European crime fiction in the crosshairs
n°4 February-March-april 2006


A Hard Operation

A short story by Denis Leduc
Translated by Sue Neale, Oxford Brookes University

Denis Leduc was born in Brussells in 1957. He trained as a social worker and journalist. He has lived in Louvain-la-Neuve since 1990. He is active in the world of urban politics and from this he has developed a taste for bringing to public notice the way urban power politics furnctions. The discovery of similar mechanisms in the new town led him to write novels. Sang Dalle (the first volume of Les Mystères de Louvain-la-Neuve ) appeared in 1999, followed by Les Pluies d'A.L'E'A ., Les ressacs de l'Ondine and Flux Tendu . They were followed by the series Suites Noires de Louvain-la-Neuve : La nuit est un compost , La congrégation des sponsors and La Jactance de la Fontaine.


The exams were over and they were bored. All three of them. Leonie, the blonde. Anouk, the former punk whose hair still looked like she had been pulled through a hedge backwards. And Beatrice, the redhead. It was only Leonie who really belonged to the student community and had that special ability to fail exams every time but be exceptionally confident that next time she would pass them easily. Jealous girls and a legion of guys she had chucked suggested that really she was talking out of her arse, but Leonie didn't give a toss. She was the youngest of the trio though she cleverly glossed over her age, which slipped from 20 one day to 25 the next. Where she hid her identity card was a secret as well-kept as where she hid her pill or her condom collection, well-known for their wild colours and shapes. Beatrice looked and acted 26. She worked as a barmaid at the Mouche and had done for ages. The oldest students and certain other people in the university village laughingly said she's been there since the ark. It was rumoured that she had studied psychology and that she was gay, which she happily acknowledged. However, she knew, better than many younger women, how to give head in the toilets or how to manipulate her fingers to give a man a hard on and suck him off in the underground car parks. Her friendship with Leonie had set tongues wagging. Anouk didn't quite fit in with the trio. For a start she was much younger. Also she looked like someone of a future which would certainly never happen. Finally she was so shy and reserved. While the other two know how to drink like fish, Anouk liked to tempt herself with a lemon tea or mineral water which she sipped daintily. At the end of a bender she would allow herself just one Rodenbach which made her blush to the tips of her ears. They were bored. It was stiflingly hot.

The terraces was heaving, the town's pedestrian precinct hummed with a gentle nonchalance, swaying to the rhythms of people worrying about the end result of the next round of discussions and holiday plans. All around outbursts broke into the general hubbub made by circles of friends or other small groups of people. Couples got together, others broke up. Drug dealers, young and down on their luck, pocketed their takings which they would blow at the Luna in one go.

They were getting bored when they decided to have some fun. Anouk hated the heat especially when it felt like a storm was about to break. She said it made her feel sick. That night she was feeling really shitty. Pablo had dumped her. Every time she got herself it was like this: her belly ached. But … and she wouldn't tell her friends this, she was late coming on and that made her feel even worse. Leone liked the heat and knew how to dress in a way that allowed the warm waves of heat roll over her body. That night she was really furious. Lucien had left her in the lurch and she didn't think it was just to jerk himself off alone in his room.

Beatrice did not give a shit about the heat. She had felt alone for a long time and she was going to have a good time tonight. That morning she had decided that tonight she needed a good screw and she had been thinking about it all day long. For more than an hour they wandered around and still nothing was on offer. She too began to feel really pissed off. Time was dragging, the storm was breaking, the conversation petered out and the best clients were getting drunk or passed them without even a glance. Their mood was grim.

Around ten they were walking down the rue des Wallons . Beatrice had rolled her sleeves up over the round part of her charming shoulder. The night made the contrast between her ample breasts that swayed in her flashy white blouse and the warm brown of her arms pure poetry. She could tell that something was up with Anouk and from time to time she looked at her anxiously, in an almost maternal way.

Anouk felt bitterness overwhelm her, the feeling was getting worse, and she tried to throw it off by repeatedly shaking her head which must have been intriguing for her friends. She walked with her arms behind her back at an odd angle, her thin reptilian hands hooked into the small back pockets of her loose, crackled black leather trousers. They made her feel too hot and they rubbed her thighs.

Leone wanted to distract them and hummed a Maurane song. She had pulled the zip of her sand-coloured dungarees right down and in the dark it was more and more difficult to see the difference between the fabric and her body, which was ready to catch her prey.

