After Aruban Police Chief Peter de Witte, and his pals at the Prosecutors Office covered up the disappearance of Natalee, to protect their friend, a judge who just happened to be Serial Killer, Joran Van Der Sloot’s father. THE CRIMINAL CORRUPT POLICE CHIEF AND PROSECUTORS WERE THEN SENT TO ST MAARTEN. MURDERS AND CRIMES SKYROCKETED. CHIEF PETER DE WITTE WAS FIRED IN 2015, BUT REFUSES TO RETURN TO HOLLAND BECAUSE HE FEARS ARREST!
Julien Ignacio – Wormhole
On the night of May 30, 2005, Natalee Holloway was last seen at Carlos’ n Charlie, a bar-dancing in Oranjestad, Aruba. Almost seven years later she was officially declared dead. Her body has never been recovered. Holloway’s disappearance. How her mother Beth should deal with not knowing what exactly happened to her child. These two elements together formed the seed for Wormgat , a short story about giving the unthinkable a place.
“… I differ from the dead only,” she read in a thin voice, “by the ability to gasp for a few moments longer; their existence seems more assured to me than mine. Antinous and Plotina are at least as real as … ‘
She fell silent. In the half-filled lecture hall, the background noise of the air-conditioning emphasized the loss of her voice. "Just really…" she began again. Her fingertips rubbed the block letters as if on a Braille. Was her life a book that she read back to front? Something she understood less and less about as the pages slipped through her fingers? She muttered her apologies. Declared the lecture ended. The auditorium slowly emptied. She stepped off the podium from behind the pulpit. She mechanically put her class notes in her shoulder bag. A knock on the lecture hall door. An unknown man appeared in the doorway. He carried a leather briefcase with a shiny metal clasp lock. "Greco-Roman?" he asked. She nodded. The man approached her. She estimated him in his early thirties. Sporty type. The kind of person who did long distance running. "Theo Martens," he said, holding out his hand. 'Sorry to bother you.' "Elina Lejuez." The hand she put in his, she quickly pulled back. She was ashamed of the dark edges under her nails. The nail dirt detonated with her immaculate suit. Her snow-white blouse. 'What can I do for you?' "I'd like to speak to you for a moment."
"I'd rather tell you that privately." She led Martens to her study on the third floor of the Archaeological Center. Forensics, he introduced himself to her in the elevator. For identification, he dug his identification card from the inside pocket of his windbreaker. *
On the three-seater sofa, Elina closes the well-thumbed novel. Another hour and the first visitors will be roaming the rooms of her house. Vacuumed the floor. Dusted the chimney and windowsill. Washed and ironed the curtains. She wonders if she hasn’t cleaned up the living room too neatly. Have the windows cleaned too clean this morning? This can unintentionally create an uninviting impression.
Outside, in the tiled front yard, weeds between the edges, her husband puts the open house day sticker on the for sale sign. Along the edges of the ceiling, free of threads of dust, the iodine of the silence trickles down. Elina prickles her ears. No creaking above, no stumbling, no child's voice. She doesn't trust it. She leaves the room and up the stairs to the nursery. That's where she last saw Sammy. In the plastic circus tent by the window, leafing through a comic book. The tent is empty.
She searches all over the house. She looks under the made-up beds in the bedrooms, behind the shower curtain in the shiny bathroom, in the backyard. No answer. Her heart is pounding in her throat. The same feeling comes over her as she sometimes had in the playground in the park. He was still a toddler then. She looked up from the bench next to the seesaw and he was no longer there, neither on the jungle gym where she had just seen him, nor in the sandbank. For almost an eternity the ground subsided beneath her feet. Until she saw him standing at the top of the slide.
She returns to his room. She puts the Lego blocks on the floor back in the storage box. She closes the dinosaur picture book. Line up the race cars on the roof of the Cars garage. She sits on the edge of the bed, chewing her nails.
“Mamá, I don’t know what to do.”
She jerks a look to the side. Sammy stands in the doorway, dismayed. His arms hang limply along his thin body.
Her voice rises. “Where were you now?”
Sammy stares at the floor.
“Don’t you ever want to do that again?” She gets to her feet and grabs his shoulders. “It scares me.”
Sammy looks at her from under his long lashes. The look in his sea-green eyes fades. With a sharp twist he pries himself free from her grip and runs out of the room. The bathroom door slams shut. She pauses on the landing and knocks on the door. 'Are you coming soon?' she asks the adamant silence behind it. Ah, Elina thinks as she descends the stairs, leave him for a moment. He's not doing it on purpose, giving her a déjà-vu.
