What set them apart was also what made the Dutchman the perfect man for the job, as necessary as the similarities, maybe even more. The Dutchman seemed a spineless dick, who wallowing in his misery. The way his shoulder drooped and how he had drank himself into a stupor illustrated the lack of a will to survive. Matt knew that the will to survive was essential. Without it he would’ve been dead, something he realized every single wakeful night.

Matt traced the contours of his face and eyes in the mirror. Discipline and ambition were vital. He’d possessed both all his life, but had only become aware of it the day his life was destroyed. Before that he’d been a sportsman, an athlete. A winner. A surfer who never lost, not against his competitors, not against the wind and swell. Massive waves, steep drops, nothing could wipe him out. It had formed him, though most of his winnings were also based on instinct, on picking the right trail riding a wave. After that day, discipline had completely taken over from instinct. Matt shivered and rubbed his crew cut, hair in the same dark color as the Dutchman’s unkempt and greasy hair.

A distant church bell chimed four. He had a few more hours to kill before he’d meet with Victoria. Matt pressed out two Dexies and popped them without bothering to wash them down. He stashed the remaining pills in the room’s safe, before he propped up the pillows against the headboard. He sat back, his spine touching but not resting against the pillows, and opened his laptop again. One of the picture he’d taken at the bar was a winner. It showed the Dutchman face on, his expression neutral, mouth closed, just like an ID photo should be. Matt’s fingers hovered over the keyboard for a moment. The Dutchman had been too drunk to notice him taking pictures. He quickly cropped the picture to passport photo size, but didn’t gray out the background. Not yet. He opened his avatar’s LinkedIn page and selected the picture. One second, and one second only, he hesitated, then he clicked past his wavering and uploaded the picture. The Dutchman would take the bait. He would play along. For as long as he needed him to. Matt studied the picture once more before he reloaded the page. His life-and-blood avatar could turn against him if he’d let him live. He could delete his electronic life, wipe him from the face of the earth, but he could not control the man’s actions after that. Maybe he should delete him physically, too. Matt shook off the thought. Later. He’d decide later. What mattered now was the traceable part of the life of Dallas Bard, which he had programmed to perfection and no one would find a glitch in his programming, or a back door, a bug. Especially not the Dutchman. The outdated laptop on his desk held documents only. Nothing indicated even the slightest knowledge of programming, hacking or any other technical abilities. The Dutchman wouldn’t find out a thing. At least not until he wanted him to.

With a few key strokes Matt adjusted the picture for a passport and sent it to his Amsterdam contact. The reply came within seconds: the IDs would be ready by noon. He could pick them up at one of the canals behind the hotel. ‘Cash’ said the brief but apt salutation. No names and an untraceable hotmail account.

As a final touch, Matt hacked into the Dutchman’s laptop and planted documents, altered the search history and placed fake chat threads. He left electronic trails to the LinkedIn page, to the website of Giddyap and to the internet meeting at the Krasnapolsky Hotel. He logged off, leaving the snapshot of the Dutchman as desktop image. Then he leant into the pillows and watched the gray morning light chase the dark night away over the rooftops. He’d cast the bait. The Dutchman would bite and Victoria would rope him in.