In autumn, it simply doesn’t rain in Brussels. Leaden clouds descend upon the town and turn the chilly air into mist that smells of damp refuse and makes the dark grey sky seem like an unforgiveable crime.
It was around half past five in the afternoon, on a Monday in mid-November. The roundabout at Rond Point Schuman was choked with traffic, vehicles standing bumper-to-bumper waiting to turn off into the long Rue de la Loi, where their red tail lights melted into an endless, blood-coloured stream among the featureless office buildings.
Flanking the roundabout, the buildings of the Council and the Commission faced each other like colossal monsters. Compared to the simple, cube-like façade of the Council building, its opposite number resembled the body of a raptor about to pounce. Its long, curved, prison-like exterior seemed to engulf the rain-soaked square. Thick smog covered the top floors. The pillar supporting its western wing bore an inscription in pompous letters more befitting of a battleship: BERLAYMONT, and beneath: EUROPEAN COMMISSION in Dutch and French.
The officials streaming in and out through the bullet-proof glass gate generally paid no attention to the tourists admiring the imposing architecture. On this occasion, however, a man wearing a black coat and carrying a leather case stopped next to a group of Chinese tourists who were deep in conversation. He fondled the access badge hanging round his neck and stared at a girl with a red umbrella who was about to take a photo of her group. She was looking at the display screen on her smartphone and shouting instructions to her fellow tourists, making sure that everyone fit into the picture. Someone shouted something back and they all burst out laughing. The Chinese girl giggled with them. She took two steps back.
The man in the black coat suddenly looked up towards the mist surrounding the top floors. The Chinese girl pushed her red umbrella backwards, so that its edge would not spoil the picture, and this forced her, too, to look upwards. The giggle on her face turned into dread, but the scream only left her lips when a body impacted on the ground directly in front of her. At the very spot where she had been standing just a few seconds before, the slow rain mixed with blood and brain matter on the shattered remains of a man clad in a dark suit.