Door / By Mike Jansen
‘Luis will be underneath Amsterdam Central Station, near the subway tracks, around five o’clock at night. De Vries, make sure you get him. I want all exits to the South covered. I want to know where he gets in.’ On the other end of the line Frank heard the inspector frantically type instructions and assignments for the people around him.
‘It will be taken care of, Decker. It’s late. Go home. Try getting some sleep, I’ll have you woken at four.’
Home, Frank thought, why the hell not. A few hours once a week probably wouldn’t hurt. He threw the field telephone back at the soldier.
In the twilight hours the guarded main streets were all but deserted. In the rest of the Inner City, between the ruins and underground cellars, the day had only just begun. People who lived off the garbage of their day bound cousins appeared. Frank knew their habits and he stayed in the illuminated zones. A dirty cooking pot was not his idea of a good ending.
He stood and stared at the darkness between two remaining walls of an imploded warehouse. Slowly loneliness crept back into his mind. He had to admit he had missed it somewhat. He sighed, deep. A movement distracted him. Soft patter of paws. Frank smiled.
Someone he knew.
He was surprised when an albino rat appeared from behind a rotted, concrete slab. A piece of bread just outside the circle of light of a street light had attracted the animal. Frank had never seen a rat that was so different. Black, brown sometimes, but never such a light color as this specimen. He whispered: ‘Out all by yourself, my beautiful?’ He grinned.
The animal took the bread, gnawed a few piece off. Frank’s ears noticed more patter, approaching fast. From several directions black rats jumped at the albino. They completely ignored Frank. He saw four or five of them completely smother the white rat. Fascinated he observed the struggle for life and death before him. He suppressed his urge to make the fight more equal with a few well aimed kicks. The white was lightning fast. Frank saw the animal bite a black one to death with a few well placed bites and then another one. But now a particularly big rat bit its neck and held the white one immobile. The other two closed their jaws in the back of the white rat and started to tear.
Frank moved. He jumped and landed on top of the big black rat that immobilized the albino. The nauseating crack under his feet was quite satisfactory. One of the blacks panicked and ran, the other held on, but its enthusiasm diminished quickly when his neck was give a few new air holes.
Frank watched the albino leave. It left a bloody trail, but it took the bread with it. He felt admiration for this rat. So weird, so different. Its own kind tried to kill it. Outcast, lonely. Yet continuing the fight for survival.
Frank nodded in the rat’s direction, a sort of salute. He felt an odd kinship with the albino rat. He felt less alone.
After the last of the military checkpoints Frank walked the final hundred yards to the entrance of the apartment building where he officially lived. The interior of his home was boring and Spartan. A few ceramic jars occupied the window sill. Dried out leaves and parched stems. The last time he had been home the plants had been green. In the middle of the room was a dusty two-seat couch. The TV on the wall had seen better times. Frank took a half empty bottle of vodka from the fridge. It was the only thing left he could safely ingest. He turned on the TV and sat down on the couch.
Game show, game show, reality soap, B-movie, C-movie, stupid soap, political program. The last attracted is attention. He might want to know who was in control of the current mess.
Luxurious upholstered chairs held pompous gentlemen who where debating the new plans of the municipality.
‘Like the Secretary of State just mentioned, it is completely irresponsible to waste the Capital’s budget on social entitlements while the decay of the Inner City continues and spreads to the suburbs.’ The Secretary of State was a tall man with thin glasses and thin grey hair. He nodded his assent. An invisible crowd applauded loudly.
Next to him was an agitated man who tried desperately to yell something above the ruckus. ‘That may be so, but how does the Secretary think he will relocate the people that are still living in the Inner City? Please enlighten me.’
The Secretary of State gently coughed and sat up straight. Decker took the bottle from his mouth and looked at the screen in surprise. The voice of the skinny man on the screen had an almost hypnotic quality. He listened with interest.
‘You are absolutely right, this is a problem. But I ask you, can we still call the people there human? They live like animals, without law, without order. Is my proposal that bad then? All I envision is the relocation of the Dutch families and persons living there.
The man next to him frowned. ‘And what about the foreigners?’
The Secretary laughed. ‘The illegals, you mean?’ Loud applause.
Frank knew enough. He switched to a news item. The news reader who summed up the latest news seemed utterly bored. ‘The piranhas that have terrorized the canals for more than thirty years are back. And their numbers are greater than ever before.’
Frank laughed out loud and shook his head. He turned off the TV. Some joker had bred cold water piranhas more than fifty years ago and thrown them into the canals. Still laughing he got up and went to his bedroom.
As soon as he dropped down on the mattress on the floor he was fast asleep.
The phone. He knew the phone was ringing. Slowly, very slowly he opened his right eye. Darkness. He moved his right hand to the side of the mattress. There. He took the horn and placed it next to his head.
‘Unh, what?’ Frank felt the dry rasp of his vice. A familiar voice yelled at him.
‘Frank, De Vries here. It’s four-thirty. Sorry I did not call sooner. We have a problem here.’
