Vertellingen: Infernally Divine (Part 1) – Mike Jansen

amsterdam-ruins-rembrandt

Door / By Mike Jansen

Part one

  Decker ducked behind the remains of a derelict front wall. The man he followed looked around anxiously, but continued on his way when he did not see or hear anything. Decker gave him a hundred yards before he left his hideout. He looked back at the shadowy depths of the dilapidated building. Even in clear daylight it was drab. What a shame, he thought. Silently he followed the path between mounds of rubble and piles of trash, without losing sight of Luis.
  The man he was following was called Luis Arotto and he was leading Decker directly to his lair. He felt his excitement rise as Luis crawled underneath a barbed wire fence. A snarling squeal redirected his attention to his own position: a dirty black rat the size of a big cat was right in front of him on the roof of a burnt out Mercedes. It stared at him with glazed eyes. Decker saw foam around its beak at every breath. ‘Shit!’ Decker yelled as he jumped back, away from the attacking animal. In the same movement he pulled his antique Magnum and shot the rat three times. Mildly content he saw the animal begin tearing into its own flesh, crazed by the scent of its own blood.
  The soft noise of tripping paws on the mud flats in the canals returned him to his original train of thought. Luis! Shit, of course he was already gone. Quickly he moved over to the fence without minding his cover. It was dangerous to remain carefully slow with rats coming. They had learned that the sound of shots meant food. Alive or not. Luis was gone, lost in the crowds of people that still visited the Dam from the Outer City. Damn tourists!

