway that has not been used for a long time. The location was to be repurposed for cultural purposes, probably a museum about the history of this place with the train traffic as a starting point. Erik understood that Charlies kept talking around the subject. Out of fear of what she had discovered or because she felt the need to share the information she had gathered with someone and filter it that way. She always said that words often sounded completely different than they were written. He would give her time to get to the heart of the matter at her own pace. That way he would find out the most. At the moment there is a newly erected structure here, new construction, no doubt, a white block of concrete, painted or limed white. In fact, it is nothing more than a stairwell with a door here and there. Perhaps to replace the old station building that must have stood here once, or as a temporary accommodation for the contractors and future museum staff. Anyway, a few guests at the hotel where I am staying had pointed this location out to me as a possible setting for a solitary crime scene for my book. As it is quite remote, I decided to leave the car behind and walk quite a distance to the former station. By then, the training I had planned for that day had ended and I could focus all my energy on my prospecting. She laughed but Erik was too impatient to respond to the joke. Anyway, when I got there, the place was deserted. The growing excitement brought me in need of the bathroom. The realisation that I was far away from any habitation made me nervous and made my bladder tighten up even more. But I was lucky, there was an open door. Charlies was silent again, as if to build up the tension in her story. An open door probably meant that someone was inside. I cautiously stepped inside and listened to see if anyone was there but I saw nothing but the stairs. I went up and knocked on the first door I came across. Nothing. I walked further up and knocked on the next door. I got no answer there either. I went up another floor but halfway I passed a door with a sign WC. It was at least another 45 minutes to the place where I had parked my car and another 30 to 35 minutes to get back to the hotel. So I took my chance. When I went back downstairs, I heard a noise behind the second door where I had knocked. Two men came out, arguing. One of them was talking loudly but the other was completely ignoring him. Neither of them had noticed me. The second man, the one who was trying to catch or hold the others attention, did not notice that the notebook he was carrying fell out of the pocket of his suit jacket. I picked it up and wanted to go after them to give it back but it seemed easier to just put it inside. The man would surely find it soon enough. For a moment it crossed my mind that I had better leave the book and leave before one of the men saw me. But still I walked into the room. The door had been left open. The room looked like an office. I put the booklet on one of the desks when a sketch caught my eye. I noticed the sheet because the desk was otherwise very neat, not what you would expect. Erik heard Charlies rummaging in something, probably her handbag, and muttering, Ha, I put it there. Then he heard nothing for a long time and assumed she was thinking about what she had found. After a long time, she broke the silence with a muttered Yes, right. I was right. Then, a little louder: I cant be entirely sure, of course, but I would bet money that its the same figure. I was there when Alisa drew him. Alisa? Erik slowed his pace. He put his mobile phone on speaker so Tom could listen in. Roberts girlfriend? Or his mistress. Whatever she is, shes not very shrewd. But shes a first-rate artist. The jewels she designs make much of the jewellery market pale in comparison. I met her once when I arranged to meet Robert at his house... At his house? interrupted Erik before he could swallow his words. Rest assured, Uncle, I am not his type. At least, not if hes really into that Alisa. Anyway, when I got there, Robert wasnt there yet. Alisa let me in. We had a lot of coffee together and talked. On the table were spread some sketches she was working on. She told me that she had recently started designing jewellery full time and that she was planning to give Robert a tie pin for his birthday. She showed me her three best sketches and asked me which I liked best. For my taste, however, one of the designs she had put aside was much better and I pointed it out to her. She immediately went along with it and added a few improvements until she herself was satisfied with the result. I told her it was by far the best of all and she decided to get straight to work as soon as Robert and I had left for the sports hall. Erik shook his head. To him, Robert Claroné was definitely not the type of man to wear a tie, let alone a tie pin. Charlies could neither agree nor disagree. Maybe for his work, she said, a little indifferently, as if she had lost interest in the subject. He had had the same impression when she had mentioned the name Alisa for the first time. He did not know whether that fact amused or disturbed him. In any case, Charlies