I had been around for about a month and just started to get to know the area. Keep in mind that it was freezing cold outside and most of the time I was alone. I started to get a little nuts, boring myself while I was waiting for the police to return my phone calls. I started to rearrange the information in my house, found a print shop in a town nearby – the elderly couple from the farm, bless them, obviously didn’t have one – and started to create a timeline of cases in this area. Cases that were a little bit out of the ordinary. Which is hard, considering that everything looks very ordinary and very weird when it comes to disappearances, sudden deaths and suspicious murders.
Anyway, lets see what I’ve come up with. And I won’t bore you with every old person that fell down the stairs or every kid that goes missing for a few hours. Although there’s one of those as well:
The first story I was obsessed about was about that kid, a girl named Brechtje. Which is a real Dutch name, someone told me. Brechtje went to a theme park called Toverland with her parents, little birthday present. She went into a funhouse sort of thing, you know the one: with foam punching bags, funny mirrors and spinning floors. While her mum was chatting away with a friend, Brechtje didn’t come out. A ten-year old kid who’s quiet in a theme park? Something must be up. It didn’t take long for her parents to realize their kid either got lost in the funhouse or took off somewhere else. Or was she taken somewhere else? “Brechtje wasn’t the kind of kid who would go with someone”, the mum said in an interview. That would never be cleared up, as the little girl herself didn’t remember a thing when she was found about six hours later. She was in the first aid post and there was a bloody stain on her shirt. The nurse had to ask the parents to sit down before delivering the news. They found Brechtje unconscious behind the ferris wheel and when they inspected her they found a wound in her side. An organ was missing, taken out of her really fast and clean. This apparently goes way quicker with little kids than older people and Brechtje was doing okay considering the circumstances. What actually made me laugh was the fact that the family got a year worth of free entrance in Toverland, while the little girl’s kidney must’ve been sold for a fortune…
Then there’s this really bizarre story about a young guy in middle school called John whose family is still fighting his death in court. John was an athletic guy and very good at basketball. While he was playing with his mates, who left before he did, something happened. Initially his body was found inside of a wrestling mat that was standing up. So story goes that John lost his shoe, climbed on one of the mats, jumped in the hole upside down and because no one was there to help him he basically got stuck. But the family was dissatisfied with this conclusion and a second autopsy was performed. This time by another guy the family suggested, as they believed the school didn’t want to get blasted in the media for John’s death so they covered up what really happened. And what do you know, bit similar like my brother’s case the family was right and John died of ‘blunt force trauma to the head’. That’s not all: when the coroner discovered fresh stitches on his body, he opened John up and found that he was stuffed with newspapers…
A last story I want to share with you: a Slavic girl named Wera who came to the Netherlands with her boyfriend. With hopes of starting a life here, they settled down in one of these little towns I was in. But all didn’t go well, while working in the greenhouses on the land they got laid off. Her boyfriend, a hotheaded Polish boy who dreamt of being a rapper, started to get into gambling and would gamble away anything and everything. His expensive watch was the first thing to go, then it was his iPhone him and his girlfriend would call their daughter on who lived with her grandmother in Poland, then it was his life. During a suicide game on the highway, he decided to take a chance. A fatal one that left his girlfriend, who was pregnant by then, alone in a country she couldn’t get around in. She took shelter in a homeless centre, but ran away soon after. There were notifications all through the area, a Slavic girl with a hoody in her seventh month of being pregnant. When she was found, it was actually in the same hotel as my brother. She was beaten up and cut up. There was a little note beside her, which immediately gave it a status my brother’s death never got: this was a homicide. The note read ‘Sorry for the second death’. A killer with a conscience? Barely: he cut up a pregnant woman and took her little unborn boy with it. And you already guessed it… Her organs were missing from her body. Welcome to another unsolved case around the Tripoint.
There are two similarities between all these cases and you probably know which ones I’m talking about: These were young people. And at the end of the day, they all had missing organs. Remember what I told you about that surgeon and his job of cutting random strangers open? Now you tell me if I’m crazy here or actually on to something.
I was really pushing it with the police and after two weeks of non-stop calling, I decided to walk in. I already found out that the detective on my brother’s case was called Van der Steen and I expected a first-degree asshole. And I was right. One of those people who is always busy and blaming the rest of the world. Someone who would suggest things and spin them around to fit his own story. An idiot who actually thought the world owed him a lot, for all the good he was doing. He hates foreigners, despises ‘illegals’ (as he calls them) and has nothing but contempt for his job. Let me tell you how our first meeting went.
Maybe I was already ten percent pissed off that he didn’t answer any of my calls, but the moment we sat down (he brought me to an interrogation room, which I though was quite odd) he sniffed and shouted: “So… You’re here doing your own little detective work if I may believe the notes of the receptionist.” I pretended I didn’t register the sarcasm dripping from every word that came out of his mouth. I told him about my brother, how the case got closed without a thorough investigation and that they actually withheld proof: the phone. He claimed immediately that the phone was of no interest to the police as it was broken and they couldn’t even turn it on. Which contradicts what Jonathan from the rehab facility told me about the missing password. He then asked me about my mother, claiming that she called “a thousand times” and drove him crazy. At that point I was actually done with this guy and I called him a cliche version of a bad cop. Which made him slam his clipboard on the table and round up the conversation. We can all agree that this went well…
As I made my way out, I crossed one of those boards with missing persons. Recognized a lot from my own desk research, but at the top I saw a photo of Wera, the Slavic girl. Underneath was written “More info? Call this number”. I assumed the number was from the police station, but I gave it a try and called it right there. Bit nervous of that douchebag picking up, but it was actually a woman. I explained that I was standing in the hallway and before I knew it a head popped out of one of the door openings further down the hall.