‘Where are you now?’ Frank asked.
De Vries hesitated. ‘Just outside Central Station. What’s left of it.’
Frank got up. ‘On my way. What about Luis?’
De Vries waited. ‘I hear he just passed checkpoint twelve.’
Frank took a capsule from his pocket. Breakfast.
Half an hour later Frank stood next to the inspector. Together they walked through the smoldering ruins.
‘Frank…’ De Vries rubbed his eyes. ‘Stanley and Martin. Down there, the subway.’
Frank nodded his head and took another capsule. In the corners of his eyes he noticed the furtive shadows of the scavengers. ‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘Luis brought a package, around four. Ten minutes later a big explosion on the third level down. The stuff above it did not hold. All floors collapsed in on each other. They were on the third level when it happened…’ De Vries sat on a piece of twisted steel, piece of the clock tower. The hands on the smudged clock face read ten past four.
Frank stood before De Vries. ‘Now what?’
The inspector sighed deeply. He gave Frank a paper. It was the lab report on the cause of death of the deceased addicts of the past few days. According to the learned gentlemen doctors a buildup of some unpronounceable substance caused a flood of nerve destroying toxins. The result was a “complete and total, very fast deterioration of the nervous system, possibly accompanied by strong pain signals, lasting until the brain itself was attacked and death followed….’
Frank looked at De Vries. He felt his eyes burn.
De Vries sighed again. ‘We know where Luis entered. You can have him.’
Decker grinned viciously.
‘You have one hour, then we’re coming in after you. Local cops expect you around six. Questions?’ De Vries looked at him.
Frank had no questions, not anymore.
‘Number of rounds?’ The duty officer carefully filled out the requisition forms.
‘You think 10.000 is over the top?’ Frank asked innocently.
‘Unless you want to exterminate all of the Inner City, a little,’ she answered.
‘Well, ok, make it 10.000 then.’
She gave him an odd look, but typed the number anyway. She’d had this kind of request from him a couple of times now. ‘You want the Standard Grinder 70?’
‘Hmm, no. Make it a shortened version with sniper scope and silencer.’ Within ten minutes the murder-kit lay before him on the counter. Frank softly stroked the square barrel of the gun. Quickly and carefully he assembled the scope and the silencer. He checked the clips for dirt and damage.
Everything seemed ok. Thirty clips went into his special ammo bandolier, the remaining twenty went into the pockets of his vest.
Five to six. Frank ducked next to an officer who was observing a low, dark hole underneath an old, run down office building from behind a concrete pillar.
‘Hey, Amino, what you got in there?’ Frank recognized his colleague in the weak morning light.
The Aruban gave him a couple of print-outs, a map and photos. ‘This is as far as the incams have come.’
Frank looked at the map. A maze of passages and stairs, above, beneath and next to each other. He looked at the photos that had been shot from the point of view of the tiny mechanical insects. Any expense was good, Frank noted, nice. Two men behind a steel door right at the entrance. No problem. He took two capsules from his inner pocket, and added a third. Compensation for absent colleagues. Some part of him expected their arrival at any moment. The ecstasy cut those feelings short. He did not need them. None of them. He was God. He put on his sun glasses to protect his dilated pupils. They doubled as night vision goggles.
He got up and walked over to the dark hole. Just before entering he nodded back at Amino
Before him rose the steel door. Impressive but hardly challenging. Frank rapped the butt of his gun against the door a few times. He heard vague noises on the other side. He heard a voice. A small speaker by the side of the door blared: ‘Who’s there?’ A gruff voice. Frank heard fatigue in it.
‘It’s me, who else?’ Frank heard them debate, soft whispers behind the thick steel.
‘That you, John?
Decker sighed convincingly. ‘I just said that, didn’t I?’ Satisfied he heard locks being opened. As soon as the door had opened slightly he kicked it half open.
He smiled at a fattie who stood in his path and silently helped him with his weight problem. The heavy door started to swing back. Frank did not agree and he threw his full weight and power against the door. At first he felt resistance, but he soon broke that. He placed his feet on the opposing wall and started pushing hard.
The crunching sound was exotic and sweet. He kept pushing until a red steam started to flow from under the door and joined the red puddle further on. Frank was panting with exertion. He felt wetness on his chin. With his sleeve he wiped mucus from his mouth. It was not important. Almost dreamlike he followed the route he had studied. Faces with many different expressions appeared before him. Mostly anger, surprise and fear. Disgust or pain always last. He felt like an avenging shadow that haunted the passages, going from darkness to twilight. Doors, hallways, light and dark and he, master of life and death.
Frank heard voices. He stood still and listened carefully. Something tickled the dark recesses of his memory. He tried to suppress his ecstatic mood. This gave him a slight headache, annoying, but not debilitating.