continued, it was a personal design of hers for Robert. I would be very surprised if by any chance someone else made just the same sketch for whatever reason. It could be a symbol, Erik noted, or something from some movie. Something that a lot of people know. Maybe, yes, Charlies said. But youre not convinced. No. Im probably imagining all sorts of things but Ive still suggested and pre-drawn a few changes Alisa has made myself. Im sure it all means nothing but how does a sheet with the sketch of a tie pin that Alisa wanted to give to Robert end up here in Germany? Robert did tell us that his parents fell in love with Germany long before he was born and made many friends here. True.. Youre still not convinced, Erik stated. Sorry, Uncle, Charlies laughed, I must look like one of those TV detectives who insist on a case being difficult and complicated and cant bear it when its as plain as day who committed the murder and why. Erik laughed too. After a few minutes they became serious again and Charlies remarked: There was something written on the sheet, under the sketch. It was still clearly visible, she added before Erik could remark that through scribbling she could never have seen the sketch clearly enough to know it was the same one Alisa had drawn. I didnt recognise the handwriting but it could be Roberts. He may have the sheet with the sketch. He might have used the sheet with the sketch as a draft after Alisa threw it away? She seemed to be trying to convince herself more than anything. So he didnt ask what exactly was written on the sheet. That is indeed possible. Charlies sighed. Im a little embarrassed. I see ghosts. My imagination has run wild. I probably ruined your training for nothing. Every writers curse. Erik teased Dont worry about it. I understand youre worried about Robert but I sincerely believe he has severed all criminal ties to his past. I believed that too, uncle, and still do, but I havent told you everything yet. When those men came out of the office, one of them, the man who lost the notebook, had a knife in his hand. A knife. That changed things. If those men were walking around armed, they were involved in shady deals. And if Robert was in contact with them, that was reason enough for concern given his past. I didnt know who else to call, Charlies said, I have no desire to get involved in a judicial investigation abroad. I understand that, Charlie. And youre right. Its better if you dont get involved and stay away from that property any further. Okay. In the meantime, tell me, how much do you train on average per week? changed Erik the subject. Charlies answered spontaneously and not without pride: Five days a week, 30 to 35 kilometres per session. After some more small talk, Erik disconnected the connection and looked at Tom with a depressed expression. Toms gaze mirrored Eriks.
Tom and Inge sat opposite each other in the cafeteria. Inge sat with her hands folded around the cup in front of her, as if she wanted to warm her hands with the coffee it contained. The coffee had long since become cold, but she didnt seem to notice. Tom had tried everything to cheer her up, but every attempt at humour seemed only to make Inges dejection worse. In the end, he had resorted to two of the biggest killers one could utter in this case: Itll be all right. It will just take time. Inge had looked at him and she had come to life long enough to ask, But how long, Tom? How long? Until Im sixty? One hundred? She shook her head. Ive seen the hate in Eriks eyes, Tom. So much hate. Such deep, intense loathing... Hell do anything to keep Nele away from me, regardless of whether she ever wants to see me again. Not to protect her, but to torment me. Tom had heard enough. He shook his head in turn and raised his hand. Inge had an expression of fear on her face. But... He shook his head again. Inge bent over the table and grabbed his arm. They had had a similar conversation the day Inge had voluntarily admitted herself. Tom had taken her to the institution. Erik had not said a word to her since his tirade of abuse after dragging her away from Nele. At the moment of Inges departure, he had not even been at home. He had taken Nele to his parents and had coincidentally left just before Tom arrived. Tom had immediately realised that coincidence had nothing to do with it. He had known Erik for a long time and in many ways still better than Inge. After all, it was not for nothing that he, Tom, would be driving that day. But who could blame Erik? Not Tom, at any rate. He had always liked Inge and like her and Erik he would give his life for Nele, but it was Erik he had been friends with longest and he would not allow Inge to force him to take sides against him if he chose to turn away from her. And he didnt want to have anything to do with a divorce battle with Nele. He had told Inge that in no uncertain terms. Inge had just brought up the subject again and he had repeated his answer almost word for word. Oh, Tom, do you really think it will come to that? That Erik... I dont think we should rule out the possibility. Of course I dont want it either, but at the moment it is better to think the worst