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The Magpie by Oliver Rock
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One body per month. Stripped of all its possessions. Zero clues…
Detective Van Loo, one of Amsterdam’s best, is racing against time to track down and capture a serial killer creating unrest in Amsterdam leaving a trail of bodies. Nine bodies and counting – all men, stripped of all their possessions with no clear pattern or commonalities among them. The killer, nicknamed The Magpie, a confident, ruthless and sadistic psychopath is always a step ahead of the authorities. The pile of bodies left behind by the Magpie leaves everyone gasping for clues to connect all the bizarre murders devoid of any real pattern or connection.
Who is the Magpie? What connection do all the victims have? Will the Magpie ever be caught?[gallery ids="9178,9180" type="rectangular"]
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EXCERPT/SNEAK PEAK, CHAP 1
September 25 7:15 a.m. It was a typical September morning in Amsterdam as the first light broke through a blanket of dull grey sky. The onslaught of heavy rain pelted down on the old cobbled stones of the ‘nine streets’ in the center of town, washing away old cigarette butts and fast food wrappers that were scattered on the narrow roads, remnants of last night’s festivities. A lone cyclist zigzagged between the litter on Wolvenstraat, almost driving into the five lost English guys who were huddled together in the middle of the street - drunk, disorientated, and white-faced. The cyclist, a young Dutch student, was heading home from a night at her boyfriends’ and was in a rush to get back and change for Sunday field hockey. She rang the bell on her bike but to no avail, as the hungover English guys were too busy arguing amongst themselves about the way back to their hotel, and clearly, they had no clue. You knew they were English as they all dressed the same - shirts or polo shirts hanging outside their perfectly ironed jeans, tattoos, short cropped hair, loud, and annoyingly drunk. The cyclist swerved around them and rang her bell again. Making sure that she was a good ten meters past them, she shouted out, “eikels”, as she sped off down the street. The stag party was oblivious to her frustration as they had other pressing issues on their mind - a warm hotel room. Now, they were lost in this maze of narrow crossroads that split the four main canals in the heart of Amsterdam and were getting wetter and colder by the second. The ringing of the cyclist’s bell and the raised voices woke Roos up. She had had a terrible night’s sleep. First, the heavy rain hitting the window ledge and beating down on the skylight above her bedroom had woken her at two in the morning. Then, there was the pigeon on her windowsill that was trying to shelter itself from the downpour and didn’t stop cooing. Now, at 7:15 a.m., there were the cyclist and the muffled drunks shouting outside. Lying in bed, she brushed her dark brown hair off her face and lifted her head up so that she could look at the digital clock that sat on the small bedside table. She checked the time and reached across to turn off the alarm. It was set to go off at eight but there was no way that she was going to fall back to sleep now. Roos was still tired but she had too much going on in her head. Her hair fell perfectly into an immaculate bob cut, thanks to her monthly visit to the hairdresser, on the Spui. This was the sole treat she gave herself other than her weekly manicure, which she really still couldn’t justify as a nurse in her third year out of training college. Even without a good night’s sleep, Roos still looked pretty, with fresh pale skin, no blemishes, wrinkles or spots. At twenty-five, she took care of her features, using both day and night creams, facial scrubs, and numerous glosses. If only she could lose the last annoying three and a half kilos, she would be very happy. Working long shifts as a nurse, she only had time to exercise a couple of times during the week and on weekends, so she relied on cycling to and from the hospital to burn the extra calories. The extra weight on her thighs and waist troubled her and was at the top of her list of issues to deal with. Roos looked around the room as she lay in bed. It was a small cozy bedroom with clean white walls, recently painted by her younger brother, who had been trying to earn a few extra euros during his school break. The walls were quite bare, apart from the giant-sized poster of a beautiful lonely lady, looking out of a house as if waiting for somebody. Roos often felt like this woman. Light began to creep in through the gap between the blinds and the skylight. Soon, the bedroom would be lit by the natural rays from the sun and Jade would wake up as well. At the end of the bed was a large dark brown chest of drawers. It dated back to pre-First World War. It had been well-cared for over the years and this hadn’t changed since it had been passed down to Roos from her parents. When her brother had painted the bedroom, she had given him clear instructions on how to varnish the chest of drawers without damaging the old oak wood, ensuring that it didn’t lose any of its character. It was no surprise as Roos was a bit of a control freak and over the top about cleaning. The chest was passed on from her father and grandfather. She liked to think of this beautiful piece of Dutch furniture as her third favorite belonging in the apartment. On top of the chest sat her second favorite possession - the silver picture frame. The frame had been a gift for her twenty-first birthday from her parents, Bram and Theresa Van Vels. They lived in Amstelveen in the same middle-class house where Roos had grown up. Originally christened RoosMarijn, which she hated, her parents were the only ones who still called her by her full name. The frame was A4 in size and was immaculately polished especially over the silver crest. There was no smudging on the glass or marks on the blue velvet on the back. In fact, it looked nicer now than when it was first removed from its wrapping several years ago. The picture frame was positioned on top, close to the edge of the chest, so that it received maximum light when Roos opened the window curtains in the morning. Next to the picture frame was a medium-sized but perfectly manicured white orchid. Placed in a small pot, the orchid had a clean stem and three white flowers. She looked after the orchid as if it were a terminally ill patient at the hospital. She would wipe the leaves, stem, and petals every day with a wet cotton ball. Roos would water the plant religiously and followed all the instructions about caring for orchids on the internet. This was actually her fourth orchid and despite the tender loving care she had given, she had lost the first three. Roos was determined to keep this one. Apart from these items, the bedroom was quite bare, which was Roos’ intention. As she lay there looking at the frame, she thought to herself that the only thing that had changed was the picture that sat inside the frame. When she had opened the gift four years ago, there was a colorful picture of her brother and parents, dressed in their smartest outfits posing with extremely cheesy grins. The whole family wore glasses and Roos always felt good having made the decision to go to Belgium to have eye surgery. She always wanted to please her parents but there were some instances where she would stick her neck out and go her own way. Having surgery so that she wouldn’t have to wear glasses or contact lenses everagain, was one of them. Roos enjoyed nursing. Working long hours and helping sick people made her feel good. It had also pleased her parents, especially her father, a consultant and renowned heart surgeon at the Vu Hospital. She couldn’t have handled the extra years of studying required to become a doctor, and in fact, she wasn’t that ambitious. Becoming a nurse was a satisfactory compromise and it made her father happy. He also got to have coffee once a week with his daughter at the hospital when their shifts crossed and if Roos bothered to check the text messages that he would send. They would discuss work, her mother, her brother, and her father’s golf game but never anything too serious or personal, like relationships.Whenever relationships were discussed in the past it would always end in a heated argument with her father raising his voice, her mother getting frustrated and crying, and Roos storming off in a mood. She had gotten so used to these conversations now that when she sensed the topic beginning to arise, she would either sigh and walk off or make a fake smile and suggest that they change the subject. Roos had learnt to hold back her tears, even if it still made her upset inside. Her parents had also learnt not to bring up the subject anymore, especially if they wanted to continue seeing their daughter. They had adored both her previous boyfriends: Thijl and Arthur. Both were nice, clean cut boys, and the same age as Roos. She had dated one when she was eighteen and the other when she was twenty. Thijl had become a journalist and Arthur a teacher, and both had grown up to be great guys but neither was in contact with Roos anymore. Roos slid out of bed sideways without lifting the duvet in the process. She was wearing a thin, almost transparent, white cotton nightie, through which you could see a tiny string. Her pale skin was smooth, her legs recently waxed and well-creamed, and her toe-nails were perfectly cut and beautifully painted. As she crept towards the bathroom, she sidestepped on the floorboards that didn’t creak. She was desperate not to wake her flat-mates. As she slipped into the bathroom, she closed the door behind her without making a noise. Flicking on the light, Roos stared straight into the bathroom mirror, observing her face for any blemishes. Her skin was perfect and her lips rounded and full, never requiring bright lipstick, unless she wanted to draw attention to herself. She thought her lips were a big plus point and perfect for being kissed. Her eyebrows were well-shaped and didn’t need plucking this morning. Happy with her facial features, Roos lifted her arms towards the ceiling and stretched and yawned silently at the same time. She checked her armpits that she had shaved last night and they were still looking clean. As Roos stretched, her nightie also moved higher, revealing the top part of her thighs which disappointed her greatly. The cellulite was unsightly in her opinion. She would need to cycle harder to work and spend an additional ten minutes on the ‘step machine’ at the gym to try and deal with this. Roos sat down on the toilet to take a morning pee and looked at the small tattoo on the inside of her right wrist, Greek markings that spelt out love. She smiled to herself thinking about her parents, who didn’t know that she had a tattoo, and how crazy they would be if they saw it. She liked being a bit rebellious. Roos got up from the toilet, washed her hands, and took one last glance in the mirror before turning off the bathroom light and creeping back into the bedroom. Gently lifting the white cotton duvet and quietly lying back on the mattress, she couldn’t help herself from rolling over to stare at her favorite possession that lay beside her in the bed. She stared across at this amazing slender body that lay intertwined in the duvet, noting the real contrast between the dark brown skin and the pure Egyptian white cotton sheets. Roos liked to think of Jade as a possession but actually she was an obsession. Jade had everything that she didn’t. She was tall, very slim, with beautiful long legs, and a swan-like neck. Her hair was long, thick, and fair in color, with sun-bleached streaks. Her skin was constantly tanned, partly from her origins but also from the continuous long distance trips she took as a KLM air stewardess to South America and the Caribbean. Roos always worried when she was away travelling for work, as she feared that Jade would fall for someone at a party with the flight crew. Whilst she knew that Jade wasn’t interested in men, she had the ability to attract anyone and would sleep with them just to play with their mind. In fact, she had confessed to sleeping with a captain in the past that was arrogant and very sure of himself. She wanted to teach him a lesson and after a drunken night of passionate sex, she spent the next three months ignoring him, which brought him back down to earth. Jade had, of course, experienced relationships in her twenty-seven years of life with both men and women. At the age of eighteen, she came to realize that she preferred women more. She had had five proper relationships with girls, Roos being the fifth. Jade never really showed much emotion except in bed. It was frustrating for Roos as she didn’t feel close enough to her. Before Jade, Roos had never been jealous but this had all changed as soon as they started dating. She dreaded Jade going on these long-haul trips. She knew that most of the air hostesses were not gay. However, there was a small group that was, and they were also pretty and quite forward. Jade was leaving today for a five-day trip to Argentina. Roos wanted to wake her up, but at the same time, she was scared that Jade would be annoyed if she was disturbed. They had had a big night yesterday and both would be suffering from hangovers this morning, especially Jade, who had drunk far too many tequilas. A flirty barman at the Escape Club had spent the evening chatting Jade up, and she had played along, receiving complimentary shots in the process. Everything about Jade was cool, thought Roos, even her name. Moving the long blonde locks away from one side of her face, Roos could see her perfect cheekbone and pouting lips. Leaning across, she noticed the smudging of ruby red lipstick on her pillow, mixed with fresh saliva. Even this looked sexy. As Jade lay fast asleep on her side, Roos moved her hair behind her ear, so that it fell over her back. This revealed the fine pencil thin Balinese writing that was tattooed at the top of Jade’s neck and continued for about ten centimeters down her spine. She had got this tattoo done in Asia four years ago with her ex-girlfriend Brie. Roos had told her that she hated the tattoo but really, she just hated Brie and saw this cool marking as a memory of her ex. Roos quickly placed Jade’s hair back over her neck to cover up this annoying ink. Jade was much more confident of herself than Roos and refused to wear anything in bed. While this made her feel like a prude, Roos did like to feel her naked body next to hers when they slept. Roos moved her right hand towards Jade’s as she wanted to look at their identical tattoos inked on the insides of their wrists, together. This made Roos happy as she knew that they would always have this attachment whatever happened between them in