We went for a walk as I didn’t want that Van der Steen asshole catching us having a conversation. The police woman’s name was Rita and she once thought of a connection between Wera and my brother Jack, but admitted it got honed by her lovely colleague I had the pleasure of meeting before so she never gave it another go. Didn’t even ask for the police record. While I was talking about the stuff I knew about the case: the rehab facility, the walk through the woods, losing his phone and ending up in a hotel room bruised and with organs missing (the exact same hotel in which Wera was found) detective Rita didn’t blink for a few seconds. She told me that the case was redirected to her since she started working for this station about six months ago and that she never heard of these similarities. At that moment I remembered the conversation with Jonathan from the rehab facility, who told me about a girl that ran away from home. Remember? He was probably talking about her as well and was right on the money: I should pay attention to this one and if you want to figure this case out with me, you should too. Because right now we’re getting to the heart of it.
Rita and I found out that there was a gap of two months between the two murders. For a hotel that has a very clean record, that’s a strange story. I trusted Rita with my plan of staying in the hotel the week after. Rita then trusted me with another bit of information: she gave me an edited version of the case file on Wera which included a lot more information about how she was found. But the thing that really got me excited was to find out there were actually two suspects. They were brought in for interrogation but let go of soon after. One of them was the hotel owner and the other one was a barman who apparently was the last person to see her alive.
The phone is a dead end, so now I switched to witness accounts. I always loved playing Cluedo, the boardgame. My ex-girlfriend and me used to host parties where people could come dressed-up as their favorite character. So going into the bar, where one Mike Bruyn was working, I tried to be a little bit out of character. You know, cause I’m still doing my own “little detective work”. It wasn’t hard to find Mike. Because I recently friended that old couple on Facebook and everyone knows everyone around here, just a simple search gave me Mike’s profile. On his cover picture he’s standing in front of his bar called Koffereck or something. I read the report on him and on the hotel owner (who I wanted to meet in real life as well, I’ll get around to that). While the latter was especially quiet during those interrogations, barman Mike told the police a lot. And I mean A Lot. But not only about the homicide. Oh no, Mike had much to say about how he thought there was something seriously wrong with this area. He talked about cover-ups, secrets and conspiracy theories.
Hopefully you love ‘conspiracy theories’ as much as I do. Which was why I couldn’t wait to meet this guy. I went there on a Tuesday afternoon and didn’t get out until late that night. It was the first time I got drunk since I arrived a month ago, Mike and I hit it off right away. I taped a big chunk of the conversation, but there’s also a lot of drunk rambling going on (especially from my side), so lets cut to the chase: Mike was arrested the day after Wera was found because of an anonymous tip. An unknown caller contacted the police, not Rita back then but another woman, to say that she was with Mike right before she went missing. The police took this seriously, because there were surveillance cameras who caught her walking down the street in the high street through Vaals. She went into Mike’s bar and as I’ve come to learn myself: you don’t just enter Koffereck with Mike standing there and leave within five minutes. She needed to use the bathroom, but Mike kept her occupied for another thirty minutes because he was worried about her mental state. “She came across very beat and stressed, clearly pregnant but carrying a lot of stuff with her.” Now, Wera must’ve been very confident not to get caught to stay in a bar so long after she just ran away. But Mike has another take on that. “She was scared. Scared shitless. She kept rambling in Polish and didn’t let me near her.” About half an hour later, Mike went to get something for his boss and she ran out. Mike looked out of the window but didn’t really want to go after her. He said this happens a lot, according to him there’s too much people running around these streets that don’t belong here. Not because they’re not allowed to, but because it’s not their home.
Mike saw Wera stepping in a car down the road. He told police he suspected that car to be the killer’s. The only way that person knew that Wera was in there, was by following her all the way up to that point and by striking at the exact right time.
This is where the whole conspiracy theory kicks in, but also where my recording goes a bit nuts. Mike and I agreed on this part of the country being a drain for criminals and victims, dodgy companies with hidden agendas and the police not really giving two shits. I explained my story to Mike and he wasn’t even that surprised. “I bet the police is already in on it and they’re even helping whatever organization is behind all this.” He might’ve been right.
The moment I stepped in the hotel the next day it felt weird. It was really quiet and they obviously just opened for a new season. The weather was still shit and if anything that really set the mood for a spooky hotel. A cute girl was behind the reception desk, judging by her accent I immediately knew she was Eastern European. She even reminded me a little bit of Wera’s picture on her missing poster. I asked if I could get The Smuggler’s Room. This hotel had a funny way of naming its rooms. She looked at me a bit funny after I asked for the room. “You know that people were found dead in there”, she stated with a Polish accent. I smiled, nodded and said that I didn’t care. She flashed me a smile. “Perfect. The room is all yours. Second floor, you can go up the stairs right there.” I walked away but she kept staring at me. Was she flirting? “Wait, are you…” The girl stepped behind the counter. “Are you one of those ghost hunters who goes into hotels to look for paranormal entities?” I shook my head and told her I don’t believe in ghosts. And this hotel looked like ghosts would be even scared to stay. I walked up to my room, the room where my brother’s dead body was found.