than to hope the best. Just like last time, Inge had burst into tears. Youd better get some rest, he said and pushed his chair back. Tom, Tom. She grabbed his arms and looked him straight in the eye, suddenly all fire and vibrancy as if possessed. Its their fault. What? Tom did not understand what she meant. Its their fault, she repeated, louder this time. Whose fault, Inge? What are you talking about? Inge rolled her eyes. The Planters, of course. The Planters? She tightened her grip on his arms and her long manicured nails drilled into the sleeves of his T-shirt. He involuntarily wondered how long she had been pressing those murder weapons into Neles neck. You have to believe me, Tom. Its their fault. Inges eyes were big and her urgent voice had shot up. She was genuinely afraid shed lose his sympathy. Several people in the cafeteria had already cast curious glances from their tables when Inge had started talking louder. Something dawned on Tom. He took Inge to one of the benches in the entrance hall, which fortunately was deserted. He forced her to sit down on one of the benches. He was now agitated himself and was panting lightly as he bent over her and asked in a tone that just barely escaped a whisper, Did you do it after all? Inge cringed slightly. Tom straightened his back and took a few steps back as a group of three patients and two nurses stepped out of the lift, casting curious glances at the pair. Tom eyed them sharply until they turned to each other again as they walked down the corridor that led to the large terrace and garden at the rear of the complex. It crossed his mind that perhaps he should have taken Inge there to have the impending discussion. I couldnt help it, Tom, I... I...I had to. He shook his head and ran his hand through his hair. Shit, Inge. I know. But I couldnt help myself. I was going crazy. Yeah, that, anyway. Inge looked at him again with wide eyes and Tom felt a stab of regret. He didnt want to hurt her but it had been out before he knew it. What did they do to you? She shrugged. They sedated me. Then they operated on me. Thats all I know. But your hair then. Why didnt I ever notice anything? Inge shook her head. The chip is implanted just below the scalp, so no large incisions are needed. I could easily hide the little bit of hair that was cut under a hat or even a diadem. You couldnt have noticed much because you were hardly at home that month, let alone that you had time to drop in on us. Erik doesnt notice that kind of thing and Nele... Well, she never asked. Tom nodded. Tom... He put a hand on hers. I understand why you did it, Inge. I know what its like to be powerless over something. Ill never know what its like to be so hypersensitive to sound but there are other things Id kill for to not to have to do or perceive. I wont claim to approve of what you have done, but it is to me, or Erik, to condemn you for it. Inge straightened her back a little at the name Erik. I wont say anything to Erik until youve had a chance to tell him yourself. Ill make sure he comes with Nele. Inge lowered herself against the back of her chair. The fire and hope drained from her and she even turned a little pale. You meet here in the cafeteria. Erik will keep quiet if there are enough people around. Inge nodded. She put her hands around the coffee bag again and looked inside. Ill get another one. When it was his turn after a few minutes and he walked back to their table with two bags of hot coffee, tears ran down Inges cheeks.
The white lines that marked the cycle path slipped past before Eriks eyes between panting breaths. It was a actual relief when Tom finally said, And... Stop! That was a good session. Tom immediately started stretching but Erik let himself fall down panting on the grass. It had been two months since his last run and he had not wanted to be outdone by Tom and had agreed to a ten-kilometre tour against his better judgement. Hey, you ok? Tom asked anxiously five minutes later when Erik was still lying down and had started coughing. Fine, fine. Erik took a deep breath. I just overworked myself a bit. More than a little, by the look of it. Are you sure youre OK? Yeah, just some acid burps. Tom reached out a hand to help him up. I told you to take it easy and build up again slowly. How was I supposed to know you werent ready for ten kilometres? Dont worry- ... Ill survive. Tom rolled his eyes. A sharp screech that cut through the bone drowned out Toms reply. Help! Mum, let me- Dad!!! The men looked at each other. Nele? Erik jumped up and flew through the back door and into the kitchen and into the living room.The scene they found almost made Erik faint. Inge, his wife, was sitting with her hands around the neck of his daughter, who was lying on the sofa and had undoubtedly been the one who had screamed. The moment Erik threw open the door between the kitchen and the living room, she had turned her head to look over her shoulder. Her hands remained around Neles neck but slid to her shoulders as she saw her husband coming towards her. Erik grabbed his wifes collar, pulling her off their daughter and tossing her aside like a rag. Nele got up and crawled to the