The Rattle-Rat

The Rattle-Rat by Janwillem van de Wetering Read Free Book Online

Book: The Rattle-Rat by Janwillem van de Wetering Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janwillem van de Wetering
    "The other way round," he mumbled sadly. His best men were enjoying themselves in Ding...Dingjum. And bothering the widow. He got up and wandered over to his desk, looking for an article in the Police Gazette. "Instructions for Superior Officers." He read the relevant passage. Make sure your temperament, skills, interest, and competency fill the job. Wasn't he supposed to be good at interviewing old ladies? So why wasn't he interrogating Mrs. Scherjoen?
    His leg glowed and hurt. He rubbed the painful spot, not too hard, for that would increase the trouble. Suppose he went home and immersed his painful body in hot water spiced 37 with herbs? He might as well; maybe this wasn't a day for work.
    He limped to the corridor. The uniformed girls in the computer room looked up. "Sir," they said. "Ladies," the commissaris said. He was given a chair. He thought. The policewomen waited.
    "Douwe Scherjoen," the commissaris said.
    "Adjutant Grijpstra asked us to check him out, sir," a constable first-class said. "There's nothing on Scherjoen."
    "How good is your computer?" the commissaris asked.
    "Our computer," the constable first-class said, "knows everything."
    "So what would the computer tell us if you activated it with the key words 'Friesland' and 'crime'?"
    'Too much, sir. It would tell us about all the wrongdoings of all the Frisians, it would go on forever."
    "And what if you limited it to Frisian crime in Amsterdam?"
    "It would still go on and on."
    "Let's see," the commissaris said.
    The constable first-class typed in the two words. The commissaris watched the screen. A small green square trembled.
    "Well?" the commissaris asked.
    "The computer is searching, sir. It will tell us about its findings any minute now, at incredible speed."
    The little green square trembled.
    "Well?" the commissaris asked.
    The constable first-class pressed a few buttons.
    "It's broken," a constable said. The constable first-class stared at the girl. "Down," the girl said nervously. "That's what I meant. Honestly. The computer is down."
    "Not broken?" the commissaris asked.
    "Just down," the constable first-class said. "It'll be up in a second, it just fell down a little."
    "When will it be up again?"
    "It could take a while," the constable first-class said. "This does happen now and then. I'll phone and the supplier will send an engineer. He may be busy for an hour or longer— it does take longer once in a while. Maybe the terminal is down too, then we'll have to wait a little while longer."
    The commissaris was back in the corridor. He used a wall phone. "Can you find me that Frisian detective, what's his name now? Fokkema, maybe?"
    "He's in Spain sir, on holiday, with sick leave added. Detective Fokkema may be away for a while."
    "Any other personnel of Frisian origin around?"
    "I wouldn't know, sir, did you try the computer?"
    The commissaris was back in his room. He thought. Frisian. Frisian what? By happenstance a Frisian cop sees something, and a Frisian park official sees something too?
    He picked up the phone.
    "Please, dear, Constable First-Class Algra of the Red District Station, and afterward I'd like to speak to Chief Wiarda of Municipal Parks."
    His secretary couldn't find either party; Algra had gone off somewhere and Wiarda hadn't yet returned.
    They won't know anything either, the commissaris thought; he thought a little further. Frisian convicts, locked up in jail somewhere? Who could locate Frisian convicts? The computer? Hurriedly he changed thoughts. The new thoughts were pushed back by something else again, burped up from memory. "Jelle Troelstra," his memory kept repeating.
    "Who?" the commissaris asked.
    "You know," his memory insisted.
    "I don't."
    "SS?" his memory asked.
    Right, the commissaris thought, for now he did remember. A limping SS man at large. In 1945, that was a long time back now. Troelstra had fought on the Eastern Front, had been released from duty because of serious wounds, had returned to Friesland

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