Although the throbbing sound had been audible for a few minutes already, they had hardly enough time to throw themselves against the window of the Courseur . Three heavy motorbikes, adorned with various pennants, brushed past them, the chrome sparkling brightly; they choked the women with stinking exhaust fumes. One bike was brightly decorated with several small teddy bears threaded onto a fifties television aerial. The three bikers seemed like knights of some ancient dark prince, with their gleaming silvery visors, looking tough in their enormous boots with spurs and squeezed into huge fringed leather jackets like Billy the Kid.

It reminded Beatrice of a similar incident on a holiday long ago. Leone cried out. Anouk cursed, she detested men like this.

The spluttering caravan slowly descended the long slope and they watched the three destroyers parking in the university square. When they reached it, the three knights took a table on the terrace at the corner of the main street; their abandoned mounts lay resting beside the fountain. Beatrice watched the trio. She thought it was funny that one of the bikers had not taken off his helmet. Looking more closely she felt herself shiver; something in the silhouette, much less substantial than the other two, made her think that it must be a woman. Pursing her lips, she signalled to the others to follow her. They settled themselves at down at a table nearer the centre of the square.

Anoul could not stop herself from giving a disproving look as she passed the knights, which though brief, did not escape their notice. The big bald one with the thick handlebar moustache and wearing a vest decorated with the tag ‘Kiss of Death' played with the his ear pierced with lots of grubby rings belched as she passed. The other, taller and slim, with the chiselled face of a bullfighter sniggered before clicking his tongue as Leonie went by.

They sat down. Anouk turned her back on them calling them ‘wankers'. Leone placed herself at and angle, pulling her zip down at the same time. Beatrice positioned herself so that she could keep an eye on the helmet that was still closed and mysterious. They continued their conversation, aware that the presence of these bikers had given it a new twist. Anouk began to laugh throwing herself back in a way that transformed her body into a form that was not only superb but perfect. Leone stretched out rhythmically, each small movement making her zip slide a little to almost completely reveal the outline of her pert breasts. Beatrice was happy running her tongue around her lips to moisten and thicken them, shaking out her heavy red locks and opening and closing her thighs under the table.

The last helmet was removed and Anouk watched as it revealed a beautiful face with short silvery hair. Eventually, as time passed the six pairs of eyes met. When the bullfighter had swaggered past their table, Leone had whispered to him to sit down. They were soon all together.

The three friends became animated, their laughter and suggestive gestures intensified. The three bikers played their role of rotten angels to perfection.

Only Anouk remained relatively reserved. She felt left out: Alex the bullfighter seemed only to be passionately interested in Leone's white doves which were now almost spilling out. She did not like the look of Jules even if he was really good at word play. The woman, Esther, a real ice maiden, seemed fascinated by Beatrice's crotch.

It was Jules who suggested that they could go for a ride together and play a bit of pool, if the women fancied it.

They agreed without needing to discuss it; certainly they thought the unknown was better than staying here and being bored witless.

Jules stood his bike up and seeing that Alex was holding out his hand to Leonie, he motioned to Anouk to mount up. Suddenly safety conscious, he crowned her with his helmet but only covered his cranium with an old bushman's hat. Anouk laughed out loud when she saw her two friends. Leonie was trying to keep her balance while pulling up her zip but as little as possible. Beatrice, on the woman's iron horse, had a helmet on too but when they started off it was her bum, suddenly uncovered, that really need some protection.

Beatrice had initially felt intrigued by the frosty demeanour of the woman but she had also sensed her look that scrutinised and weighed her up like a sweet that she was going savour/appreciate. That pleased her and she would do whatever she had to in order to up the stakes in this silent game, only conscious of the first tingling of arousal she was feeling in her thighs. So she threw her leg over the bike and pressed her breasts into Esther's back.

Jules set off first, shouting to the other: “We'll meet at Auderghem.”

They arrived well before the others and he offered his jacket to Anouk who was feeling the cold. Without knowing why, the lateness of the two other chrome steeds made her anxious. She refused the small pill that he offered her but accepted the joint that he rolled with his dirty, podgy fingers.