other end of the bent seat, as far away from her mother as possible. Erik sat down next to her. His heart broke when Nele tried to slide backwards, realising that she could not go any further without falling off the seat. Her whole body was shaking and he saw agony in her eyes. He heard the dismay in his own voice which, in other circumstances, when he spoke in that tone of voice, could turn into impatience at any moment, while he said softly: Nele. Its me, Dad. Nele looked into his face. She was still trembling, but she did not flinch or run away again. She probably could not even have done that. She was in shock. Erik understood that too but couldnt help shaking her gently back and forth when he called her name several times and she didnt respond. What the hell is wrong with you! He stood up and walked towards his wife, raising his arm in the air. Hey, hey! Tom grabbed Eriks arm. Enough. Lets all stay calm! Erik ceased his tirade of abuse but continued to look at his wife venomously. Inge let it pass at first and her apparent indifference made Erik even angrier. Maybe thats why Inge took advantage of the opportunity when Erik had to catch his breath to defend herself: Thats not true, Erik. How can you say such a thing about me? I was just... Crazy! You are completely crazy! Cutting your own daughters throat... But I didnt want that! No way, I just wanted her... Erik didnt give her time to find the right word and started to give her a folder again. Tom intervened again. Inge, please sit down so we can discuss this calmly. Erik, please, sit down too. Erik pulled his arm free but remained standing where he was. Inge seemed half stunned and let Tom lead her to one of the chairs at the table. Erik stubbornly refused to go anywhere near his wife any longer and stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, his arms crossed. We all need to calm down first. Rest will do us all good. Inge, Ill give Nele something to help her sleep and you take one of those pills. Erik, you stay here until I come back down. With one last look at Erik, he forced Inge up the stairs. Tom knew that the flaming rage into which his friend had just been ignited could flare up again at any moment. When he came down again 20 minutes later, he found Erik in the sofa with his head in his hands. What have I done wrong Tom? Why did I never see it? I should have prevented this! He slapped the seat next to him with his hand. I should have... He hit the seat again. Tom pressed his hand on Eriks. After a few moments Erik asked. Is Nele asleep? Yes, and youd better take some sleep as well. Tom ignored the fact that his friend had not asked how his wife was doing. Erik stared ahead for a few moments. Then he said, Ive called the police. Oh, Erik,- What else could I do? That... That... woman here almost killed my daughter. You fucking stood there and watched it all yourself! He jumped up. Isnt it my duty as a father to protect her? Yes, but you dont do that by making thoughtless accusations and thereby taking Nele away from her mother. Besides, Nele is mentally unstable at the moment. A statement from her that her mother has done something to her would never stand up in a court of law. Every lawyer would make firewood of it. Tom, now you are the one who is not thinking clearly. Nele is asleep and a bit confused, all right, but shes not retarded or heavily drugged. What are the odds that she doesnt remember her mothers hands being around her neck and threatening to choke her? If thats what happened. Dont forget that you only saw Inge from the back and heard her moan. But you have no proof that one thing came from another. And we dont want Nele to be even more confused by burdening her with such frightening news, only to have to tell her later that it was a mistake. All the more so because it is about her mother. But you are right, we have to wait and see what Neles condition will be like when she wakes up. With a bit of luck, she will experience it as nothing more than a nightmare. Then we only have to feed that impression by confirming it. If she remembers the truth, we will not lie to her. But if she has doubts, or shows no sign of remembering, then wed better remain silent. Erik shook his head. Only imagine that it has already come to the point where she doesnt remember anything. Such a bad thing! Imagine, if she really is already that far gone... Erik lowered his eyes but raised them again with a horrified look. His voice sounded hoarse: Tom! What? Tom was immediately wary of what was to come. Tom! If Nele doesnt remember anything, it could indicate brain damage. I read that once. A lack of oxygen in the brain can cause brain damage. Erik was silent for a few seconds, holding his breath as he seemed to sort out his thoughts. Tom shook his head. Im sure thats not the case. Nele was conscious the whole time. Shes in shock but shell get over that. Erik sighed deeply until the sound turned to moans.Whats going on, Tom? Is all this real or am I watching a series on television and have I fallen asleep? Im afraid its very serious. Try to get some sleep, Erik. Ill stay here until the police arrive. By the way, I can already hear sirens.