  That afternoon Frank Decker headed back to headquarters empty-handed. A small cubicle on the third floor, old fashioned furniture, no air conditioning. Frank’s home when not out in the streets. He sat down in a creaking wicker chair and pulled the mail that had been thrown on the seat from underneath him. One by one he held up the smudgy envelopes to the single 60 Watt that lighted his cubicle.
  He opened one of the drawers of his old, metal dossier cabinet and threw a blue and pink bill on the stack. One after the other the envelopes disappeared on similar stack in the depths of the cabinet. All except one. Frank smiled when he pulled the carbon fiber package from his mail. Using his thumb code he opened the seal. Very good, Frank thought, I was nearly out. Quickly he counted the capsules that were in neat rows in their blisters. One hundred and eighty capsules, enough for two months. Blue characters in stead of yellow this time. He could not care less, the Ministry of Internal Defense would not make mistakes.
  Frank was addicted to phenylcyclidine C, an Angel Dust derivative. It was legal. He and two others, with the same near unique constitutions, together formed a special forces team that some in the force called ‘the suicide squad’. Frank liked that. Unit 212 was deployed in situations that were too dangerous for ordinary soldiers or police.
  While just a week ago they had evicted a dealer and his buddies from an abandoned apartment building. The druggies had barricaded the lower three floors. The area around the wrecked concrete hulk was covered with corpses, mostly homeless people that had been shot to pieces. They had been standing in line for the Salvation Army’s soup-kitchen that was in the next building. Amino, one of their Aruban colleagues pointed out a fat homeless man who was lying rather obscenely between the spread legs of a female Salvationist.
  Fascinated he stared at the two bodies that shook and quivered in some kind of macabre mating of the dead. Until he saw a lump appear on the back of the homeless man where moments later a sharp, black snout, glistening with red, tore through the threadbare coat and carefully sniffed the air. The rats were partying.
  Everywhere Frank looked, he saw the quick, black forms emerge from the sewers, attracted by the streams of blood that were trickling into the drains. He pulled a capsule from his pocket and downed it. Not two minutes later he felt the familiar signs of the heightened senses, improved speed and general invincibility the drugs caused in him. Stanley and Martin looked at him. Their pupils were large, the irises vaguely colored rings around bottomless black and blood shot white. Together they were the suicide squad and they were invincible.
  Chief Inspector of the Amsterdam Police De Vries stood with them for a moment. He answered their questioning look with: ‘No mercy!’
  Under cover of machine gun fire they ran to the entrance of the building. Frank sensed a bullet hitting his vest, but only the fact was registered, the effect was ignored. Stanley vaulted a barricade in front of the door and shot two surprised Colombians in the face. Moments later they were next to him. Outside the firing halted. The silence inside was overwhelming and stifling. Frank felt the movement before he saw anyone or anything. His bullet was underway the moment the third Colombian jumped from around a corner.
  Martin stopped for a moment to admire the red and grey smudge on the wall behind. To Frank the world seemed to obtain a dreamlike quality. Every unknown face he plastered on a wall. Reality only returned to him when his Magnum clicked just when he wanted to waste a huge negro with an UZI. He attacked the man with his bare hands and started to wring his neck. Bullets struck his vest and he felt some penetrate to his flesh, but he kept pulling and twisting until the shooting stopped and for a long time after. The world went black.
  Someone softly pushed his shoulder and shook him.
‘Yo, Frankie. You there?’ Stanley.
  Frank Decker opened his eyes. He saw a pile of corpses in the center of the room. The boys had collected them and stacked them here. Next to the pile in front of a smudgy brown wall was a Chinese. The leader, obviously. He blinked and looked at the black head he held in his right hand.
  ‘He got something to say?’ Frank got up carefully and felt his chest with his left hand. Pain, blood. He shrugged. Nothing they couldn’t fix later. ‘Catch!’ he yelled and threw the still dripping head at the pale Chinese.
  Caught by surprise the Chinese put up his hands and caught the gruesome object but immediately threw it away.
Frank stood before him. ‘Talk, you live!’ Short but sweet. Martin and Stanley stood next to him. Tall, wide, immortal, all three of them. Martin handed him his refilled Magnum. ‘What… what you want?’ the Chinese stuttered, frightened to death, but he sensed a spark of hope.
  ‘Who supplies you?’ asked Stanley, the man with the plan. The Chinese looked from one to the other and knew there was no way out. ‘Luis, Luis Arotto, the Aruban.’
  Frank nodded and the Chinese smiled. Frank looked at Stanley, then at Martin. Each of them gave a short nod and together they departed the room and disappeared to the stairs. Frank turned his back on the Chinese and followed them. He heard the man sigh in relief. Quickly he turned around and shot a bullet through each of the kneecaps of the Chinese. Frank enjoyed the scream that reverberated through the emptiness of the abandoned flat.
  Hurriedly he descended the stairs and went outside. He could still hear the screaming Chinese on the third floor. At the entrance the first rats had already discovered the fresh corpses. Frank, Stanley and Martin waited in their armored Jeep with the doors open until the screaming from the third floor intensified and became a high pitched squeal, then abruptly stopped.
  Frank took several dozen of the capsules from the package and put them in the inner pocket of his jacket, which he carefully zipped close. The package disappeared in the cabinet and joined a stack of similar packages. He leaned back in his chair and ran his hands over his face and through his short, brown hair. He needed a shave and a wash. But dammit, Luis had gotten away. If only he knew where the bastard was headed every time he delivered his goods. Luis pushed more drugs in a week than ten of his colleagues combined. High quality synthetics too. He sighed, felt lonely. It happened often lately, the sense of darkness that devoured his body, his mind from the inside, slowly.
  He took a capsule and downed it. Great for eliminating depression.
  Frank remembered he had not eaten yet that day. He walked the stairs to the restaurant at the top floor. People moved out of the way when they saw his wide, dark figure, but even more they shied away from the mad look in his eyes.
  In the restaurant he filled up a platter and walked past the cashiers without paying. No one complained. Frank wanted to sit by the window and people made way for him. Loneliness struck again. Frank tried to eat it away, but succeeded only partly.
  Decker stared into the distance. The remains of his food were in front of him. Rotting, he thought and his gaze involuntarily slid to the window, the view of the Inner City. Luis had not once used an identical route. It was impossible to find patterns in the tangle of streets he had used. Frank’s head hurt with thinking, of finding a solution. Damn, I should be using a computer, he decided. He lit a cigarette and made a list of people he knew that might solve this specific problem. In the end he decided on Jerry Sitris, an old comrade in a former role in the department of Internal Affairs.