Outside, on the back balcony, she puts on her garden boots. It’s a mild autumn. The summer bloomers around the carp pond look remarkably fresh. The maple does not care about the calendar and has not yet dropped its last leaves. Only the vegetable bed in the corner of the backyard is bare, the pumpkin and tomato plants tidy and disposed of in garbage bags.
Elina squats down by the vegetable bed along the bamboo hedge. She scatters fertilizer over a wide strip and digs the soil with a garden claw. Then she digs, in a horizontal line, five holes eight inches deep. The strawberry cuttings, harvested last spring, plant them up to the collar, the roots well spread and firmly pressed. She wipes her hands on her sweatpants. Inside, in the kitchen, her husband pushes a baking tin into the oven. Let scents sell your house, the sales broker tipped. Your garden is your calling card. One day in October, her husband had brought it up. Gauge the housing market. Make a restart. If she wanted to think about it anyway, put a for sale sign in the front yard. That was all he asked of her. At first she had been horrified by strange footsteps in the conservatory. The same conservatory where she had been puffing on the birthing stool in between dilation contractions. It had been early morning. Twilight had danced a pavane in the folds of the net curtains. She had changed her mind when an elective college was suspended for a term. Student enrollment was disappointing. The extra hours off, she discovered, flew to her throat. In the end she had come to an agreement with her husband. She a new garden - something at hand -, he the house. He hadn't understood her. Why invest in something they would leave behind? "Not everything has to make sense," she had snapped at him. Resigned, he let her go. With a grimness that shocked her, she threw herself into the redesign of the garden. She was in contact with a befriended landscape gardener almost daily. She interfered with the construction of the water features and the course of the gravel path. She determined the fresh planting of the flowering cherry and the false cypress. Every free minute she stuck her legs in the earth. The vegetable bed in the back left was the only piece of old garden she thought was worth keeping. *
In the study, she set her bag down on her desk and pushed aside the lace curtain. Faint sunlight fell on the brick façade of the philosophy building on the other side of the inner canal. The pale, milky light reminded her of Normandy. While her husband and her son played monopoly in their holiday home in Luc-sur-Mer, she had walked with her camera along the beach along the chalk cliffs that summer. The sheer cliffs, open-air windows offering views of millions of years of geological history, had a smooth, gray-white color from the high tide mark. When she zoomed in, the stacked layers of time in the chalk rock each showed their own color, from deep pink to light green. When the sun came out from behind the clouds over the sea, it was as if the Light were taking a flash photo of Time.
She turned and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Won’t you sit down?” asked Martens.
“I’d rather stay still.”
'As you wish.' He hung his coat on a wall hook, took a gray folder from his briefcase and sat down. “Mrs. Lejuez,” he said, opening the folder, “you have not responded to our calls. That's why I'm bothering you at work. '
She checked her watch. “I’ve got ten minutes,” she said. ‘What can I do for you?’
The detective flipped through the police report. He told her, she believed, important things about the afternoon of the disappearance. The Coast Guard helicopter. Places where a child could be at risk: highways, parking lots. She half listened. In the windowsill was a collection of prehistoric objects. A quartz needle. A stone hand ax from the Neanderthal era. She let the stone rest in the palm of her hand. Not too heavy, easy to handle. Kidney-shaped. Sharp, machined edges. She loved this object, a find from the Sint Geertruid flint mine, a ten-minute drive from her mother's birthplace. The cold stone rooted her. Connected her to a deep sense of continuity. One day she hoped to infect Sammy with her love for the trade.
The man paused for a moment. “I have some bad news for you,” he said then. Evidence has been found. The on-site investigation team has completed the investigation. ‘
‘Rounded? I do not understand that.’
‘As long as no new tips come in, there is no more active search.’
The man looked at her. ‘Your son, Mrs. Lejuez. Sammy. ‘
She sighed impatiently. 'It has long since returned. What are you talking about? ' *
Down the hall to the front door, her husband removes the framed family photos from the wall. Sammy as a baby in the sling. Sammy in the inflatable pool, water gun at the ready. Family fun in the passport photo booth at the station.
