Jonathan cracked open the door. The absence of the shrill shrieks and the overpowering physical presence of Victoria Walter had left a powerful silence in the suite. On the far end the laptop, or a laptop, sat on the desk, opened but with a black screen, the Moleskine notebook, the fountain pen it its crease, beside it, the Crumpler bag on the floor. Jonathan crossed the room and plumped down into the chair. He swiveled round and scanned the suite and the adjoining bedroom, turning the key card over and over in his fingers. No backpack.

With his thumb Jonathan caressed the laptop, but when his index finger hitched on the spacer the screen flashed to life. A shock sent goosebumps over his skin as he stared at a picture of him. A picture of him at café De Eland. For a moment his brain shut down. He shook his head, unable to get his finger to let go of the trackpad. The cursor’s arrow pointed at one of his half-closed eyes. He retracted his hand, folded his arms and grabbed his sides. One of them must’ve snapped a picture of him while he sat at the bar. He swallowed the annoyance back and studied the picture. He wasn’t drunk at the time of the picture. At least not blind drunk, like he must’ve been when he left. It was dark outside and his body and those of other guests reflected in the large window. Jonathan zoomed in. Faces were a blur. The picture must have been taken from some where in the back of the café. He searched his memory and the picture for signs of recognition. He had sat there and had drunk himself into a stupor. And now he had no clue what was happening to him.

He slumped back and stared at the picture. He had wanted to go, find his backpack, leave the Crumpler behind and go. Home. The picture held him back. He couldn’t go home. Not yet. Too much triggered his curiosity, too much bugged him, worried him. These people were bending over backwards to make everyone believe he was Dallas Bard. There was a story to this. A story that might get him back into the saddle. If he could find out what was going on, he could maybe shed the big loser L that seemed inked on his forehead. With a good story he could fight his way back and maybe even revenge the bitch. He moved the cursor to the docking station. First he needed to find out what this Barbie doll and her ashen-faced he-man were doing with the computer freaks downstairs. It couldn’t be just a practical joke. No one in his right mind would book an expensive suite in a hotel like this for a practical joke.

The mail box looked organized and very much unlike his messy, spam-ridden inbox. It opened without asking for a password, but that didn’t prevent his finger from trembling as if he was about to commit a crime. He pushed all thoughts back and moved the cursor to the inbox. They claimed he was Dallas Bard. He had every right to look into the mail.

The inbox held a few mails marked read and two emails marked unread. Both were sent by Victoria Walter. And both were sent when he’d been in the bathroom. He clicked on the first one.


Hey Dallas!

Yay!!! Happy you decided to come! The meeting is a fab chance to meet everyone. Don’t worry!!! We won’t throw you in at the deep end! Just introduce you to a few people. If anyone mentions algorithms, just cut them short!! You signed an NDA! That’s all you need to say. 

Aee you @ the Ams-ix party in the Paardenstraat. 9PM sharp. Yr badge is yr ticket!!!

And change! You’ll find a bag with new gear in the bedroom!!