Jane tagged along with her boyfriend as he wandered Amsterdam’s cobbled streets, visiting half a dozen record stores.
She figured they were hunting somebody, a killer-music-fan maybe, or a child molester who scouted records, but, at the final shop, her boyfriend found a dusty LP in the pop stacks and their hunt ended.
He led them home to the little apartment they shared, pulled out a record player she hadn’t known they owned, and spent the night listening to a Japanese pop song on an infinite loop.
The next morning they walked through the streets again, but while the day before he’d seemed listless, now he had purpose.
It was gray over head, but not raining. They’d crossed a few of that city’s many bridges and ended up on some kind of tiny city-island sort-of-place, Wittenburg.
It was all wide streets and brick buildings, very quiet. It seemed residential, which she hoped meant they were there for somebody, but they stopped in front of a small shop, big windows with a few floors of brick apartments on top. He stepped in and Jane followed, hoping it wasn’t another record store.
Her first thought was, Chinese restaurant, but she wasn’t sure if it might have been Korean or Japanese, and then she noticed the lack of tables.
It was one big wood-floored room. The walls were covered in hanging white cloth and there was a weird tiny house at the back. It was like the kind of structure meant to keep refuse out of a well, a little wood shingled roof with pillars that looked like the bleached wood you find in the desert.
Her boyfriend walked forward quietly, kicking off his boots before taking the step up from the landing. She followed suit.
“What’re we doing?”
“It won’t take long,” he said, his back facing her as he padded forward.
She heard the floor creak, a creak that hadn’t come from either of their footsteps. She felt for the Makarov tucked in the back of her belt.
Her boyfriend knelt down in front of that tiny gazebo, sitting on his legs in a way that looked painful. Under the first little roof there was a tinier house, this one with walls and a pair of carved wooden doors shut tight.
He pulled something from the inside pocket of his coat where he usually kept spare clips. Camp matches, she thought, but that wasn’t right. He lit the ends with a red Bic lighter from the same pocket, and she smelled something she’d already noticed hanging in the air, but stronger now.
He put out the flaming incense with a wave and left them smoking in a bowl filled with sand.
“Is this about that plane crash?” she asked. “The 123,” she said, clarifying because they’d had a busy couple of weeks for plane crashes.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Somebody you knew?”
“Not really,” he said.
His face was usually blank, like somebody who’d died in their sleep with their eyes open, but as she crept up to his back and slipped her arms around his shoulders, craning her neck to peek at his eyes, she’d seen something like a grimace; it was gone before she could be sure.
“Yeah,” he said, “and there’s nobody I can kill to make it right.”
“Excuse me-” It was a voice coming from the third set of creaks. Jane had forgotten but had a pistol aimed before her head turned.
He was white, Dutch she assumed, but dressed in a weird white bath robe with something like a black pope hat on his head.
“C-Can I help you with something?” the guy asked, Dutch accent with an odd Asian flavor.
“…We’re going,” she said. “Right?”
“Yeah,” her boyfriend said. His knees cracked as he stood up, and they walked out.