  ‘Eh, Jerry.’ Frank sat down on Sitris’s neat desk.
  ‘Hey Frank, how’ve you been?’
  Jerry was a little pale, Frank thought, probably lack of fresh air. ‘Not so good, Jerry-boy. I have a problem and I need you to help me out here.’ Frank lit another cigarette and told about Luis. Slowly Jerry relaxed and halfway through the story he started to show real interest. When Frank finished Jerry nodded thoughtfully.
  ‘Yeah, I can let the computer do some of your legwork alright,’ he said. With a few deft finger movements Jerry pulled up a map of Amsterdam on his screen, showing the new suburbs and the old, EMP wrecked Inner City.
‘Just point where you followed him, Frank.’
  As Frank slid his fingers over the slick surface of the monitor, the map filled in the routes Luis had taken.
  ‘OK, that’s it, work your magic.’ Frank looked at Jerry filled with expectation. Fingers flew over the keyboard. The screen displayed calculations, extrapolations and estimates. For almost ten minutes the screen kept blinking and updating until a final version of the map appeared. In bright purple Luis’ most likely routes and destinations were displayed. A purple circle in the South of Amsterdam showed the area with the highest probability of Luis residing there.
  ‘Seventy percent says he’s here, Frank,’ Jerry said. Proudly he tapped the screen. A magnification of the area showed. The ruins of the old universities. ‘You ask me, he’s somewhere underneath all that,’ Jerry said.
  ‘Why? I mean what’s there for him?’ Frank asked.
  Jerry laughed and tapped a few more commands. A new map was overlaid on the old one. Yellow lines in various shades filled up the screen. ‘Subterranean passages, dozens of them. Used to be people walked from building to building through these, strong enough to withstand an atomic blast.’
  Frank looked at the screen closely, memorizing every detail. I have you now, Luis. And your supplier I will find as well, he thought. ‘Thanks, Jerry, if you ever need anything…’ Before Sitris could answer Frank had already walked out the door.

  Frank decided to go check out the South of Amsterdam, but near the Prince’s Canal his beeper beeped. Not only did he hate the interruption, he also hated the fact he needed to find a working phone somewhere. After the EMP-shock all mobile antennas in a twenty mile radius were fried, so no mobiles worked anywhere within Amsterdam. He walked over to a military checkpoint on one of the bridges and showed his card to one of the young soldiers there.
   ‘Phone!’ The young soldier guided him to a tent that admitted and released a seemingly endless stream of soldiers. An uninterested sergeant took him to a field-telephone. Decker dialed the number for police HQ.
  ‘Decker, where the hell you at? I need you, now!’ De Vries’ voice blared in his ear.
  ‘Where?’ Decker asked.
  ‘District 14 West.’ De Vries sounded nervous.
  ‘Give me ten minutes.’ Decker threw down the phone and ran outside, leaving staring soldiers behind. He vaulted a few barbed wire fences and ran along the canal. At the next roadblock he found an army truck. He opened the left door and dragged the sleeping driver out. ‘Police, I’m taking your vehicle!’ He waved his card at the cursing driver, then revved the engine. Full speed he rammed through the next roadblock easily.
  De Vries waited for him at the entrance of the run down Intragame Sportscomplex. With his head he motioned Decker through a low gate. Frank followed him into the main hall. The back wall had largely collapsed, only the entrance to the main hall was still standing. The smell of old corpse hung in the air. Spread all over the floor were people, dead, frozen in bizarre positions with pain emanating from the lifeless faces. Frank inspected the nearest corpse. Skinny, deep sunken eye sockets, eyes bloodshot, hollow cheeks, arms filled with needle scars.
  ‘Addicts,’ he concluded.
  De Vries only nodded. ‘Yes, we decided on that as well. But check this out.’ De Vries carefully picked his way through the bodies that were strewn about the floor. Frank smelled the blood before he actually saw it. Several addicts were lying next to each other. Each of them had a neat, round hole in their heads. Last in line held a small caliber revolver.
  ‘It was suicide,’ Frank noticed. ‘Why?’ He looked at De Vries, then again at the other bodies that were mostly intact, but with faces frozen in terror and pain. ‘They did not want to go like that.’ Frank looked around again. Through open doors he could look into the next hall. More of the same. ‘I miss something…’
  De Vries followed his gaze ‘What is that?’
  ‘Rats.’ Frank shivered. Something was keeping the rats out.
  De Vries looked at him without comprehending. But that lasted only a few moments. ‘Hey you!’ He waved at a team of forensics that were investigating and sampling. One of them walked over to them without haste.
  ‘Where are the rats?’ De Vries called when the man had taken just a few steps. The man waved toward the group he had just left. Decker and De Vries ran toward him.
  ‘There’s one over there,’ he said. ‘Died the same way as the people. After that, the rest didn’t want anymore. Smart animals.’
  ‘Shit, Frank,’ De Vries said, ‘that’s the fifth time this week.’ He shook his head.
  ‘Fifth? Why didn’t you mention that sooner?’ Decker felt anger rise up.
De Vries shrugged. ‘You were always gone, trying to find that dealer. I sent you a memo.’
‘Where?’ Decker asked between clenched jaws. Perhaps he should not have taken that endless dossier cabinet. De Vries gave him the locations of places where junkies with the same ailments had been found, mostly dead, in the past few weeks. Frank heard the list and grimaced.
‘Luis! He has been in all these places in the past weeks!’
  Outside was a Jeep to bring them back to Police Headquarters. De Vries got in, but Decker said: ‘I think I’ll walk, see some old friends.’
  De Vries stared at him. ‘No funny stuff, right?’
  Frank stared back innocently.
  De Vries shrugged. ‘I’ll send out his description to all patrols. When we spot him you’ll be the first to know, Frank.’ He signaled the driver of the Jeep. The vehicle drove towards Dam Square at a slow pace.
   De Vries shrugged. ‘I’ll send out his description to all patrols. When we spot him you’ll be the first to know, Frank.’ He signaled the driver of the Jeep. The vehicle drove towards Dam Square at a slow pace.