The empty spots that appear behind the photos have faded light brown. "What are you going to do with that?" Elina asks icily. Her husband opens the hall closet. Stows away the stack of photo frames on top of the gas meter. "As few personal accents as possible," he says, "remember?" She steps in front of him. She pulls the baby photo out of the stack, blows the dust off the glass and hangs the frame back in place. "He's part of it, too," she says. 'Maya.' As if he is correcting a small child, he sounds. 'Are you ready now? They'll be right there. ' She turns and walks up the stairs. His gaze, she feels, clings to her back like a tarantula. Somehow she feels sorry for him. The past few months have not been easy, not even for him. Sammy had changed almost beyond recognition. He grew so quickly. He was much more independent now. Found his way back and forth to school on his own. In the evenings he often stayed away for hours without saying a word. Sometimes she found him in the strangest places. In the branches of the false cypress, for example. Or just in the bedroom, when, exhausted from the search, she quietly crawled into bed and he suddenly appeared next to her under the sheets. She holds back for the nursery. The door is slightly open. The row of longitudinal stripes on the side wall is visible through the opening. The increasing number of centimeters is written there. 1.06. 1.19. 1.31. Strange. She estimates it a lot longer than the highest mark. When was that again, the last time they'd put a mark on it? She doesn't remember. A viscous fatigue hangs from her shoulders. She closes her eyes. It doesn't take long before she hears the floor creaking behind the door. A moment later the door opens. His child's body crawls against her. While holding Sammy, she runs a hand through his curls. "You need to go to the hairdresser again," she says. *
That man did not want to stop. “Did you complete this questionnaire at the Luc-sur-Mer police station on Monday, June 23?” he asked.
He showed her a plasticized police form. She checked the form. Questions about special body characteristics, height and eye color of the missing person and last clothing were completed. A separate card with Sammy's dental records, provided by his dentist, was attached to the form. "Scars, date and probable time of missing, all entered by yourself," he saw through. "Or is this not your signature?" She put the hand ax back in place. With half an eye she looked at the careless scribble at the bottom right of the form. She shrugged her shoulders. “We've been there, yes,” she said, “this summer. But everything has been resolved. He hasn't been found, right? '
“If you mean the Coast Guard can’t confirm or deny that your boy drowned, then you’re right, yes.”
The detective frowned. At the back of the file folder was a zipped bag of transparent plastic. An enlarged color photo was visible on the inside. "This was found a few hundred yards from where your son was last seen," he said. 'I know this can be difficult for you. But it is very important that you take a good look at this photo. '
“No problem,” she said calmly as she settled into the swivel chair behind her desk. ‘I want to know everything.’
The man handed her the bag. Without removing the contents, she turned the bag over a few times. With distant attention, her head tilted back, she examined the close-up photograph of a children's watch. The watch had a red plastic strap. The minute hands stopped at ten to twelve. The dial had a picture of Spiderman. He crouched on the edge of the roof of a burning skyscraper.
“Do you recognize the watch?” asked Martens.
“Thirteen in a dozen,” she said, to herself rather than to him.
“Yes or no, Mrs. Lejuez?”
She unzipped the bag, took out the photo, and held it close to her face. Suddenly she began to laugh uncontrollably. “Oh,” she cried, wiping tears from her eyes, “how funny.”
The man put his hands in his lap. The corners of his mouth tightened. His eyes radiated incomprehension, bordering on irritation, as if he thought her behavior was inappropriate. “Is there something wrong with it?” he asked sharply.
“Not at all,” she said. Her face was radiant. “He didn’t sit, he jumped.” She looked at him with shining eyes. Spiderman jumped. I’ve never seen him squat. ‘
‘Are you sure? It fully matches your own description. ‘
‘I bought him the thing myself. I still remember exactly. The threads came from his fingers. He had already jumped, was floating through the air, between two skyscrapers. ‘
“But this watch exactly matches the description on the form,” the man insisted. ‘Would you like to take it again…’
“I am his mother!” she countered in a tone that was uncontroversial, “and I say this is not his watch.” She paused. “It’s not Sammy.”
Sunlight enters the spotless conservatory through the stained-glass windows. In the reading chair her husband studies an architect’s magazine. The TV is on in the background. Until five o’clock, they had put in the ad. Ten more minutes. Hopefully, Elina thinks, no one will come again.
Next to her on the couch are relevant documents. The deed of purchase of the house, the cadastral data, the urban development certificate. On top of that the subscription list. With measured movements she makes a nice stack of the papers. 'What do you think?' she asks her husband. "Serious buyers?" 'Hard to say. Maybe that young couple. ' "I don't believe that," she says. "They didn't like the garden." She glances at the subscription list. Eleven visitors. Rooda, Phillips, Verhoef. Who were they again? Oh yes, that family. Two spindly girls with chapped fingers. Both went to gymnastics. Their three-storey house, the parents said, had become too small. Upstairs, the mother's mouth was watering at the bath and the deep walk-in closets in the bedroom. The father turned into a happy toddler when he saw the electric train track in the attic with the shunting houses and the green plastic trees along the track switches. In the nursery, those girls had played with the marble track. They should have stayed off with their gore fiddles. *
The relief when his cell phone rang. After a short conversation in which the words ‘echo’ and ‘broker’ were used, Martens ended the connection. He got up and put the photo pouch back in the file folder. “I have to go,” he said.
'First?' she asked. The detective looked up. He hesitated for a moment, weighed his words. 'Yes.' An unprofessional expression, halfway between apology and tenderness, disfigured his face. 'The nursery,' he said, 'my wife called about that. Preferably in a new house. ' "Found something yet?" "We're still watching." She rolled back her office chair and got up. "Well," she said lightly, "that was it, right?"
Martens took out a brochure from the front pocket and clicked his briefcase shut.
“I assume you will let your husband know about this conversation,” he said.
“I was planning to, yes.”
“This one’s for you,” he said, handing her the leaflet. “If you have any questions, you’ll know where to find me.”
What to do in the event of a loss? read them on the front cover of the brochure. A business card was wedged between the folded pages.
The detective turned at the door. “Look at it.”
The bell is ringing. The surprise when Elina opens the door for Martens and his pregnant wife. What is that man doing here? it flashes through her. For a moment, in the hall, she feels compelled to stand still, like a heron. As if not moving is the only way to maintain the appearance of outward imperturbability.
But as soon as she leads the detective and his wife into the conservatory and her husband greets them, she returns. She doesn't believe in coincidence. She is too scientifically grounded for that. She thinks too much in causal relationships. He's not coming for her, she thinks. He comes to see her child. She offers something fresh and a slice of vanilla cake, freshly baked. The man grabs his wife by the upper arm, leans over and whispers something in her ear. "Aren't we late?" she hears him say with tension in his voice. "No dude," his wife replies, "we're only going to stay for a while." They drink in silence. Martens lets his gaze pass through the living room as if checking the space for shortcuts and emergency exits. Elina shifts her attention to his younger wife, a blonde in a maternity dress, glowing with expectation. Seven months at most, she estimates, judging by her pointed belly. If her water breaks now, the child is viable. Elina beams her with her prettiest smile. "How long?" she asks. "Thirty-one weeks," the woman replies, "almost." "Girl or boy?" 'Girl.' "Oh," says Elina, "she's bound to pull over to her father." 'Yes, they do, don't they', the woman says dreamily. Her swollen hand lands on Martens's forearm like a fat bird. She apologizes for coming in at the last minute. She hopes it's not too late to take another look. A short tour is enough. A first impression, that's what it's all about.
Elina and her husband exchange glances.
"I'll do it," she tells him, sliding open the glass door to the conservatory. "You keep watching TV."
She leads the potential buyers up the stairs to the sleeping quarters. They end in the backyard via the built-in play corner in the children’s room and the open kitchen. Every now and then they ask a question. Who the neighbors are. Whether they are not sorry to leave this neighborhood. It seems wonderful to live here, the woman says. Nice and quiet, ideal for children.
Elina answers. As she speaks, she wonders other things. Can Martens smell it, the scent of old carpet and grated lemon rising from the pores of the house? Does he hear the tapping of the bottle of powdered milk against the rim of the pan of boiling water? Or is he deaf to the school backpack that falls on the flagstones in the hall? For the voice of Sammy at the bottom of the stairs shouting that he is going to play outside in the square around the corner? Blind to the dirt still under her nails?
They walk deeper into the garden. Plastic summer chairs are stacked under a wooden canopy. The wind is rising. Torn maple leaves are lifted from the top seat and blown back and forth between the armrests. Some get stuck on the plastic.
Over the dug-in stepping stones they follow the path that meanders through the garden like an earthworm. Azaleas and rhododendrons grow in spheres along the walking path. Tall shrubs, Elina tells her audience, prevent what comes after the turns - the carp pond, small open spaces overgrown with star moss - from being immediately visible: a deliberately distorted optical effect.
Near a granite lantern, smeared with buttermilk to promote moss growth on the outside, the detective’s wife is resting on a boulder. She puts a hand on her stomach with a tired sigh.
“How old is yours?” she asks.
“Eight,” says Elina, “almost nine.”
The iron handle of the garden claw, shining in the glow of the autumn sun, sticks out from the vegetable bed in front of the bamboo hedge. The clouds from earlier that afternoon have disappeared. On all sides the sky curves around the world like a bell jar of clear blue tinted glass. The handle emits a heaviness, a compaction of mass. Time, a matryoshka doll, has stored multiple versions of itself in it. So it is not a fantasy, the emptiness that begins to peel off like an onion near the vegetable bed. Elina sinks to her knees at the edge of the earth strip. She grabs the handle protruding from the churned earth and digs one last hole, one fist deep. Next to her, Sammy buries a Lego soldier. An intergalactic spaceship. A sucked teat.
‘Wormgat’ contains a quote from Hadrian’s memoirs by Marguerite Yourcenar and references to François Ozon ‘s film Sous le sable .
[Previously published in Tirade .]
Julien Ignacio, November 9, 2019, at the 9th Caribbean Literature Day Photo: © Jet Budelman / Workgroup Caribbean