There were fourteen people in the boarding house, apart from the Claroné-family. First, of course, there were the old landlady and widow, Frau Hokke, and her daughter, who was married and had two young children. Secondly there were the 9 other guests who occupied a total of three rooms. In the room next to theirs was a Belgian family: the parents together with the eldest daughter of about thirty. Francine had already spoken to the mother a few times, a very social woman and easy going. Her daughter, on the other hand, seemed almost shy. The first time they met, Francine had assumed the girl was a bit insecure to be addressed in German or any other language than Dutch her native tongue, but Francine had knowledge of people and a sharp eye. The woman was not just insecure or shy. She was afraid and did not like the company of strangers. When, after meeting the mother, Francine had returned to the table where her husband was waiting for her, she had noticed that, despite the seemingly cheerful mood at the Belgian table, there remained a certain stiffness in the girl. She clearly had more of her father. The man in question, although talkative and cheerful, also did not give off vibes of spontaneity and joy like the mother. then there was the young Asian in the room opposite the Claronéss. Francine had quickly crossed them off her list of possible suspects after the young woman proudly showed her big belly. Pregnant women were capable of many things because of their hormones - she knew that - but it didnt make a person evil and her knowledge of human nature, of which she was so fond, told her that these people were not criminals. No, she told her son firmly, if there is a murderer here, it is one of the guests in room five. Room five was currently occupied by four handsome Dutchmen. Two older men and two younger men. She hadnt really figured out the relationships between the men yet, but she had already had the wildest fantasies about them. She had also seen the daughter of the Belgian family looking at the men more than once when they came downstairs for breakfast. Francine always felt a pang of regret for the poor child who would never dare to approach one of the two young men to talk and flirt. Just like Francine, she avoided direct contact with the men, even when her parents started talking animatedly to them, pointing out the fox which, like every morning, was sneaking through the deers meadow. When one of the Dutch men was standing at the buffet, the girl answered seemingly smoothly but Francine even sensed from a distance that the girl was relieved when the man walked back to his table. Francine felt sorry for her, she told her son. She wasnt very pretty, of course, Francine thought, but that probably wasnt the reason why men werent attracted to her. She was a tower of diamonds. Men could probably barely get through to her. The two young Dutchmen obviously had no idea of the harm they were unknowingly inflicting. At this point Claroné interrupted his mother by raising his hand. Francine frowned but she understood when she heard her husbands voice. Ah, here you are. Youre not filling that poor boys head with that occult nonsense, are you? His voice had something warning about it. No, no, dont be afraid. We were just chatting. I just asked our Rob if hes found a girlfriend yet. Havent you, boy? Unfortunately, not yet. Ah, dont worry about that, Claroné senior said, patting his son on the shoulder. Be free and happy while you can. Oh well. Francine rolled her eyes. Just be careful when you go out on the rags later. Claroné looked at his mother in surprise. Oh, come on. Did you really think I couldnt guess what my boys would do? Claroné did not answer that. Indeed, he should have known. Francine rolled her eyes and stood up. Come upstairs with me, boy, and take a rest before going off. You look tired. Claroné didnt let him say that twice. He followed his mother meekly into the familiar little flat, careful not to let on how much his headache and burning belches were bothering him.
The seemingly endless but only road snaked its way up bend after bend in the German mountainous landscape around the village of Wildewiese, Sundren. Until now, the edge of the road had been carefully marked and additionally secured by posts with reflectors, in contrast to similar regions in France. Robert Claroné knew Wildewiese and its French counterparts like the back of his hand. Or so he always claimed at family parties and to friends. In reality, Wildewiese and the Ferienhof could not have been more familiar to him. His parents had fallen in love with that particular part of Germany after they had met there for the first time. During that same holiday, his parents had befriended the old landlady and her daughter who ran Pension Hokke to this day. Claroné had faithfully accompanied his parents every year when they travelled to their permanent home until he got tired of it and the first holiday after he turned eighteen and thus became an adult, he stayed at home alone, in Belgium, for three weeks for the first time. The landlady and her daughther spoke a good amount of Dutch, while his parents were fluent in German. Claroné himself was also fluent in learning languages and his German, although not as fluent as that of his parents, was understandable and quite correct. Despite the poles, Claroné cast quick, nervous glances into the depths as he climbed higher and higher. His GPS had guided him unerringly to his destination, but it was only now that he was there that it dawned on him what he was doing. His mother had called him that morning, excited and almost panicking, and told him that there had been a murder, only some short distance from the holiday guesthouse. He was relieved when he drove off the road and down the driveway to the grounds in front of the farmhouse, which was separated from the road by trees. He had a headache from the rapidly alternating pressure difference in