Nura and Gail decided to forgo their usual banter for clearer heads. They let Rocco go home because he had worked a double shift, and it was only fair to allow him to rest. Nura still couldn’t shake off the feeling that she had contributed to the murder somehow, as if she had wished it to happen. She understood that being distressed wouldn’t lead to anything good—that torturing herself for something that was not her fault was pointless—but she could not stop. Her thoughts kept returning to her desire for the killer to strike again, to prove to herself and others that she was right. Her phone beeped. Panetta’s name popped up on the screen. She read the address in the message out loud: “Bernissestraat 54.”
“Okay, I know where it is. The Rivierenbuurt area, near the Martin Luther Church,” Gail said, turning the steering wheel to the left. The car followed the direction his hands dictated. His words had been the last words spoken in the car during the drive. Perhaps the reason was the late hour or the reluctance to see one more body without eyebrows, but regardless, Nura’s head felt clear for the first time in months. She noticed that Gail was driving faster than usual. To a clueless onlooker, it would have seemed as though the police were trying to stop a crime before it could happen, not the other way around. Thanks to Gail’s speeding, they cut the travel time to Rivierenbuurt in half. Nura glanced at her partner, who hardly waited for the car to come to a complete stop before he jumped out. She wondered what was going on with Gail. He didn’t support her theory about a serial killer; he had even been quite persistent in the past two days in claiming that it was only a suicide. She understood, though, that this wasn’t the time to bring up the issue; she was just glad to see her partner back on track.
The neighborhood and the air around Rivierenbuurt were different. In contrast to the central regions, where the narrow Dutch Baroque canal houses erected during the so-called Dutch Golden Age forever defined the city center, the Rivierenbuurt area boasted picture-postcard residences with a much simpler architectural heritage. When they parked near the house, Nura noticed the absence of the usual crowd—at least, it wasn’t the typical set of people she was accustomed to seeing at a crime scene. This time, the public was a bunch of media teams, with their cameras pointed at the detectives. Even before Nura got closer, she could hear one of the journalists mention to the camera that the police had, as always, arrived at the scene too late.
Nura watched as Gail approached the young female journalist and said something to her. The journalist made a face and turned away, giving him space to pass while questions from other media members flew past him. Nura saw Gail bend and slip his body under the ‘do not cross’ tape, and she followed him. Before climbing up the steps, she heard an unfamiliar voice behind her. The voice explained to the journalists that there weren’t many facts to share yet, but they would be the first to know if anything came of it.
They entered the house, inhaling the air of humidity and heat. The police officer guarding the door to the crime scene led both detectives through the hall to the kitchen. The walls were adorned with family photos, framed awards, mirrors, and other memorabilia. Nura didn’t stop to examine any of them; she followed Gail straight to the kitchen lights. It wasn’t because she tried to avoid the mirrors or because the memories of happy family times suffocated her. What stopped her was mainly the chief’s—and her own—indecisiveness, which had cost the life of the person who now lay dead.
The officer left Nura and Gail in the kitchen. A forensic team was finishing their work, and Enni Hakala was packing up her tools.
“Late to the party, Nura. So unlike you…” Hakala remarked.
Nura nodded without offering an explanation. The first thing that caught her eye was the body of a half-naked woman lying in a pool of blood on the floor. Nura blinked; a laceration on the woman’s neck drew her gaze. Though not particularly large, the gash in the flesh commanded attention, rendering almost everything else unnoticeable.
“What happened here?” Nura asked, her hand gesturing towards the woman’s neck. “Panetta mentioned the eyebrows are shaved again.”
“True. And more than that… The killer drew a new set of eyebrows with red lipstick. Quite childish,” Hakala sighed. “The victim is a 34-year-old woman, Eva Levi, married, worked at the Miles2Go Art and Design Gallery. It appears she was assaulted by two individuals—I’m only guessing right now—sustaining a stab wound to the neck with a broken glass bottle. There’s a large, inverted L-shaped cut wound in the left cervical region, about 4-5 cm. I can say more after the autopsy, but it looks like the carotid artery and the jugular vein are still intact. The palms of her hands are burned. The body is still warm, so the time of death is between 11 pm and 1 am. Regardless, the cause of death is a deep stab wound to the neck.”