The corridor on his right-hand side ended at a steel door. A narrow crack of light shone from underneath it. The voices were louder. Frank heard Luis’s voice. He had heard him speak before. The other voice he had also heard before. There was a sharp stab in his left shoulder. Probably the gun’s recoil taking its toll. It was a heavy caliber. Decker peeked through the keyhole, uncharacteristically careful. He saw Luis in a large chair. On a smaller chair, with his back to the door, was a tall, skinny man with grey hair. Now he could hear what they were discussing:
‘Dammit, that was a priceless monument that needed to be preserved for the new City skyline, Luis! You knew this would be for a short time only. We deliver, you distribute. Large quantities, low price, big profits. What more did you expect?’
Frank recognized the grey haired’s voice, but he could not remember from where.
Luis answered: ’Hey, I received a tip the cops would be there for me. I did what I needed to do to save the operation.’
The grey haired man got up. He was tall. ‘People died down there. Officers, Dutchmen! And my plan for the cleansing of the Inner City has been jeopardized through your carelessness!’
Martin and Stanley! Decker felt anger rise inside, accompanied by a wave of almost physical pain. He tried the door, it was open. Movement in the corridor behind him. He looked into the scared face of a man in a white lab coat. Before he could silence him the white coat had ducked away into a side corridor. Frank heard him scream. Quickly he opened the door and got inside. He enjoyed Luis’s surprise, but he himself was also surprised when the grey haired man turned toward him.
Frank recognized the Secretary of State he had seen on TV yesterday. Luis made a dumb move to one of the drawers in his desk. The heavy bullets from the Grinder ate his chest. Frank noticed the torn fabric of his chair through it. Waste of good quality leather.
‘And you?’ Frank took off his glasses and enjoyed the scared expression on the Secretary’s face, the sudden droplets of sweat on his forehead. He was content to see the Secretary slowly raise his hands. Frank closed the door. Outside a siren started to wail. The key hung next to the door. Good.
‘I’m sure you have some tales to tell, fellow. Start with your name.’ Frank took a chair and sat down, his face to the door. He waved his gun at the Secretary to go stand next to the door. A clock on Luis’s desk showed 06:33. Twenty-seven minutes to go.
Decker looked at the man.
‘Janssen is my name. Secretary of State Janssen.’
Frank laughed at his pathetic attempts to sound important. Outside was the rattle of heavy machine guns. Dozens of dents appeared in the steel. Frank took another capsule to regain his slowly waning immortality. He felt a stabbing pain in his back and in his right leg. Janssen looked at him strangely.
‘What now, Janssen?’
With cracking voice Janssen asked him. ‘What kind of pill was that?’
Frank shrugged. ‘The same stuff Luis was pushing.’
Janssen stepped forward, but stopped when the barrel of the Grinder was aimed at him.
‘How did you get those? Luis? Who are you anyway?’
Frank sighed. It was to be expected from a Secretary of State. Everything by the book.
‘Special Agent Frank Decker. You are under arrest, Mr. Janssen. No, not from Luis, from the Ministry of Internal Defense. Legal.’
Janssen looked at him with an expression that almost resembled pity. ‘I heard of you. Special forces unit, right?’ Frank nodded. Outside an explosion sounded, but the door did not budge. ‘Are there blue characters on those capsules?’
Frank looked at him suspiciously. ‘Why?’
Janssen smiled. ‘Those capsules have been poisoned, my dear man. Part of my grandiose plan. But know that I do not wish you to die. I am in need of people, real Dutchmen, like you. Surrender now, so I can have you treated.’ The Secretary of State sounded very convincing. Frank remembered admiring his voice. Now he despised it. His eyes blurred for a moment. Again he felt needles of ice and pain in his muscles. Then he remembered the text from the lab report.
‘You have two hours maybe, three tops. If you want to get out of this unharmed you must decide sooner rather than later. Within twenty minutes, preferably.’ Janssen laughed. ‘There’s no other way, give me the key so we can go. My helicopter is close by.’ With hands outstretched the Secretary of State walked up to him. Frank hesitated. In the silence between machine gun exchanges outside he heard the soft patter of paws. The barrel of the Grinder came up again. Janssen stopped and examined Decker. Frank looked around. Near the ceiling there was an air vent. Several pointy snouts moved past the steel bars of the grate. Decker looked at the Secretary of State again. Too fast, his vision blurred again. For just a moment it seemed a large albino rat stood before him. His memory replayed the scene of the fight he had witnessed earlier. He felt loneliness rise again, but the thought of the albino rat strengthened his resolve.
He had to fight, until the end. No quitting! Again there was a feeling of kinship with the animal. He decided and it felt good. It was good. Perhaps out there a different sort of Frank Decker would help him, but he would have to stand fast. He had to earn it.
‘Stanley and Martin, you dick!’ Frank emptied a clip on the Secretary of State. Two hundred large caliber bullets pulverized his body against the wall in a most satisfactory manner. An outside explosion blew a small piece of the wall inside. Frank Decker grabbed a handful of capsules from his inner pocket and found the last of the yellow ones that remained. More than enough. One by one he downed them and he felt the glorious rise of strength and power that made him infernally divine.
Read Part One 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.