his ears and his diaphragm and oesophagus were burned open by rising stomach acid. These flare-ups of reflux, which were a regular occurrence anyway, were one of the reasons he had begun to dislike the annual family trip. though, out of habit, Claroné looked up among the foliage in search of squirrels. Together with his father, he had often stood on the small balcony attached to their permanent room, staring intensely through binoculars until it gave him a headache worse than the pressure in his ears. The memory gave him a brief feeling of nostalgia and longing for the days when he still enjoyed coming here. He got out of the car and was surprised that his mother had not come running out or at least was not already standing outside waiting for him. He looked around and noticed his father coming out of the shed where, among other things, bicycles, motorbikes and go-carts could be stored.Claroné senior did not immediately recognise his son. He looked in his direction and squeezed his eyes together, but his thoughts were clearly elsewhere, because he did not react immediately, not even after Claroné called out: Hey, Dad! The older man turned his head and suddenly his face brightened. Boy! forgive your old father. I wouldnt have recognised you! Thats okay. They hugged each other briefly but tightly. Is everything okay with mother? I expected her to be waiting for me, ready to throw herself around my neck and bombard me with whatever it is thats on her mind. Claroné senior pulled a dirty face. Your mother is losing it again, Im afraid. She is obsessed with that corpse. They found a body nearby, a few days ago. Thats why your mother sent for you. Because you have experience with corpses. Her words. Claroné looked at his father seriously. Surely she knows that I am suspended. Claroné senior looked at his son. She wont forget about that. He shook his head. But Im not going to give you that lecture again. Im sorry you had to come all the way here, boy. I tried to calm your mother down, but all I got was a fight. And then those two bitches with their scaremongering. You mean the landlady? That one, yes. And her mother with her stories. And then your mother, who can be so gullible and always needs something to keep her overactive mind occupied a perfect victim for their fantasies and conspiracy theories. Its a disaster. Is Mum in? Claroné senior shrugged. I suppose so. Frankly, I expect theyll take it into their heads at any moment to go on some kind of witch-hunt. Frau Hokke introduced your mother to the occult. Imagine, they want to try together to conjure up spirits! By now they had arrived at the deers pasture. Claroné senior had started talking louder and louder, and his violent gestures frightened off two deer that had approached. Claroné junior could understand his fathers displeasure. He himself would not want his mother to go around in gypsy clothes with a crystal ball in which she believed she could see everyones future. She regularly complained that she would be better off looking for a supplementary income. He hoped she would not take it into her head to become a professional palm reader. Claroné senior seemed to take his sons silence as a sign of boredom and said hastily, Im sorry, son. I shouldnt whine to you about that. Oh, no, thats fine, Dad. Im just glad youre both okay. What you call okay, in the case of your mother, Claroné senior muttered, But Im glad youre here. Tonight were going to grab a few pints together in the village, what do you think? Claroné gladly accepted the offer.
Francine Claroné was sitting at a table in the common dining room. When Claroné came in and sat down with her, the landladys daughter promptly brought him a cup of coffee, exactly the way he liked it: black and strong. His mother sipped a cup of tea. After a silence, Francine spoke up first: Its still a lovely place, dont you think? Yes, its lovely here. Your father and I talked about it for hours. We would like to move here, like, for good. Claroné was not entirely surprised by this announcement but the next thing his mother said made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. We wanted to ask you if you would come with us. Francine put a hand on his and said with a sad look in her eyes, After all, I would miss you too much to be able to leave you behind in Belgium for good. But your father... Yes, I spoke to him outside just now. Apparently things are not quite well between the two of you, lately. Francine looked at her son. As always, immediately the detective questioning a witness or, when he was angry, a suspect. Ah, your father exaggerates. He says Im a naive, stupid goose who lets herself be scared by silly ghost stories. He has always been so narrow-minded. At least I am open to things. But he...And just when I need him so much. I havent slept a wink since they found that body so close by this place. She put her arms around herself. Mother, you know theres nothing I can do about that on my own, right? No. No, I know that. I just thought, maybe as an advisor to the police - thats what its called, right? - but it was an idiotic reflex to call you. Claroné did not tell her that he had been irritated rather than frightened since he had left headlong. A corpse is nothing to be afraid of. As long as it doesnt start walking around like a zombie its completely harmless. Robbie! Francine gave him a gentle pat on the wrist. Dont say things like that. You know I cant stand that. Sorry. Youre as bad as your father sometimes. Im scared of that damned corpse, Im afraid of the killer. What if hes still running around here? Maybe its one of the other guests in the guesthouse. Claroné knew the bast way to let his mother calm down is to let her have her way so he tried to talk along. Are there many other guests? he asked. That would be a perfect perspective to elaborate on later and distract his mother from the subject of a possible murder without her knowing or objecting.
