Salem's lost little girl (part 5)
Red had been keeping an eye on the three students. Apparently neither of the two guys was her boyfriend, which made things easier for him. To be sure though he had found something in his pocket that would make things even easier, if she would just have one more drink with him. He couldn’t quite place it but something about her reminded him of An and the memory was stirring up quite some emotions. Strong, powerful emotions that were making his heart race. He took another big gulp of Kasteelbier to take his mind of it.
The group got up from their table and started putting on their jackets as they made their way to the exit. She was walking in between the two tall guys, trying her best not to make eye-contact with Red at the counter.
“Hey missy,” he tried to get her to look at him.
The two guys kept walking, thinking he was talking to someone else. They held open the door but she had stopped at the bar, looking over at him. “What do you want?” Oh he’d have to come up with something smooth to get her to stay behind.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name there.”
“My name is Nelly.”
Without missing a beat, Red addressed the guys. “Can Nelly come out and play? Oh please daddy, can she? Can she? Can she?”
The guys looked back at her, wondering what the hell was going on. “It’s ok guys, I’ll catch up with you. What bar are you heading to?”
“Are you sure? We’ll be in the Confrater. We’ll text you in case we end up somewhere else.” They didn’t seem too intent on getting involved in the situation, probably because they were used to her getting attention from random guys. And besides, he looked like a benign working-stiff who’d just had one too many drinks.
She waited for them to step out the door before she faced him and the smile left her face. “Listen up, fucker, I don’t know what you’re trying to…” He had to cut her short as soon as possible to change the mood because this was quickly going to end up poorly for him. “Wow, wow, wow, mommy. Slow your row. I’m sorry about before. I think we got off on the wrong foot there. Lets reset our game and give it another go. What do you say?”
Her angry expression slowly faded and was replaced by a cautious frown. He gestured towards the stool to try and get her to sit next to him again. She took a few steps towards him but stopped short of the stool, keeping on her jacket and standing up. Red waved over the barkeep. “A Martini Fiero for Nelly, please.” The board had been set, the pieces were in motion and with some luck, he’d get to bang the queen. “Come on, forget about before. First impressions aren’t everything. How about I apologize for my of-colour remarks earlier and we’ll go from there?”
She thanked the barkeep for the Martini before sipping from it. “Why don’t you just give me a minute to refresh myself and I’ll come in again as if we haven’t met before?” He nodded and extended his hand to the door towards the toilet, “By all means.”
As she entered the restroom he took the rohypnol out of his pocket and played with it for a second, hesitating. Her way of treating him reminded him of An and memories of An made him absolutely livid. He slipped the little white pill in her drink. Game, set, match.
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Salem's lost little girl (part 4)
It was a hot Thursday in July when Red was hanging out at the water cooler, bored with his mind numbing chores at the firm. The water cooler was one of the few places where he could meet some colleagues on a break and they always had the most intricate stories to tell him about their more interesting cases. He couldn’t wait for the days that he would be taking on a more challenging case like the one’s they were gossiping about. This was probably where he heard about Mugsy Salem for the first time. It was Dan, an American expat in his mid-forties, who first brought up the case around the water cooler a few weeks back.
“This is actually quite a big fish in a small pond,” is what Dan had said. “I would imagine that the Leuven police would have arrested him a long time ago but somehow he seems to have slipped through the mazes. Quite a remarkable feat but it seems his luck might have run out.”
“Leuven isn’t exactly the place that I linked with organised crime of this type,” is what Anne had replied. “I studied there for five years and have never heard any stories of organised theft or prostitution.”
“Things have changed since the nineteen-hundreds, Anne,” Pieter quipped. “The North-Africans
moved in and now control the streets and most of the cash flow.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Red finally joined the conversation. “I’m sure this guy’s importance is exaggerated. Who told you all of this nonsense and what kind of rap sheet does he have anyway?”
Dan turned towards Red, the junior employee at the water cooler at that time, and readjusted his glasses. “For starters, I personally checked how many of the kebab shops he actually owns in Leuven. He has a quite significant market share, indeed nearing fifty percent. As for the escort service and the crime syndicate he supposedly runs, you won’t find anything mentioned on his rap sheet since he doesn’t really have one. Officially he’s squeaky-clean but when you talk to people on the street you don’t have to dig long to find out who really runs the show. His name even comes up in investigations here in Brussels. He kicks up a percentage of his profits to his syndicate bosses in the capital. He’s well-connected, I can assure you.”
Red shrugged, pretending he didn’t really care and had no interest in the story. “Whatever, I should be getting back to work.”