“Was it a drunk party gone wrong, or was she drugged, too?” Nura asked, her senses piqued by the strong smell of alcohol. She was searching for a visible thread, a connection, something that tied this case to the previous one with the missing eyebrows.
“I’ll need to return to the lab for an exact answer, but the weapon was here, on the floor, under the kitchen table. The number of empty bottles suggests a wild evening.”
“Any DNA or prints?”
“Plenty. I’ll cross-check with the Goldsmyth case. The good news is we’ve found some fibers under the victim’s nails. It might give us something.”
“Make it a priority, okay?” Nura pressed.
Enni Hakala nodded, hid her gloves in the pocket, and checked her watch.
“Where did he get red lipstick? Why draw a new set of eyebrows? And if he did, why shave at all?” someone spoke from behind their backs.
Nura knew that only one person could pose that kind of stupid, outside-the-box — it could only fit if the box were a circle, though — questions that no one had asked for. Nura didn’t have to turn around to be sure; it was Brigadier Gail. From her squatting position, she said to Enni as if apologizing for her partner, “Panetta said that this case needed all the hands we could get.”
“I understand,” Enni smiled. “Were there no free agents at the station?”
“Make fun of me all you want, but you need me, guys. You won’t find your ‘Eyebrow Killer’ without Flux. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Gail said with a smile. He wasn’t offended. He felt some positive energy starting to trickle back into his veins. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t touched alcohol for over twenty hours.
“We need you?!” Nura stood up. She knew that Gail had worked many years undercover in Rotterdam, and his name – Flux – was respected in the criminal circles there. “Remind me, Colombo, who convinced the whole station that the Goldsmyth case was a suicide? Can you remind me?”
“Eyebrow Killer? I hope you didn’t share that with the press outside, or we’ll all wake up to the front page of bloody psycho news in ‘De Telegraaf’ this morning,” Enni Hakala said, supporting Nura’s outburst.
“Hey, check this,” Gail suddenly gestured toward the tall female body on the floor. He pretended not to hear Enni’s remark. “The victim is very tall, right? The level and inclination of the entry wound are quite straightforward. It tells me stories, girls… One of them is this: could it mean that the killer was also as tall as our victim?”
Enni Hakala shook her head. “It could certainly mean that, but at the same time, the murderer could easily have jumped on her and done it, or in this position, she might have been bending when the murderer stabbed her. We can’t speculate about the height of the killer, Gail. Not yet.”
“You got your answer, Sherlock Flux,” Nura chuckled. Her eyes were caught by the pool of blood that formed some sort of halo around the victim’s head.
While Nura stood and stared at it, Gail leaned against the nearest wall and continued, “I might have made a little mistake, Nuralain, dearest. But how can we be sure the same person did this? I mean, what’s the connection between all those cases? Stockholm, Bern, Amsterdam… I can’t see it.”
Nura took a deep breath, then grabbed Gail’s shoulder and forcefully dragged him down to the victim’s body.
“Here! What is that?” Nura asked, pointing to the burn marks on the hands and the missing eyebrow. “Tell me, when was the last time you saw that? Have we ever, in the past two years, encountered a psychopath who plays with the victim’s eyebrows?”
Gail nodded as if he was ready to let go of his theory when Enni Hakala interrupted their conversation: “I’m off. A community liaison officer is waiting outside. His name is Howard. You might need his help when the husband shows up.”
“I’ll go and check on the guy,” Gail said, leaving the room. A minute later, he shouted from the hallway, “Speaking of the murder… Did your team find any signs of a break-in, Enni?”
“I don’t remember. Tell me what you see,” Enni replied.
“No, none whatsoever. It seems they had a key or were invited, or someone picked the lock.”
“So, it could be anyone? Great deductive skills, Gail. Continue,” Nura said as she returned to give the body a last look. She heard Gail laugh, then his and Enni’s footsteps heading down the stairs.
She was still in the apartment when she heard shouting at the door.