Charlies had het bewijs gevonden waar Erik en Tom al weken naar op zoek waren: een concreet spoor naar een en mogelijk meerdere medewerkers van de planters. Wat een ongelofelijk toeval, zei Tom. Inderdaad. Het is zo goed als zeker dezelfde locatie. Ik heb haar gezegd er uit de buurt te blijven en zich vooral nergens mee te bemoeien. Goed. Ik hoop alleen dat ze dat ook zal doen. Als Robert er echt bij betrokken is... Dat is nog niet zeker. Nee, maar stel dat het zo is. Laten we niet op de feiten vooruitlopen. We weten dat hij zich destijds door de planters heeft laten behandelen. Dat was misschien onvoorzichtig, maar de namen van de artsen die de ingreep zouden uitvoeren bleken inderdaad een voor een gerespecteerde chirurgen te zijn. Je kan deelnemers zoals Robert niet kwalijk nemen dat ze deze kans met beide handen aangegrepen hebben. Als ik zoals Robert vaak al gek werd van het minste lawaai en ik kon daar gratis iets aan laten doen, zou ik waarschijnlijk ook niet twijfelen. Zeker niet als er me daarbovenop nog een flinke som beloofd wordt als schadevergoeding als het mislukt. En dat was helaas het geval bij Robert. Denkt men. Het is gevaarlijk om zomaar in iemand zijn hoofd te rommelen, Tom. Zelfs al is het voor wat men in de medische wereld een doodsimpele operatie noemt. Kijk wat Inge gedaan heeft met Nele... De gedachte aan zijn dochter die bijna door haar moeder gewurgd werd, sneed hem even de adem af. Denk er niet meer aan, Erik. Nele heeft er niets aan overgehouden en Inge zal weer de oude worden. Ik weet niet of ik haar ooit nog als de oude Inge zal kunnen zien, Tom. In zekere zin ben ik meer beschadigd dan Nele door het hele geval. Hij wreef met zijn hand door zijn haar terwijl hij rilde. Het zweet dat in zijn kleren hing van het lopen deed hem koud krijgen. Laten we maken dat we thuis zijn. Ik snak naar een warm bad.
Een paar uur later zaten ze samen met hun gewoonlijke kop hete chocomelk in de zetel. Sinds Inge opgenomen werd, was Tom al verschillende keren blijven slapen en Erik en hij hadden de oude gewoonte uit hun kindertijd weer opgenomen. Tom bladerde door de krant terwijl Erik Nele hielp met haar huiswerk waarna het meisje naar boven ging tot het etenstijd was. Waarschijnlijk zouden ze er een klein feestje van maken met friet, snoep en het tweede seizoen van Star Trek Original Series. Misschien moeten we niet teveel naar dat soort dingen kijken", had Tom half voor de grap gezegd toen Erik en Nele voor het rek met dvd's stonden. De waarschuwing in zijn woorden was Erik niet ontgaan maar hij wuifde het weg. Het telefoongesprek met Charlies liet hem echter niet los en toen Nele buiten gehoorafstand was, belde hij Robert op. Hij zette zijn gsm op speaker zodat Tom kon meeluisteren. Hij was verrast toen er haast onmiddellijk opgenomen werd. Bovendien bleek Robert zijn gsm ook op de speaker te staan. Robert droeg zelden zijn gsm bij zich als hij thuis was. Vaak wist hij amper waar hij dat rotding deze keer weer gelaten had om dan te beseffen dat het boven lag als hij beneden zat of omgekeerd. Of de batterij was al dagenlang leeg. En als hij niet thuis was, hoorde hij het ding vaak niet. Robert zijn stem klonk een ogenblik hees toen hij vroeg: Ja, Erik? Hij hoestte en snoot zijn neus. Oei, verkouden? vroeg Erik, die meteen op zijn hoede was. Robert was zelden verkouden. Zwijg me ervan, ik ben er vanmorgen mee opgestaan. Zit jij op dit moment in Duitsland? Ja. Erik hoorde dat Robert ook meteen zijn hoede was bij die vraag. Hij wist niet wat hij moest denken van de onwilligheid die doorklonk in Robert zijn stem toen hij schijnbaar ongeduldig vroeg: Waarom bel je, Erik? Erik keek naar Tom die zijn schouders ophaalde en knikte. Ik zal er niet omheen draaien. Ik heb uit goede bron vernomen dat er een verband bestaat tussen jou en het oude treinstation. Er viel een stilte waarin