The search had been in vain. Wherever they looked, the third tape stayed without a trace. They even had unscrewed power points and one of the accomplices had cut their mattress in pieces. The grin upon the face of the leader of the invading men had disappeared. He looked with eyes blazed with anger at Jean-Pierre and Katarina. It seemed for a moment he would lose his self-control, but then he squeezed his eyes a bit and the cool smile turned up again around his mouth.
‘You think you’re smart, but I warn you, don’t play games with me. You only can lose. Where’s the third tape?’
Both victims shrugged their shoulders and waited in despair for the gangster’s reaction. It didn’t take long. He hit Jean-Pierre’s face very hard with his gloved hand.
Jean-Pierre had indeed expected something like that from these violent men, but he was surprised by the power of the punch. He shook his head to get the little stars away he saw. Katarina’s eyes were wide open in panic. Behind the rag that gagged her mouth, Jean-Pierre heard muffled sounds. He supposed she yelled or screamed that they had to stop, but he wasn’t certain.
‘I’m going to take the gag away,’ the man said, ‘you’ve seen my gun with the silencer, so there will be not a lot of sound if you try to call for help. A bullet is extremely fast, you know. Between 800 and 1000 meters per second, I’ve read once. How long do you think you can scream before it reaches your head? So if you want to be able to tell about your adventures afterward I advise you to be very carefully and above all, don’t talk too loud. Capisce!’
The last word had been pronounced very sharply. The Italian accent used by the gangster was a clear hint towards the mafia of which he was certainly a member. Meanwhile, one of his men had freed Jean-Pierre’s and Katarina’s mouth.
Katarina saw the trickle of blood that flowed out of the corner of Jean-Pierre’s mouth. She immediately reacted.
‘Is this violence really necessary? We have stashed away the three tapes, all three of them on a different place. When we have hidden them, they were all still there, all three of them. I swear on my mother’s head. I never would take such a risk. Certainly not when the life of my mother is at stake. There was one under the mattress, one in the false ceiling in the bathroom and one in the room locker.’
The man with the gloves hesitated. It was clearly visible in the look on his face. They had searched on these three places. He didn’t know what to think about the situation. Maybe she told the truth, but on the other hand, he knew people sometimes made strange decisions when they were in dire need. He had enough experience in torturing people to know that everyone had his limits. Some guys, hard blokes, started to tell everything the moment they saw a knife. Other persons, at first sight, frightened mice, tried to wring out some lies, going in against better judgment, even when they were hurt. There were no rules in this game.
He whispered something in the ear of his accomplices and they gagged Jean-Pierre’s mouth again and the second man positioned himself behind Katarina. ‘Last chance, my dear Katarina. Where’s the third tape?’
With dismay, Katarina had seen that they had gagged Jean-Pierre again. ‘I don’t know,’ she begged with tears in her eyes, ‘please, believe me. Maybe someone of the hotel personnel has taken it away, I really don’t know.’
It all happened in a few seconds. The man snatched for his gun on the little table and shot at Jean-Pierre. At the same time, the man behind Katarina pulled the gag again before Katarina’s mouth before she could scream.
In a reflex, Jean-Pierre had fallen aside from the chair and now he lay on the ground, in a fetal position and totally silent. The only thing in the room you could hear were the subdued sounds of Katarina, totally panicking and crying because of her friend.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere