Godfrey De Vries stared out at the stark, gray waters of the river, which stretched out like a channel of liquid steel below him. It was a long way down, far enough to kill a man. Godfrey's forearms shook as his pallid, spidery fingers clenched the cold metal rail of the bridge. One swift push and he could heave himself over the edge to the end. One jump and it would all be over.
Once, he had been the king of an empire; an empire stronger and more affluent than Rome had ever been. It was an empire called Money, and it had once been a great, powerful thing. But now he was the king of nothing. Nothing but a damp patch of concrete beneath a bridge, which he could not even defend from the rats. The life he led disgusted him.
He looked out over the water at Rotterdam's jagged skyline. A diluted beam of sunlight was attempting, but so far failing, to butt its way through the low-hanging clouds. Trickling through the city streets like ants in an ant farm, Godfrey saw people walking, entering and exiting cars, going about their usual morning routines. It seemed incredible that for most this was just another ordinary, dreary day. There was no life or death struggle secretly warring in their consciousnesses, there was no fear, no desperation.
This morning, Godfrey had been so certain he would jump. He had made up his mind the night before. His life had crumbled, there was nothing left worth living it for. His empire had crumbled, and finally, he had crumbled. He was a loathsome wretch consumed by fear and failure.
But then he had received the note. It had been taped to his jacket when he had awoken this morning. It was just a little, pulpy slip of paper, damp from spending the night with him under the bridge, folded over with his name written on the outside. Inside was typed a brief message, accompanied by a five hundred euro note.
Mr. Godfrey De Vries,
Would you like to play a game?
- Michelle Sanchez
- Elias Heikkinen
- Tony Blake
- Kamali Ncube
- Ebisawa Hitomi
- Alexi Bogdanov
- Mei Yu
- Thiago Torres
- Vahide Younan
Kill these people and all your problems will go away. You will get your money back; you will get your life back.
Godfrey slipped the piece of paper out of his pocket once more and stared at the little, inky letters. How had someone managed to find him and give him this? And why? His bloodshot eyes flicked from the note to the waters of the New Meuse. Was there another escape? Was there another way out that didn't involve jumping?
It was ludicrous. How could he pay attention to something like this? Kill nine people and his problems would go away? It wasn't possible. The rational side of his brain rebelled and caused his hand to crush the note in his fist. But Godfrey knew that the rational side of his brain had burned out weeks ago when he had decided to run. Godfrey knew the rational side of his brain had been extinguished when he had made up his mind to jump this morning.
Godfrey sneered at himself. He had become such a weak, repulsive man. But the nagging thought was chewing at him persistently. Kill these nine people and all your problems will go away.
A car rattled noisily by behind him, bringing Godfrey to his senses. He turned away from the rail and back to the torrent of traffic that was streaming by. So many faces, so many people. People he would never know. People who would never mean anything to him.
Kill these nine people and all your problems will go away. Could he kill nine people? Could he track them down and murder them? He had killed one person before, all those years ago, hadn't he? It hadn't been so very difficult. And he had never been caught. . . .
What do I have to lose? thought Godfrey. One prison's the same as another; they already want me. What's to lose by adding nine new crimes to my résumé? But there could be lots to gain by it.
Godfrey started to walk toward the metropolitan cluster of Rotterdam. The rational side of his brain had jumped off the bridge that day, but Godfrey De Vries had walked away.