It took a miracle for him to survive Christmas – but I don’t need to tell you that – you know all about Rompa’s horrid time from reading the Amsterdam Sniper.
After a lengthy mental and physical rehabilitation, the inspector has returned to the Amsterdam Criminal Investigation Department.
His hope for a quiet Holy Week and Easter weekend ruined by a ruthless and ferocious strangler, tension at HQ, an obstinate reporter, and his chaotic private life.
Below you can read an extract from the Amsterdam Strangler. If you like what you’re reading, you can now pre-order the book and get it auto-delivered to your Kindle on Tuesday, August 28 – or wait to order the paperback on the same day.
Most Sundays at dawn she ran the same five-kilometer route in Vondelpark. This morning it took her to a rendezvous with death. At ten to seven, she was entirely alone in Amsterdam’s biggest and most popular park. She liked it that way. No other runners. No cyclists. No dogs. No noisy children. Just her and the sound of the birds welcoming a new day and the promise of spring.
She was a good runner and, at the age of 25, fitter than most of her friends and colleagues. After running the first kilometer full out on the main path encircling the elongated park, she reached the zone of well-being she was addicted to. The thought of the champagne brunch with two of her best friends later on gave her a feeling of immense happiness. She wasn’t religious, but at moments like these, she felt the presence of a higher power. It was going to be a good day.
With the early morning temperature around ten degrees Celsius, it was mild for late March, and wearing shorts was the right choice. A beep from her Garmin Forerunner GPS watch told her she had reached the two-kilometer mark. She looked at the small black screen with the white numbers. Nine minutes and twelve seconds. Not bad, she thought. She was fiercely competitive.
At speed, she made a sharp right turn down a narrow footpath. The bushes and the new leaves on the trees blocked enough of the morning light to make the ground almost invisible, and it stunned her when something caught her left foot. She tripped forward and landed head first in the soft undergrowth.
“Shit! That’s all I need!” she exclaimed. It was all going so well, and now she lay here on her stomach with her face in the mud. Apart from her pride, nothing else seemed to be hurt. She stayed down for a moment to compose herself, then turned on her back so she could get to her feet. She was horrified to see the silhouette of a large man looming over her. Her mind wanted to make sense of it, but before she could react, he descended upon her. Sitting across her abdomen, he prevented her from moving. She cried out in shock and banged her fists forcefully into his chest. He did not seem to feel it, and when she tried to scratch his face, he calmly and easily took hold of her wrist. Then he grabbed her other wrist and placed them together to hold both in one hand. She shouted at him, “You’re hurting me! Let go! You …” He stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth. Her heart pounded and her eyes filled with tears. Through the filter of water, she observed him unfasten his tie with his free hand. The thin lips on his clean-shaven face showed no emotion. She wanted to see his eyes, but the shadow from his sports cap prevented it. The smell of his sweet aftershave in her nostrils made her feel nauseated.
Suddenly he released her hands, giving her a flicker of hope. It was short-lived. He pulled the tie from around his shirt collar and slid it under her head. Using all her strength she tried to lacerate him with her long fingernails, but feeling the smooth silk of the tie around her neck, she instinctively used her hands to prevent it from strangling her. It was to no avail. He was much too powerful and only a miracle could save her. It never came. She expected her short life to pass in review before her eyes, but all it did was drain from her. Losing consciousness came as a merciful release.
He saw or heard no one as he walked to the grave. He unwrapped the tulips and placed them on top of the grey sandstone. He read the epitaph on the headstone aloud: “Paul Rompa, nineteen-forty-four to nineteen-eighty-eight. A life too short, well lived.” Dead from lung cancer at the age of forty-four.
Rompa was not proud to admit it, but he only visited on the date of his father’s death. This year was unique in two ways. It was thirty years since his dad passed away, and in a few months, he himself would be forty-four years old. It made him think of his own mortality – something which had become an obsession after recently almost losing his life. “Inspector Rinus Rompa, 1974 – 2017. Not much of a life,” he envisioned his epitaph. He shivered thinking about it, but could not prevent the events playing, like a bad movie, in his head as they’d endlessly done since that last Christmas Eve. With very few alterations, the final scene played out like this: Rompa sits opposite a man who’s pointing a Luger at him. But the man is exhausted and, in a lapse of concentration, gives Rompa enough time to hurl himself forward, sending them both to the floor. In the struggle, the pistol goes off, and the bullet hits Rompa in the stomach. In excruciating pain, Rompa rolls onto his back, and the man gets to his feet still holding the pistol. From his manner – and knowing the man has a preference for shooting people in the head – Rompa expects to be executed in cold blood. When the shot does come, he’s surprised by the sound of splintering glass and then by the impact of the man’s body falling on top of him. Rompa stares into lifeless eyes and feels the warmth of the man’s blood squirting into his face. Thankfully the closing credits come next.
It all happened exactly three months before, and he only recently returned to his job as inspector at the Amsterdam Criminal Investigation Department. Physically he’d recovered quickly, but his mental state was shattered, and he’d descended into a severe depression. Terrible nightmares haunted his sleep, and he found no reason to get out of bed in the morning. A constant craving for alcohol made every waking minute seem like an eternity. He longed for the state of mind where nothing mattered, one he knew all too well after years of substance abuse. With the aid of medication, his girlfriend, and his A.A. sponsor, he settled for some white-knuckle sobriety.
“110 days — don’t fuck it up,” Rompa said to himself, as he turned away from the grave. The cemetery gave him the creeps, and he hurried to the car park and his 1969 white roofed maroon Citroën DS19. He opened the door, got in and drove away.