Recently he’d been following some of his colleagues around, waiting for them to leave their offices so that he could slip in and read some of their files. The minute Dan had brought up the Salem case, Red had felt the immediate urge to barge into Dan’s office and to go over the files. This Mugsy character was fascinating. The entrepreneur criminal was an archetype that fascinated Red. Much more interesting than passion-murder cases or white collar crime, these organised crime cases had a tendency to involve a whole bunch of unsavoury characters and that was exactly the part that he loved. All levels of society would at some point or another be involved in this story and it would be beautiful. It was no doubt not a coincidence that it took this long for Mugsy to be investigated. He must have paid off the right people to maintain his status as untouchable all this time. And at the same time, he must have pissed of one of these people for that untouchable status to be revoked now. This had very little to do with luck, Red imagined.
After checking the hallway, he slipped into Dan’s empty office to snoop around. He moved the mouse of the pc to deactivate the screensaver and quickly browsed through the open files. A couple of browser window’s with random google searches, a window of minesweeper and three word documents. One document entitled Mugsy Salem with at the top of the page a recent picture of the man. A recent picture of the man… Red’s heart skipped a beat as he recognized a face that brought back a painful memory. He had seen this man before. His mind raced to find the possible link why the guy she’d been with was Mugsy Salem.
A puzzled Red Carter sneaked out of an empty office into the hallway of a Brussels office-building.
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Salem's lost little girl (part 3)
She had dreads, nicely tucked away in the cap that she was wearing, and a stud in her tongue that she played around with continuously. Her face had a very pure beauty, very captivating eyes and a smile to die for. She wasn’t the shy kind, that much was for sure. As he started opening his pack of cigarettes she plopped down on the stool next to his. “Do you have a light,” she continued and put the cigarette in between her lips in the corner of her mouth. He grabbed a candle from the bar-top and held it to her cigarette. “Thanks,” she said as she hopped off the stool. There was no doubt in his mind that she would join the other hippies in the corner.
“You’re seriously going to join those two clowns in the corner? Take it from me, princess, if you want to waste your time on something, cocaine is much more interesting.”
She turned around and as she drew from her cigarette with one eye closed she sized him up. “You mean to say that I should stay with you because you’re so interesting?”
Red swivelled his chair back around, turning his back to her and tapped his hand on the stool next to him. “I know rocks more interesting than those guys.” He took a cigarette for himself and once more used the candle to light it.
She hesitated for a second but after a glance over her shoulder at the two guys heavily discussing with each other, she took him up on his offer. “Sure, why not. I’ll have a Martini Fiero.”
He ordered her drink and turned towards her. She was probably 5 to 10 years younger than him. With his cigarette in between his fingers he grabbed one of her dreads sticking out of her cap. “Too lazy to properly take care of your hair?”
She smiled and responded calmly. “Shouldn’t you be home with the wife, playing house?”
He grinned. “The wife is working the streets and I left the kid in the car. Don’t worry, I rolled the window down just a little. But with all these responsibilities I still find the time to wash my hair.”
“I should have stuck with the cocaine it seems.”
“You would be bouncing of the walls like you wouldn’t believe, little girl.”
“I’m not so little,” she smirked. “So what is it you do in life?”
He picked up his beer and took a gulp as he looked at her from the corner of his eye. “I run a small crew of tough guys who go around the city breaking into student’s houses and stealing the expensive shit their mommies and daddies buy them. I also have an escort service selling eastern-European women to sad men who want something only paid love can get you. On top of that I own 50 percent of the kebab shops in Leuven.”
“Huh. How quaint. You just described someone very close to me, only, he’s not spending his time in bars at night making up stories to impress young girls.” Red was suddenly very intrigued but had no intention of showing that to her.
“I hardy think a gangster like that would have a hippie friend like you though. He’d slap some sense into you, believe you me,” he tried to play down her comment, as if he didn’t believe her.
“Oh he tried alright. Once I moved out there wasn’t much left for him to do though.”
“From the looks of you and your friends I’m guessing you’re either a psychology student or a political science student.”
She shrugged and tapped some ashes into the ashtray. “Does it really matter? I hardly think you care about what my interests are.”
“Oh so we’ve got a cynic here. You think your beauty stands in the way of you meeting guys who actually look beyond your cute face and care about your dreams and hopes?”
“Don’t make me out to be a narcissistic bitch. This has nothing to do with what I think about myself, this has everything to do with your dick doing all the talking.”
“So to sum it up, all men are sexist pigs and players? Don’t tell me you’re a dyke or even worse, a feminist?”
“I think I’ve heard about all I needed to hear. Thank you very much for the drink and the smoke, mister…?”
“Carter, Red Carter. Pleasure was all mine. You know where to find me when you figure out your impotent buddies over there won’t satisfy you.”
“Fuck you very much.”
In the corner of De Blauwe Kater three young hippies sat discussing the merits of bio-fuel subsidies while an absent-minded Red Carter looked for something in his pockets.
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Salem's lost little girl (part 2)
Red Carter was sitting at the end of the bar on his usual barstool. In front of him stood half a glass of a Kasteelbier, a dark one, and an empty ashtray right next to a new and unopened pack of cigarettes. De Blauwe Kater was a jazz bar just off the Oude Markt on the Naamsestraat. It wasn’t directly on the street. A small cobblestone alley lead to the bar and in summer they’d put tables out in the alley as well. The inside of the bar wasn’t very spacious and when jazz-bands would come there to play, it got really cramped. At this time the five small tables were all free except for the one in the back corner behind Red. Two long haired students were sitting there and were probably discussing world politics and the impact of globalization, or some bullshit topic young ideologists that age discuss. Red had a strong dislike for those kind of students but was just too jaded right then to care. He’d been coming there for the better part of ten years and knew very well that this was exactly the kind of place that attracted those kind of people.
In a distant past he used to care and he used to get into heated debates that would quite often end in small bar-fights. Fucking hippies. Things were very different then. Being a student, it didn’t matter if you’d wake up with a black eye and a couple broken ribs. These days, showing up to work with a black eye wouldn’t exactly be appreciated. Every morning Red went to Brussels for his job at a big law firm. When he first started there he’d been sure that this was the job for him. For a very long time he had dreamed of working there but it took only a couple months for him to figure out that he had had no idea what the job really entailed. The long hours, the boring people he worked with and the trivial cases he was given to handle were slowly sapping the motivation out of him. He missed the days of old. Now when he arrived back home he had a quick dinner and had time for one or two beers in De Blauwe Kater. He lived for the weekend. Every passing day he started considering changing his life around but then he’d have to… “Can I bum a fag,” a young woman interrupted his thoughts.
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Salem's lost little girl (part 1)
“Do you reckon they ever find any of these kids?” The picture on the Childfocus missing person’s report seemed old and the colours had faded. The two men were standing in the underpass at the railway station.
“I’d certainly like to think so.” It was freezing cold and it was late. Deserted and forgotten, both the underpass and railway seemed to be more of a ghost town than anything else. Except for the occasional train passing by, nothing seemed to move.
“It seems like there’s always someone missing. I wonder where all these people go.” One of the men was shorter while the other one was taller and heavier. Both of them wore all black and had broad shoulders and big arms. They seemed to be waiting for something or someone.
“You never really find out if they find them, do you?” Anybody passing through the underpass at that time, would undoubtedly remember the two strange men standing there. Their unremarkable appearance would however result in very bland descriptions to the cops. That would be of little help.
“I guess you could find a list of people that they’ve found somewhere on their…” The rest of the sentence was lost in the rumbling noise of a train pulling into the station. Both men put on black gloves and walked over to the stairs of platform 8. On the platform there were very few people. The conductor waited for everybody to get off. They saw only 4 or 5 passengers walking towards the stairs. One man got off at the far end of the platform and came down the stairs long after the rest of the passengers. “Showtime,” said the small one. The man coming down the stairs had a tall, slender figure and wore an old raincoat and a worn-down hat. Underneath his open raincoat he was wearing a suit. A slip of his shirt was hanging out of his pants and his tie had been undone. His glasses seemed to go natural with the shape of his face. He carried a briefcase and had obviously had a long day at the office. As he walked by the two men, hardly even noticing them, they followed him immediately. The tallest of the two men stuck a gun in the man’s back while the other one said: “Evening mister Carter. Just keep walking, act casual and don’t try anything funny.” Mister Carter paled but didn’t flinch. He kept his composure and continued his walk through the underpass, making his way to the underground parking lot at the end of it. The two men lead him to their car where they opened the trunk. The trunk was lined with a large plastic sheet. As mister Carter saw this his eyes opened wide and then glazed over as his mouth gaped. He quickly turned around to face the men. “Mugsy sends his regards.” Two clicks and while he collapsed they pushed him into the trunk. “I bet they have a reasonable success-rate finding those kids.” The shorter one picked up mister Carter’s briefcase and the tall one got in the driver’s seat.
A black Volkswagen sedan pulled out of the underground parking lot of the Leuven railway station.
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