“I need to go in! I live here, for Christ’s sake,” a male voice shouted from behind the door. <
Nura straightened her jacket before entering the narrow hall, only to find a tall man with a round face and intense, peering eyes fighting with a police officer at the door. Nura assumed that the man was the victim’s husband. She blocked the space with her tiny body when the man attempted to walk any further.
“What’s going on? What happened to her? Tell me…” the man cried.
Nura understood that the man already had an idea of what had happened but needed someone to confirm that what he saw outside the apartment wasn’t a dream but reality.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Nura said.
“What do you mean? Fuck your ‘sorry for your loss’! What happened?” the man yelled. Panic entered his voice with every word.
“It is best if you don’t see your wife like this. She was murdered,” Nura said, not yet finished speaking when the man pushed past her and ran to the kitchen.
Nura told a police officer at the door that she would take care of it. He said ‘okay’ and shook his head when cries from the other side of the apartment reached the door. Nura walked up to the grieving man, hugged him, and helped him leave the kitchen. She was surprised again in the hall: her agent, Zanna Howe, stood talking with an officer at the apartment entrance, shaking like a scared little bird.
“What are you doing here?”
“It’s an emergency, Inspecteur Cocasse… and I wanted to help, too. I want to learn,” Zanna said, her voice staggering.
“Okay. What is the emergency?”
“I discovered the name of someone who knew Maryssa Goldsmyth very well. She was her friend,” Zanna looked anxious.
“Yes, I’m listening. Spit it out!”
“The friend’s name is Augusta Gail.”
Nura didn’t know how to react at first. Suddenly, it all made sense: Gail’s denial, his constant jokes and odd behavior, making fun of Nura’s intuition about the possibility of a new serial killer on the streets of Amsterdam, his supportive interactions with Eggart whom he hated so much.
“Okay. Don’t tell anyone yet. I’ll deal with it,” Nura replied. “And thank you, Zanna. Could you please help me with this man? He’s a victim’s husband,” she said, waving at the man who sat on the floor close to the kitchen door, holding a picture of Eva Levy in his hands.
The noise outside the door attracted Nura’s attention. It was the forensic team, led by Enni Hakala, preparing to carry out the body. Nura noticed how Zanna’s eyes lit up when she saw them working, and she got an idea: “You know, Zanna, maybe it would be best if you could tag along with Enni’s team to see if there is anything else we can find out. And go home afterward to sleep.”
“Okay,” Zanna replied, looking happy.
When Zanna left with the forensic team, Nura glanced at the man seated quietly in a brown chair at the far corner of the living room while she dialed Gail’s number, “Still here?”
“Yeah, I chatted with Leye Ogundimisi. What an annoying gal!” Gail replied. “Don’t worry; we didn’t do anything inappropriate… Do you want me to get up? I guess you need my professional help to speak to the hubby.”
“I can take care of it, Gail. Go home,” Nura paused. “Wait, I wanted to say we found a good friend of Maryssa. Her name is Augusta Gail, but I guess you already knew that. As you understand, we must talk with you and Augusta about it… so, please, go home now,” she ordered and quickly hung up. She was worried that Gail would refuse to involve his daughter in the current investigation or would try to explain that he doesn’t have a home.
Nura approached the man in the brown chair. She could hear how the press was shouting outside, “Has this woman been murdered by the Eyebrow Killer? Does she have any connection to the Goldsmyth family? We want more information if there’s a serial killer in our city.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. I am the Inspecteur of SKCU, and my name is Nuralain Cocasse,” Nura said. “I know you’re not in the mood for any questions, and this is the last thing I would want you to go through at this moment, but I need to ask you these questions. And if you want us to have any chance of catching the person who did this to your wife, I need to ask you now.”
“Okay,” the man replied, rubbing his eyes.
“I’ll sit down here…” She sat across from him on the chair. “First of all, tell me your name and who the victim was to you?” Nura asked.
“My name is David Levi. And my lo… Eva,” the man said, struggling.
“Sorry? I didn’t catch that.”
“Eva… the dead angel is my wife, Eva.”
