Into the Night - Jake Woodhouse

1

Saturday, 8 May

14.09

‘I can’t believe you’re doing this. You promised you’d look after her.’

Inspector Jaap Rykel stepped towards the edge of the roof, leaving a cluster of forensics fussing over the body behind him.

High in the gas-flame-blue sky a plane glinted its way towards the west coast.

He glanced down and wondered what it would be like to jump.

‘I know,’ he said, wishing he’d turned his phone off after leaving the message for Saskia, his ex. ‘But I’ve got a dead body here and—’

‘There’s a live body here. Your daughter, remember her?’

Behind him one of the forensics hiccuped, a burst of laughter following from his colleagues.

‘Of course I do, you know that. It’s just …’ he tailed off, unable to explain.

Below him, five storeys below, a patrol car pulled out, two officers lifting the red and white tape to let it pass. Sun sparked off the bonnet, a lone cloud cruised across the windscreen. A faint buzzing came on the line, highlighting the silence.

Which was kind of worse than Saskia shouting.

A breeze stroked his face, and he found his free hand in his pocket, fingers rubbing the smooth brass coins he kept there.

The ones he’d had made specially after his sister, Karin, had died.

Tomorrow would have been her thirty-fourth, he thought.

A distant siren wailed then cut off mid-swoop, and he glanced out north, over Amsterdam, his city.

‘Fine,’ he eventually heard her sigh, ‘but you’ll be picking up her therapy bills later on, right?’

Their little joke.

Which often felt too close to the bone.

‘I’ll do that,’ he said, relieved to have got through it. ‘Mind you, I might just need some myself.’

‘That bad?’

He turned back to the body, watched as the hiccuping forensic lowered something clasped in a pair of tweezers into an evidence bag.

‘Kind of. It’s … Honestly, you don’t want to know. I’ll call you later. And Saskia?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I’m going to make sure I can look after Floortje for when you start the trial.’

‘I’ll hold you to that.’

They signed off and he took one last glance over the edge. He got the feeling that after the first moments of panic the fall might be exhilarating; air rushing, limbs loose, the sensation of speed. He wondered if he’d keep his eyes open or closed.

Coins jangled softly as he drew his hand out of his pocket.

No more decisions to make once you’re on your way down, he thought as he turned and walked back to the body. No responsibilities either.

He got close and stopped, not wanting to look at it again. It lay there, dressed in expensive white trainers, jeans – ripped by use or design it was hard to tell – and a tight white T-shirt.

Which, considering the body had no head, the neck severed about a third of the way up from the shoulders, was still remarkably white.

He’d just promised Saskia he was going to be finished by Monday. Even as he’d said it he knew it was unlikely to be true.

Looking down at the body now, his own shadow spilling on to the torso, he knew just how big a lie it had been.

‘You finished?’

The forensic, on his knees, turned and looked up at him, squinting into the sun.

‘You kidding? And I’ve got a date tonight.’

‘Fascinating,’ said Jaap, moving to the opposite side of the body. ‘And anyway I meant the hiccuping.’

‘Bothering you?’

‘Kind of.’

The forensic shrugged, his plastic suit crackling like radio static.

‘Weird, isn’t it?’ he said, pointing to the body, another hiccup rupturing the end of his question, throwing the words up high into the air. The breeze whisked them away.

Jaap looked at the figure again and felt his stomach twitch. But he knew there was nothing left to come; he’d thrown it all up when he’d stepped on to the roof for the first time twenty minutes earlier and the forensic had whipped off the plastic sheet with a flourish worthy of a stage magician.

It was at that moment he’d understood the dispatcher’s comment about not losing his head on this case.

He’s the one who needs therapy, thought Jaap as he looked away again. He sits there all day sending people out to things like this, and all he can do is crack sick jokes.

He turned back to look at the body, trying to keep his gaze on the torso. What was in front of him was just so wrong, he found it hard to believe it was real.

‘So, what have you got?’

‘Not much,’ said the forensic. ‘Whatever they used for the cut was pretty sharp – the pathologist will