Johan rubbed his hands together in a vain attempt to warm them. Ten degrees and a chilly wind made for excellent weather for a walk on the beach, but not for a stakeout at City Hall’s staff entrance. He had been there every afternoon for two weeks, hoping to see someone who resembled the woman in the photograph he had in his pocket.
That woman was Tina, a civil servant at the City Registry. When he became homeless she had registered him as ‘emigrated’, which meant he suddenly wasn’t entitled to anything. He couldn’t get Unemployment or other Benefits, he couldn’t go to the homeless shelter anymore, and he couldn’t get any other form of help either. He had appealed the decision of course but it had been rejected. Johan was convinced there was foul play, that behind the scenes someone was playing a very dirty game. And his ex-wife Vicky would undoubtedly play a part in it.
It hadn’t been easy to track down Tina. The only thing he had was her name, but he could hardly walk into City Hall, ask to speak to Tina and then send her to the Ever After right then and there. An Internet search had only yielded a LinkedIn profile. That profile however did include a picture of Tina, which made finding her just a little bit easier.
Johan was about to give up and go home again when he saw a woman in a bright red coat come out of the bicycle parking lot. He immediately recognised her from the picture. It was Tina! Johan decided to follow her. He quietly thanked her for her choice in clothes. For reasons he had never understood almost everyone wore dark clothes this time of year, so her brightly coloured coat would be easy to follow.
Twenty minutes later she disappeared behind a row of terraced houses. He couldn’t follow her there without being noticed so he waited at the front side. Five minutes later the lights came on in one of the houses. He hadn’t seen anyone else arrive so it had to be Tina’s house. Johan made a note of the address and went home with a satisfied smile. He’d be back the next morning.
Now that he knew where Tina lived, he could follow her daily movements. He discovered that she only worked the first three days of the week, led a secluded life and didn’t have a partner. At least, in the weeks he followed her she never received any visitors and she only left the house to go to work and to the supermarket.
Johan decided to strike on Tina’s last work day before the Christmas holiday. City Hall would be closed from Christmas till early January so it would take well over a week before someone would miss her.
That afternoon he was waiting for her when she came home. He saw her disappear behind the houses, a few minutes later the lights came on. A little later he saw her closing the curtains. Johan walked up to the front door en rang the doorbell.
As soon as Tina answered the door, he pushed it further open, stepped inside and quickly closed the door. Before she could scream he put his hand over her mouth and hissed: “Not a word!” With the fear of death in her eyes she nodded. Johan removed his hand from her mouth, grabbed her by the arm and pushed her into the living room.
He let his gaze go around the room. The space made a warm, comfortable impression. She had good taste, he had to admit. Even the huge IKEA print didn’t seem to be out of place. Unfortunately for her she wouldn’t be able to enjoy it much longer. He pointed at a dining room chair. “That way!” When she sat he took a rope from his pocket, tied her to the chair and sat down opposite her at the table.
“Any idea who I am?”
Tina shook her head. “If it’s money you want…”
“Remember that ruckus a few years back after you had removed some homeless guy from the Registry?”
Through the tears she looked at him. “That was you?”
“That was me. And I want to know who was behind it.”
For a minute there was silence. Then, as she stared at the tabletop, she answered in a soft voice: “My boss said I had to do that. I thought it was ridiculous but she said I had to do it anyway.”
Johan noticed that she was calming down quickly. He hadn’t expected that. He reached over the table and wiped away her tears. “Anything else?”
“There was a woman with her I didn’t recognise.”
Johan pulled Vicky’s picture from his pocket and held it up. “This woman?”
Tina nodded. So that bitch Vicky was indeed behind it!
“What are you going to do with me now?”
He looked at her and almost felt sorry for her.
“Let me live. Please! I swear I won’t tell anyone.”
Johan stood up, walked around the table and placed himself behind Tina. “Everything will be alright” he whispered. Then he let his right arm slide around her throat and squeezed.
To be continued…
This story is fictional. Any similarity with actual people, organisations or events is purely coincidental.