Alex stopped slowly at the Terhulpen rest area. He dismounted with the grace of a cowboy dandy from a B movie, like the ones filmed in Catalonia. Leonie stretched. He took her by the arm. She didn't like this firm, violent handling but aware of his strength and what he might be capable of, she followed him. They did not go far. Alex flopped down on a bench by a stinking bin with rubbish strewn around. She joined him three and waited while he took her helmet off let her frothy roughed up hair untangle itself. He grunted unpleasantly. But already Leonie had already seen in his flinty look just what he seemed to be expecting, if not hoping for, no really wanting. Leonie was still having fun and even though the venue was hardly suitable for romantic declarations, she made up her mind to give him what was his due. Fixing his gaze she pulled the zip right down. His eyes blinked, he put his hands out and placed them on the beautiful soft and golden orbs. He pinched her dark red nipples that were pierced with heavy translucent rings. Leonie felt the pain but whatever she never, ever liked moves that were too fast. She was completely surprised by what happened next. Still holding her breasts, he pushed her down to his crotch, while at the same time he growled: “Suck that” in a rough, desperate tone. She had no choice but to obey though she was unable to stop herself from gagging when he ejaculated very quickly into her mouth. Immediately, without a word he grabbed her arm again, put her back on the bike and they set off again. Leonie was sweating, her left breast was painful and it seemed that the nipple was irritated, maybe even burnt, above all she felt a tremor of strange anxiety that tempered her enthusiasm for some pleasure. Was this jaunt really a good idea?

Esther stopped at the Rixensart rest area. A few truck drivers, who were finishing the last dregs of their coffees, whistled when they saw Beatriz's nude butt.

The bike came to a halt at the end of the lay-by, near the copse that bordered a field that seemed detached from the countryside around. Beatrice got down, took a few wobbly steps, removed her helmet and asked the silver-haired woman: “What are we doing here?” Esther pouted, puckering up her lips and shrugged her shoulders. “I need to do something…” With these enigmatic words, she took off and in the vegetation that was more diesel than chlorophyll. Beatrice walked up and down the length of the bike. After a short while, it seemed to her that Esther had finally left so she plunged off into the copse. There it was darker than the night. She could see nothing; she called out. A noise made her jump; she made out a crouched shape which she approached, “Esther?” When she was barely more than two or three metres from the silhouette, the shape changed and sprang up and Beatrice found herself thrown down onto the grass. Before she could really work out what had happened, she felt a finger exploring her fanny. She tried to resist it despite the wave of pleasure that it gave her; she managed to put her legs together and let fly with a punch which made contact with the padded leather of Esther's jacket. Esther stood up laughing coarsely: “Can't anyone have some fun with you?”

Beatrice stood up, noticed that one of her short sleeves had been torn, adjusted her crumpled short skirt and replied with a trembling voice: “Yes. But not like that. Are we going or what?” Esther stroked her shoulder gently. “Ok, let's go they must be waiting for us.”

On the bike, Beatrice, who hated being taken in such a cavalier fashion, still felt insidiously drawn to this beautiful but strange woman, pressed her body against her with all the strength her small breasts could muster.

After the meeting at Audgergham things happened very quickly.

What follows is thanks to the difficulties in relating the events that Anouk was able to do for police inspector Vandooren and the psychologist Michielsen three days later. The chain of events is somewhat patchy and disordered.

“I knew that there was a smell of shit…” these were the first truly conscious, rational words that Anouk had spoken. They were also those which terminated her deposition and which we find in the transcriptions of her interview with Florence Michielsen.

“ … it stank, or it really stank in that warehouse… there …. there were some flags with skull and crossbones on them. Shit. It stank of shit. Oh I am so sorry for the shop who, which…”

Anouk remembered three elements which overlapped in her conscience which was turned upside down by the fear which had not left her.

The strength of the joint, “stronger than anything she had puffed on before…” She explained that she had felt as if she has been plunged into a delightful bath, enveloped in an impression of being split into two planes. She insisted that she had “found Leonie and Beatrix odd from the moment they had arrived…” Then that: “Beatrice's blouse was torn, her skirt dirty. Leonie was livid with Alex…” They left. She had experienced this new trip like “a silent and lonely aerial ride, I wondered if we were flying…” Where? From her statement it seemed clear that the trio seemed familiar with this old disused warehouse in the Place Koeckx at Molenbeek-St-Jean. They had entered by the main door, and the bikes had immediately been parked in the main room. In her statements Anouk maintained that there were six large pool tables, above a glittering bar there was an enormous sound system and above everything flags and other embarassing banners.