Erik Robert eerst hoorde hoesten en dan geïrriteerd zuchten. Op de achtergrond klonk een stem en toen die van Robert die antwoordde: Ja, ik heb die sjaal van ons papa geleend. Laat me nu even, ik ben aan het bellen. Er ging een deur open en dicht en Robert zuchtte opnieuw voor hij op zachte, dringende toon zei: Ik heb niets met de illegale praktijken van de planters te maken, Erik. Hoe vaak moet ik dat nog herhalen? Ontkennen heeft geen zin, Robert. Robert zuchtte nogmaals geïrriteerd. Luister, Erik Ik wéét dat ik foute dingen gedaan heb. Ja, ik heb me ingelaten met drugs. Ja, ik was betrokken bij twee of drie betreurenswaardige voorvallen die respectievelijk geclassificeerd werden als inbraak, overval en diefstal en ja, bij deze laatste werd geweld gebruikt. En já, ik geloof de getuigenverklaringen die beweren dat ikzelf schuldig bevonden ben aan een deel van dat geweld. Maar ik heb niets te maken met de planters of hun lijken. Erik was er zeker van dat Robert gedronken had. Alleen als hij een zekere hoeveelheid alcohol achterover geslagen had, kon hij zo open en ongeremd over zijn criminele activiteiten spreken. Als hij nuchter was, kon hij er helemaal niet over praten. Hij duwde het allemaal zo ver mogelijk van zich af, vol schaamte en wroeging. Maar wat had hij zojuist bedoeld met de planters en hun lijken? Wat is er aan de hand, Robert? Er is niets aan de hand, Erik. Het klonk verveeld. Afwerend. Wat zou er moeten zijn? Erik was er zeker van dat er van alles mis was. De dasspeld, zijn gsm die hij meteen opnam, de verkoudheid, de sjaal. Robert droeg amper een dikkere jas in de winter, laat staan een sjaal. Als hij dat allemaal optelde bij Roberts criminele verleden en de schets... Zouden er oude vrienden van Robert onder de planters zitten, die hij wilde beschermen? Of werd hij door hen gechanteerd? Waarom laat je je niet onderzoeken, Robert? Ik weet dat je daar destijds amper de kans toe had omdat je moeder geen moment van je zijde week en je niet wilde dat ze wist wat er gebeurd is, Maar nu- Nu is dat niet anders. Ze kan ermee leven dat ik geschorst ben en wat mij betreft blijft dat zo. Ik heb liever dat ze gelooft dat ik een zware professionele fout begaan heb dan dat ik mij schuldig gemaakt heb aan misdaad en geweld, onder invloed van drugs. Ook al heb ik die drugs genomen in een vlaag van verstandsverbijstering veroorzaakt door een chip in mijn hoofd. Een chip die daar geplant werd door een bedrieger die bovendien de naam van een onschuldige gebruikt heeft voor zijn of haar wanpraktijken. Dat laatste leek enige indruk te maken op Robert maar tot Eriks grote frustratie vroeg hij: Wat heeft het voor zin? Het is allemaal voorbij. Voor jou is het misschien voorbij, maar niet voor andere slachtoffers. Niet voor Inge en Nele noch voor de chirurg wiens naam zo schandelijk misbruikt werd. Het kan het einde van zijn of haar carrière betekenen. Als je het niet voor jezelf doet, doe het dan voor hen. Erik was steeds luider en sneller gaan praten. Hij stopte even om een slok van zijn sterk afgekoelde chocomelk te nemen. Robert hoestte opnieuw en snoot zijn neus, evenveel geïrriteerd om zichzelf als door het gesprek. Wat wil je dan dat ik doe? Een klacht indienen? De planters deden niets illegaals toen ik met hen te maken had. Het was een medisch experiment dat bij sommige proefpersonen verkeerd gelopen is en dat heeft nu vervelende gevolgen voor sommigen. Dat kan altijd gebeuren. Iedereen was zich bewust van dat hij of zij dat risico nam." Aan Roberts kant van de lijn ging een deur open. Robert leek te schrikken. Een vrouw die in paniek leek te zijn, sprak zomaar over Roberts protest heen tot hij haar met enkele kordate woorden tot zwijgen bracht. Vervolgens richtte hij zich met dezelfde onverzettelijkheid tot Erik: Ik moet ophangen. Voor Erik kon antwoorden, verbrak Robert de verbinding.