By Erickka Sy Savané
His eyes meet mine. They are the coldest, darkest eyes I have ever seen, and this I can tell from all the way across the street. What a life this person must have lived to have eyes that could damn near kill you. I force myself to look away. As does my friend Vanessa who is feeling, I’m sure, the exact same way. It is impossible to see what we see and not be affected. In silence, we turn our heads in front of us, pick up our pace and carry on to the club that is our destination. We don’t speak the entire way. There is this knowing that to even talk about it before we are somewhere safe is in some way putting ourselves in jeopardy. It is best to pretend that everything is fine. But when the doors to the club shut behind us we exhale for the first time in at least ten solid blocks.
“What the hell was that?” I ask.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think we’re safe?”
“I don’t know,” says Vanessa.
“What is it?” I ask, because reading the paper is a pleasure that I left three weeks ago in London. Vanessa often translates the news from Dutch.
“There was a body found in a car trunk not far from here on the same street where we saw that guy.”
You mean, on the same street that is only two minutes from here?
Now things have just gotten complicated because piercing black eyes stalking me in my sleep is one thing, but a killer stalking me in real life because I can identify him is something else altogether. I didn’t sign up for this. I came to Amsterdam to model and get tear sheets for my book, not come face-to-face with a murderer. And this isn’t consistent with the people I’ve met. These folks are sweet. They actually ride bikes, whole families, a mother, father and two kids, on the same bike. These people don’t kill. And getting back to Vanessa, this girl doesn’t know me from a can of paint but has let me stay in her apartment rent-free for weeks only because her sister knows my agent in London. Frankly, I haven’t even known him that long. And Vanessa is sweet too. We cook, hang out; I’ve come to love her like a sister. This all doesn’t make sense!
The way I see it, we have two choices. We can keep what we know to ourselves and hope that we did a good enough job of acting casual when our eyes met the stare of the killer, or we can get our asses over to the police department and spill our guts in case this dude wants us dead.
I let Vanessa do the talking at the precinct because, well, I don’t speak Dutch and though a lot of people in Amsterdam speak English there are still places that you go where you realize that you’re a foreigner. This is that kind of place. I’m very aware that I don’t belong. Not only do I not speak the language, the faces and the mannerisms aren’t familiar. In the States, I can size up a police officer and tell if he’s an asshole or really out to be helpful, but here I sit clueless, once again dependent on Vanessa. After what seems like an hour, but is probably more like twenty minutes, I take my cue to stand and the police officer walks us to the door. I’m actually taken aback and don’t want to go. Why didn’t they do a sketch of the killer and where is our security guard? Oh, they’re probably taking us to a protection bunker since we’re key witnesses in this case!
Once outside, Vanessa informs me that the detective believes the victim was involved in the Turkish mob. There’s been a lot of killing lately, but they rarely mess with people outside of the circle. It’s the rarely part that bothers me.
I don’t know if it’s something in all that fresh air people get from riding bikes or I watch too much Detective Crime Stories, but Vanessa seems to be shaking the whole thing off while I’m plagued by thoughts of disappearing without a trace. And it’s during our walk home from the precinct that she tells me that she is going to her parent’s house in The Hague for the weekend. She will be leaving tonight.
Come again? I half expect her to burst out laughing, because it has to be a joke. But no. She is l.e.a.v.i.n.g. Tonight. I will be alone for two whole days. It’s not fair. Who would leave a friend who is in danger of being murdered alone for two whole days? And more importantly, why?
No matter what her reasons for abandoning me, it causes me to become suspicious. Had the killer gotten to her? Had she offered me up to save herself? Or was she working with the killer from day one and this whole thing was a scheme to abduct me? Was the police precinct real or just a part of the plan? I begin to see everything differently. This place, at the end of the day, is home of the Red Light District, legalized marijuana, those horrid Black-faced Santa helpers and Anne Frank. This place is hell and these people are devils. Every moment finds me peering over my shoulder, staring into the eyes of strangers, fearful. I would get on the first thing smoking back to London and even the States, but I’m sooooo broke. Trapped until I can use my return ticket.
Vanessa leaves as planned and surprisingly it doesn’t seem so bad, at first. I eat, listen to a hip hop CD- ‘Cash moves everything around me cream get the money. Dollar dollar bill ya’ll’- and pretty much take it easy. It’s when darkness falls that things begin to change. The music starts sounding like a score to a horror movie so I have to shut it off. But the quiet is unbearable. Even worse are my thoughts. From them there is no escape. Aside from picturing the killer coming into the apartment through the patio door and killing me in the most brutal way, I can’t let go of the sadness and pity I feel about dying, no, being bludgeoned, in a foreign country. Not to say that I want to be killed in the States either, but at least I can hope for something better than happening upon a killer on the way to the club. Give me robbery or crime of passion any day. Plus, I don’t have a lot of confidence that the Amsterdam police will do much to solve my case. I can imagine the headline: Black girl disappears in Amsterdam. She was probably a prostitute or involved with the Turkish gang.
At one point, when I see a flicker on the terrace, I grab the phone and like an Olympic crawler, dash to a corner at the far end of the room. Convinced that the killer is only moments away, I call my Granny. I can’t bear to call my mom because it would break her heart and it’s not like she can wire me money to come home, like in the next minute. My Granny is always cool under pressure and will have to let the rest of the family know what happened.
“Mokey!” She says cheerfully. It’s about 2am and I knew she’d be up watching TV. It’s her 24/7 pastime.
I relay the whole story in one breath. She’s silent for a moment and then says, “Well, seems t’ me that the worst that could happen is that he could kill you.” Gee, thanks Granny! “But if he don’t, it’s a whole lotta fuss about nothin.”
She reminds me that this isn’t the first time that I’ve called her scared in the middle of the night. There were times when my roommate had gone out of town back in New York and I would call her just to sit on the phone with me. She’d fill me in on what the family was up to, Jerry Springer episodes, and I’d tell her about work. “Yea, Granny, I hear you, but this time is different. I saw a killer and he saw me.”
“Well, Moke, all I’m sayin’ is, it reminds me of that time you ran out your apartment and woke up the whole building ‘cuz you swore there was a robber in your bathroom. Remember? It took the police to find out it was just broken glass that fell n’ the tub.”
Damn, Granny, that was a low blow. She knows I’m not proud of that story. But she made her point. I need to chill.
When the sun comes up, with Granny still on the phone, I open the patio door for some fresh air. It’s then that I see that the flicker that had terrorized me the whole night was a reflector from the neighbor’s bike. A reflector. I thank my Granny and get off the phone. It’s time to catch up on some sleep.
If you have a true story to tell, email firstname.lastname@example.org!