2480 words (9 minute read)


Mortensen was about his age but much better looking, and just like Oana he didn’t seem to be particularly modest about his own good looks. He had a thoroughly worked-out body, tattoos on the bulging muscles on his arms and a splendid, long beard that made him look like a Viking warrior. The only thing spoiling his martial appearance was the strange softness in his blue eyes. Checking his data, Hansen found that the Viking warrior was more like a Germanic one, as Mortensen, despite his Scandinavian-sounding name, was actually from Germany.

No matter how Hansen tried to preserve his cool, Mortensen’s latest photograph filled him with envy. The Viking warrior was resting his handsome head on a pillow, smiling softly through his beard, his blanket pulled up to his wide chest to make sure the image was decent. Next to him was Oana’s head resting on the same pillow, her face looking tired and happy at the same time, giving the camera an ear-to-ear smile full of joy and satisfaction.

LOVE. That was all that was written under the photograph. It had lots of likes and comments, mostly from Mortensen’s German buddies. Oana hadn’t bothered to comment on their picture except for adding a laughing emoticon.

Hansen sighed heavily and leant back in Rasmussen’s chair. He saved the image with the comments, transferred it over to his own phone through Bluetooth and sent it to Mary Cameron.

“I’ve found her muscles,” he wrote.

Mary’s reply came a few moments later. “She’s found herself a yoga trainer? What a cliché.”

“She could have used him to get rid of Mr V.”

Hansen knew that he was being too presumptuous too soon, and just nodded when he saw Mary’s reply.

“I wouldn’t jump to conclusions yet if I were you.”

Mary Cameron was right. Thinking about the triangle of motive, means and opportunity, he couldn’t be sure at this stage if he had found the means by which Oana could have killed Viggo Rasmussen. Even the motive was barely more than a hunch, an assumption. So far, he hadn’t discovered any clue that might indicate a flirtation gone awry, a favour refused or blackmail. The trainee and her principal weren’t exactly on friendly terms, that much was true, but considering the generation gap and the difference in their characters this was anything but a surprise.

At this stage, the only thing Mads Hansen had to do was stay focused on the facts. What seemed obvious could be masking less spectacular but more serious motives and details. He stretched his arms and shoulders and sighed, wishing he could check the victim’s phone for any further clues.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, Hansen thought. He stood up and moved towards the window. The rain was growing more intense in the darkness outside. The heavy raindrops splattered on the shades and rolled down the glass surface, slowly, as if they had lost their way.

Hansen was already waiting for the lift when he changed his mind. Instead of going down to the garage level where his scooter was waiting for him, he went up to the thirteenth floor. Maybe the settings would reveal a detail he had overlooked earlier, or remind him of some small thing, a word spoken during the questioning that he’d forgotten about.

The floor was cordoned off with the blue-white ribbons of the Brussels police. A stout policeman stood in front of Rasmussen’s office. Two members of the crime-scene forensics squad were about to take off their white jumpsuits. Hansen could hear them talking about yesterday’s football match.

The policeman guarding the victim’s office made a gesture as if to push Hansen away with kinetic powers. He left the door and approached the investigator.

‘Désolé, monsieur, mais vous n’êtes pas autorisé …’

Hansen showed him his special badge. ‘I’m an investigator with the Directorate of Security.’

The policeman wasn’t impressed and tried to usher him away. Hansen protested but he knew that once Belgian police had taken over the scene, they would only let people in at their discretion.

Commissar Leclerc appeared out of Rasmussen’s office. Hansen saw in his face that the detective was not about to help him. 

‘What do you want? Go home and let us professionals do our jobs.’

Hansen wasn’t in a confrontational frame of mind, but he felt compelled to give it a try. ‘I presume Monsieur Ruiz has informed you of the progress we’ve made.’

‘Calling it progress would be an overstatement.’

‘Now you’re teasing me. You sound as if you’ve found a smoking gun. Go on. Enlighten me.’

‘File an information request. You Commission people are good at producing papers, aren’t you?’

Hansen gave up. ‘You know what, inspector? You’re right. After all, I shouldn’t care. I won’t be here to see the outcome of this investigation anyway.’