In his report Inspector Vandooren had been obliged to underline what follows: “From the first examinations following Miss Anouk Demmester's statement, it seems that it would be completely impossible for three motorbikes to have been parked in this warehouse: we have actually found a pool table which we have asked experts to test to determine when it was last used – but only one. A large bar counter certainly occupies a portion of the wall but it is in such a state of decrepitude that the use reported by the witness seems doubtful; no trace of a sound system has been uncovered; the staircase leading to the first floor and the state it is in make it difficult to believe the declaration of the above named person; on the other hand , the broken window and its crumbling frame match exactly her assertion of a violent exit; the condom found there is subject to an examination at the Institute…”

Anouk kept repeating (almost every minute) “You have no idea what they did to us: dis-gus-ting! I got out by jumping out of the window. They were still screaming, oh how they cried out! But it had all started so well!”

The sequence of the orgy has been put together by the psychologist, Michielsen.

The basic facts have been assembled by the Inspector. Both regret however the hysterical attitude of the press articles which have pounced on this brief news item.

It seems that the two men and one woman were not equally or even intentionally violent or cruel. It has not been easy to determine who put the sound system on and who supplied the ecstasy, this new product which has already taken its toll. Beatrice Ramirez was a well known pool player. This is confirmed in Louvain-la-Neuve. However she had already been questioned about drug offences.

Anouk acknowledged that she had accepted the pill that Esther gave her without asking too many questions. “Things went funny straight away… I remember starting to jump around on one of the tables…” Then her period cramps increased; she was doubled up with the pain; Jules had approached her. “He stroked my hair and a bit more… I pushed him away, more than once! He insisted… and frankly his face became really set. So I followed him upstairs. I felt like I was in a cloud. We went down again quickly to find the others… Up there? I don't know, it did not last long…” Esher took off her clothes first. Anouk remembered her tattooed skin: “From her shoulders to her bum, her back was just one large tattoo. Like the insert for a CD.

It was hard rock or heavy metal…” Vandooren noted that strangely Anouk never made a link between these and the flags on the ground floor that she had described in such stunning detail. Esther and Beatrice danced. “She followed Beatrice's moves and then this tattooed face seemed to snigger or hold out its tongue… Yeah, it was strange but splendid too, please excuse me for saying this. Ah That's not all! Under her breasts there was another tattoo, a sort of cross, a little like a swastika. And the breasts had little silver caps on them…. At the time when Esther seized Beatrice's body, I noticed that Leone was crying out… Alex was holding her right against him, bent against the table… She had nothing on. She was refusing to be taken that way… And Jules would not stop Yes it could have been so good, yes yes! I'm telling you… I know what we are like!”

Then the story really becomes confused.

How many times did Anouk go up to the first floor with the aforementioned Jules?

When did she notice that Leonie was lying on her back on the pool table with Alex's studded belt around her neck?

How long did Anouk's friends cry out?

Who caused the bleeding sutures on Beatrice's back while she moaned face down on one of the pool tables?

Did Anouk dream or really see the aforementioned Esther threaten her both with a large nappy pin and scissors?

“I went upstairs again and, shaking with fear, had sex with Jules. While he masturbated … without much success …the screams from downstairs became more and more dreadful. I pushed him off and went down quickly. Oh my god, my god. I will never be able to forget that. Leonie was pouring blood every where. He had attached her to the pool table with wire. He had put balls on her eyes … she was screaming; how did she have enough strength to do that? And Beatrice was covered in bites that were bleeding and the other one was sticking needles into her all over, everywhere. I went back up. Why? I don't know Jules jumped on me again. I grabbed the scissors and I stabbed him in his fat belly. It was him who screamed then. I jumped out of the window. I fell badly in the courtyard, I hurt my ankle and… there was this scooter. I took it and I took off quickly and then I lost control and crashed into the window of an upholsterer who immediately ran out in his pyjamas and looked at me as if I had fallen from another planet… Which is what it seemed like…”

It should be noted that Inspector Vandooren confirmed that apart from the other remarks already mentioned, no body or any trace of a fight or blood have been found at the crime scene.

The next day, on a sadomasochistic internet chatroom called Kiss of death , known to the special police services, the following intriguing message appeared: “Game over. Score: 2-1”. This site is still live.

Three days later plastic sacks containing the dismembered parts of female bodies were discovered in the car park of the central Post Office of Molenbeek-St-Jean. Certain hypotheses have been suggested but Beatrice and Leonie are still posted as missing persons.

Two years have passed, Anouk is slowly getting better.

I hope she will forgive me for telling you the story of her nightmarish wrecking on the rocks.


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