the future. Roos turned Jade’s hand over, and noticed frustratingly, that the markings were hidden by the old brown leather wristband Jade wore. In contrast, Roos had her tattoo very visible, purposely not wearing a watch or jewelry, unless she was seeing her parents. . While the girls made similar salaries, Jade had a more exotic, carefree job - meeting new people, travelling all over the world, seeing more places, and partying in the sun. For the five days that Jade was going to be away, Roos would be bored and needed to find things to do in her spare time. Apart from working extra shifts at the hospital, she would add more gym classes and running to her schedule. She didn’t enjoy the fitness training but it kept her mind off Jade and she needed to stay in shape. Roos knew that she would get very jealous wondering what Jade would be doing and who would be ‘hitting on her’. The more she thought about it, the more it made her blood boil. This time, however, it would be worse, as they had just had a heated argument the night before. Jade had got drunk and flirted with not only the barman but also with a tall attractive barmaid. Roos had stayed late just to keep an eye on her prized possession. Roos kissed Jade’s neck but Jade didn’t show any sign of enjoying it. Her eyes remained closed and even her body rolled a little further away as if to say ‘leave me alone’. Roos lay still for a few seconds pondering over her next move. She decided that she didn’t want to wake Jade and was glad that she had kissed her neck and smelt the faint fragrance of perfume, surviving odors from last night’s partying. The soft oily skin against her lips and the familiar smell of the perfume turned Roos on. She got up once again and tip-toed slowly back into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her and then stepped into the shower. Having dried herself off, Roos went to the top drawer of the old chest in the bedroom to pick some fresh underwear for the day. She stopped for a second to stare at the black and white picture of Jade and Fleur hugging each other in the silver picture frame. The picture was taken on a holiday in France last summer and Roos absolutely adored it. With the towel wrapped around her body, Roos walked out of the bedroom and down the winding stairwell into the living room. She decided to get dressed there so that she would not disturb Jade. Hanging over the kitchen doorway was a clean nurses’ outfit, ready to slip on. Normally, Roos would be more discreet but she could see that Fleur wasn’t home yet. Her bedroom door was wide open. Roos didn’t know if Fleur had been working last night or was out partying but it must have been a good night either way, as it was now eight in the morning and there was still no sign of her. Looking through the open doorway to Fleur’s bedroom, Roos began to shake her head in disbelief at how messy her second flat-mate was. Scattered all over the floor and bed were stilettos, miniskirts, piles of underwear, and glittering blouses. At least the mess didn’t spill out of her bedroom, thought Roos. Fleur’s only excuse for being like this was that she was still a full-time student holding a part-time job. Roos still had time for breakfast but she was so angry with herself for causing the argument last night that she felt like she had to be punished. She decided to skip food and head straight to work. Roos had too many emotions going through her head right now of anger, jealousy, and anticipation. At least her work would take her mind off things for a while. What was Jade going to do when she was away? Maybe she would get involved in one of these KLM drunken orgies? Would she flirt with another barmaid again? Was she fed up with Roos’ jealous nature? Maybe, when Fleur got home later this morning, they will meet in the kitchen and Jade will tell her how jealous Roos has become. Maybe, Jade actually likes Fleur and will make a move on her. She felt dizzy and grimaced with all these silly scenarios racing through her mind. Fleur likes guys and in the six months that they had been living together, they had become good friends.
Fleur was far too sweet to do that to Roos. Roos needed to get outside. She put on her shoes and raincoat and left through the front door picking her hospital ID pass and bike keys in one motion. The fresh air would clear her head pretty quickly, she hoped and the ride to work would act as a distraction. As the rain began to fall harder, she thought she was probably going to get very wet and be late for work. That was not a good mix coupled with a head filled with jealous thoughts. * * *
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oliver Rock is the author of The Magpie, a crime thriller about a serial killer in Amsterdam and the pursuit to find and capture the ruthless slayer. English born, Oliver lived and worked in London before moving to Amsterdam for ten years. Oliver is married with three children. He is a dedicated husband and father.