He replied as if Leclerc had asked his question out of real interest. ‘That’s right. My contract expires this Saturday.’

The inspector smiled. ‘In that case you’d do better to let us handle this and stay put. Be careful not to step on a mine on your last week.’

‘Yeah, right.’ Hansen was about to leave when he suddenly turned back to Leclerc. ‘How funny – that’s exactly what I was told back in Kabul. After all, you know how it goes. This is just another kind of army.’

Hansen nodded to the inspector and stepped away.

‘Kabul?’ the inspector asked.

The investigator halted. ‘Bagram.’


‘My third tour of duty ended in late 2008. Why?’

‘We were stationed at Mazar-i-Sharif during that time.’

Hansen tried to remember quickly which Belgian units were stationed in the far-away country. ‘Second Special Operations Battalion?’

Leclerc smiled as he shook his head. ‘Third Para.’ His smile turned wolfish as he added, ‘Military police.’

‘I was with the Jæger Corps.’

‘You were with special forces then?’


‘An operator?’

Now it was Hansen’s turn to give a slight shake of his head. ‘I was a human intel specialist. Extraction of intelligence mostly.’

Leclerc looked him up and down. ‘I heard you lost a lot of good people over there.’

‘We did our best to make them lose more.’

‘That’s the other thing I heard. You Jaegers are real psychopaths. Exactly the sort of people to do the job.’

He offered his hand, and his handshake was as firm as Hansen had expected. The detective’s remark made him smile. Regardless of their countries of origin, “psychopath” was a word of approval among soldiers serving in Afghanistan. They also had a word for the military police, but Hansen preferred not to mention it.

The detective raised the blue-white ribbon so that Hansen could duck underneath it. Together they walked down the corridor to the victim’s office.

‘Matter of fact, it’s good that you showed up. Didier, give me that evidence bag with the rag we found, s’il te plaît!’

One of the two members of the forensics squad, who by now had managed to get out of his jumpsuit, handed a transparent plastic bag to Leclerc.

‘You remember the clothes of the people you questioned, Monsieur Hansen?’

‘I do.’

‘Does this remind you of anything?’

Hansen studied the small, wet piece of brown fabric inside the bag. ‘Where did you find this?’ he asked excitedly.

‘On the safety grid at the end of the maintenance ramp. There are sharp burrs on the top bar. A shitty job on some worker’s part, I’d say. Anyway, normalement I’d have thought it was from the victim’s clothes. He was wearing a black suit, though, and ...’

Hansen interrupted him. ‘I have an idea where this scrap comes from.’ He reached for his phone and called the guards on duty. ‘We should check Oana Moraru’s cabinet. She was the victim’s assistant. Wait a moment. The guards are coming to open the door to her office.’

‘We also know a thing or two about opening doors, you know.’

Hansen was sure that only two kinds of noise could give Inspector Leclerc true satisfaction in his line of work: the whining of a suspect quaking with fear as Leclerc read him his rights, and the sound of a door-breaking ram smashing into a locked door.

‘Hold your horses, inspector! These are different kinds of lock.’

In less than a minute, a guard from the night shift had appeared. He wore a white, braided cord on the left shoulder of his black suit. This fourragère, originally a military award, identified the tall man as a member of the Commission’s VIP protection team, which provided the nearby offices of the Commission’s highest officials with extra security around the clock. He touched a special card to the magnetic lock on Oana’s office door. Three beeps and a tiny green light flashing on the handle signalled that the door was now open. Stepping inside, Hansen pointed at the filing cabinet.

It was locked. Without proper authorisation, Leclerc had no right to open it, much less to look inside. When Madsen noticed the detective’s inquisitive look, he gave in to his own curiosity and the excitement of the investigation. Just in case, though, he reminded Leclerc to proceed carefully. ‘Doucement, doucement!’

Leclerc nodded. He called over the member of the forensics squad called Didier, who fished a small pouch from his tool bag. It took him barely five seconds to open the lock on the cabinet. He stepped back and Leclerc opened the sliding doors. Expectation was written all over his lean face. Full of curiosity, Hansen peered inside too.

They both gave a sigh of frustration at the contents of the cabinet.