“When was the last time you saw her alive? Please, think, it’s very important.”
“I’m working as a security guard at the Pulitzer Hotel. You know… a lot of shifts. When last did I see her? That was yesterday morning; I left after 10 a.m.,” the man replied.
“Do you know if Eva was meant to be meeting somebody? Was a party or some celebration planned? We noticed a lot of bottles and food.”
“Ehmm…” the man thought while wiping tears from his eyes. “She told me she was going to meet her friends. Her new friends she met at the pool. I think one of them was a young woman, a mental coach. Her name was Olivia. Don’t remember the other names.”
“This Olivia, how can I reach out to her?”
“I don’t know. She is not my friend. I haven’t seen her. My wife promised to invite Olivia to my birthday in November but before that…” The man began to cry again. “She spent a lot of time with her. You see, my wife had mental health issues, and Olivia helped her enormously. Eva opened a gallery in the center and was truly happy lately.”
“Okay. It’s enough for now, David. I will go out of your way but leave you with our community liaison officer, Howard. Do you have any place to stay, by the way? You can’t stay here tonight.”
“It’s morning soon, but yeah… I’ll go to my brother. He lives in Oud-West.”
“I presume you’d want to know how the investigation is going, and here is the card of the officer in charge who can answer all your questions. Her name is Zanna Howe. She is a member of my team,” Nura paused. The thought struck her. “Did Eva ever mention anything specifically about this woman? Any detail will help.”
“They often met in coffee shops, centrally. Sometimes, she went to Olivia’s house, somewhere far away, for the day, or even overnight.”
“How far away?”
“Maybe a two-hour drive…”
“And you never were worried? You said yourself you never met this woman…”
“Yes, I was worried in the beginning, but Eva seemed so happy.”
“And you never saw any pictures of this Olivia? Or a photo of them together?”
“No. Their friendship was new, only four months or so…”
Nura was about to leave when Mr. Levi spoke again. “I heard some members of those sharks out there asking if the Eyebrow Killer was behind this murder. Who is that? Did he kill my Eva?”
Nura could feel her stomach start to growl; she was thinking about how to tell the man that his wife had died as a result of police hibernation. She sighed and answered, “We have been investigating a homicide in central Amsterdam. It happened three days ago; a young woman was killed in her apartment. It seems the same person murdered your wife, but we can’t be certain without investigating further. Don’t listen to the press… they’re just looking to sell their stories. To them, this death is only business.”
“Promise me you will catch this sick man and punish him… Promise me you will make him pay for what he did to my Eva.”
“My entire team is putting in their best effort, Mr. Levi.”
With that, Nura stepped out of the apartment, ordered the liaison officer to assist Mr. Levi with anything he needed, and went to the parking lot. She got into her car and screamed at the top of her lungs while hitting the steering wheel, causing the car horn to go off every time her hands came down on it. She was relieved that the press had left and the streets were empty. When there was nothing left to let out, Nura checked her watch—it showed 4 a.m.—and called her mother, who lived in Broken Hill, Australia, with her new boyfriend.
Her mother picked up the phone immediately.
“Nuralain, love, I’m so glad you decided to call. I have some news to share…”
“You’re divorcing Max? Am I right?” Nura interrupted.
“Why on Earth would I do that? He’s a wonderful man. No, we’ve decided to move to Spain. Great, right? I’ll be closer to you, and we can meet each other every month. Maybe you can even get a transfer to a police station there.”
“Ha, and ha,” Nura said sarcastically. “Is this a joke?”
“No, not at all. We’ll be ready next month. We’ve already found the perfect house. Are you happy?”
“Yes.” Nura rolled her eyes.
“How’s your day? Life? Health? Any boyfriends?”
“I’m fine, Mom. I feel good…” Nura lied.
Her watch showed 5:15 a.m. when she finished talking to her mother. Nura pressed the ignition button, and as the engine roared to life, a familiar, sandpaper-like voice growled from the back seat, “A bit more, and I’d die of natural causes, Nuralain, dearest…”
P.S. It needs some proofreading, but it is almost ‘clean’ 🙂 Second draft.