  The dark alley reeked of a generation’s worth of garbage. Dirt was stacked high against the walls. Frank downed a capsule and felt strength and power rise within him. Magnum in hand he walked into the alley. Faint noises, muffled by mountains of junk. His heightened senses heard the smallest differences. The Magnum thundered between the high walls. A bag lady, white, Caucasian, slowly toppled forward from behind a stack of tie-wrapped vegetable crates. A rusty bread knife fell to the floor at his feet. Soon Frank heard the typical patter of small paws.
  A little later he was in front of a small, steel plate reinforced door. He tapped the middle of the door with the handle of his gun. A small shutter opened. Immediately locks were opened and bolts were removed.
  ‘Come right in, man!’ A meaty black hand grabbed his coat and pulled Decker inside.
  ‘Ronnie, you’re alive!’ Decker smiled.
The big negro closed the door and locked and bolted it.
  ‘What now, Decker?’
  Decker put a hand on Ronnie’s shoulder. ‘Ronnie, friend. Luis Arotto, where and when.’
  The big negro swallowed and stepped back. ‘Sorry Decker, I know nothing about that.’
  Frank walked to the back of the small hideout. On a wooden table stood a couple of large bottles with clear liquid inside. On the floor was a complete distillation set. ‘Just this once, Ronnie, and I’ll never bother you again. Ever!’ Frank tried to sound convincing. He took the stopper out of one of the bottles. The pungent smell of acetone struck his nose. ‘Gosh, Ronnie, I keep wondering what you use all this stuff for.’ Ronnie started to sweat. ‘Come on, Ronnie. Tell your uncle Frank.’
  Ronnie hesitated. ‘Man, I can’t. Luis… you don’t know him.’
  Decker had had it. He walked up to Ronnie and grabbed him by his neck and threw him up against a wall. Pieces of plaster dropped from the ceiling. Frank put the barrel of his 44 on Ronnie’s nose. ‘Him or me, what’s the difference.’ He looked at the negro’s larynx that made interesting movements.
  ‘Please, Frank, you can’t do this.’
  With his sweetest smile Frank said: ‘No Ron, friend, but I’m doing it anyway.’ He lowered the Magnum. ‘Work with me, I’ll get Luis. Good enough?’ Frank lit a cigarette.
  Ronnie shook his head. ‘No stays no, Frank.’
  The Magnum had a good day. A bottle of acetone was blown to pieces.
  Ronnie dove towards the distillation set and extinguished a few burners. ‘You wanna kill us both, you idiot?’
  Frank shot again. ‘Where and when, Ron?’ The acetone dripped from the table.
  ‘Dammit Frank!’
  Again the Magnum. ‘Too bad, no more bottles,’ Frank said. He pointed the gun at Ronnie’s belly. Finally the dealer gave Frank the requested information. ‘Thanks Ron, I knew you were a real friend.’ Smiling Frank walked to the door, never letting the big negro who was standing next to the table out of his sight.
  As he opened the door he called out. ‘He, Ron.’ The dealer looked up, dejection on his face. ‘Do you smoke?’ Decker held up his cigarette. Ronnie shook his head. ‘Very good, Ron.’ Frank half turned to walk away, then said. ‘Never start, it’s a bad habit.’ Carelessly he threw the smoldering remains at the table. The explosion threw Frank some ten yards into the alley where a strategically placed wall broke his fall.

End of Part One.

Read Part Two here

Infernally Divine‘ is de vertaling van het tweede verhaal dat Mike Jansen schreef. Bij de ‘King Kong Award’ in 1991 haalde het als ‘Duivelse Goddelijkheid‘ de 8ste plek en won de Rob Vooren Prijs voor beste nieuwkomer.

Infernally Divine‘ is the translation of ‘Duivelse Goddelijkheid‘, the second story written by Mike Jansen. At the ‘King Kong Award’ in 1991 it reached the 8th position and it won the “Rob Vooren Prijs’ for best newcomer.