‘Well,’ said Hansen dryly, rubbing the back of his neck. ‘There’s probably a difference between removing evidence and walking home in your own jacket, but it’s hard to put my finger on it.’

Leclerc seemed disappointed too. ‘Are you sure it was a brown jacket?’

‘Yes. Do you want me to ask Mademoiselle Moraru to …?’

 ‘We’ll take care of that,’ the detective interrupted him.

Looks like Oana is going to have an unpleasant encounter with Leclerc, Hansen thought. Scanning the cabinet, he suddenly noticed that the box of cigarettes was missing.

‘You did find the cigarette butts in the makeshift ashtray in the place Monsieur Rasmussen fell from, didn’t you?’

Beneath Leclerc’s furrowed eyebrows, a flash of new interest appeared in his blue eyes. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I presume Monsieur Ruiz was still here when you arrived?’

‘He was, and so was that Fleming, De Bruyn or whatever his name is.’

‘And Ruiz didn’t even mention it?’

‘Didn’t mention what?’

This is not happening, Hansen thought. This can’t have escaped the attention of the professionals. That’s also probably what Ruiz thought, and that’s why he didn’t take Leclerc by the hand and lead him to the maintenance ramp. Unless – but Hansen didn’t even want to think about Ruiz hiding evidence from the Belgian detectives.

‘Follow me.’

With Inspector Leclerc in tow, he hurried to the maintenance ramp. He asked him for a torch, assuming that a homicide detective would be carrying one, but Leclerc just fished his phone from his pocket and switched on the strong LED light.

Covered with wind and drizzle, the tin can was still there where Hansen had found it. Rasmussen’s white cigarette butts were already absorbing the brownish rot from the heap of discharged cigarettes below, but they were still easy to recognise from the lack of filters. His were the only recent ones.

Hansen dug his fingers into the disgusting pile of damp ashes and cigarette butts. There was no trace of Oana’s cigarettes.

‘So what did you want to show me?’ Leclerc asked impatiently. He wiped the raindrops off his ophone with his sleeve and pulled up his collar.

Hansen curled his lips. 

‘Laissez tomber, mon Commissaire. I found some of the victim’s cigarettes. For a moment I thought it could be relevant. On second thoughts, I’ve realised it’s not that important. Probably just a waste of your precious time. Apologies.’

‘You are indeed wasting my time.’

Leclerc went back inside and almost shut the heavy door in Hansen’s face as he followed the Belgian. Mads Hansen didn’t mind the rudeness. He was relieved that the frustrated detective hadn’t seen the surprise on his face.

Only he and Ruiz had been there when Hansen found the cigarette butts. Did Ruiz remove them? The Directorate of Security could do a lot of things during their preliminary investigation. Removing evidence was not one of them. Who else could have done it? Who else knew about it?

The one who smoked those menthol cigarettes, of course, Hansen concluded.

He could only be certain of one thing. Whoever removed the cigarettes did it for one purpose only: to conceal the fact that Oana Moraru was there when the suicide happened, or just shortly before. And if so, this could only mean that she was heavily involved in Rasmussen’s death in one way or another.

The VIP guard was still idling on the floor in front of Rasmussen’s office. ‘Looks like we’re done here,’ Hansen told him. He saw Leclerc talking to his people, apparently in a foul mood. He couldn’t understand a word of the fast, grumpily muttered French they were exchanging, and wished he could ask the Belgian VIP guard to translate.

‘Goodbye, mon Commissaire, and good luck with your investigations,’ Hansen said eventually. Leclerc barely gave him a nod in response.

When they reached the lifts, Hansen asked the guard if he could hear what the homicide detective was talking about with his staff.

‘Do you really want to know?’ was the reply. Hansen responded with a look telling him to go ahead. ‘He thinks you’re an arsehole.’

‘Maybe I’m supposed to be one,’ Hansen replied. For the first time in this long evening, he allowed himself a smile. The perplexed look on the guard’s face didn’t matter to him. He was not supposed to know more than what he needed to know, just like Commissaire Leclerc. But when he realised that he had also apparently been left in the dark about many of the details around Viggo Rasmussen’s death, his smile turned bitter.