Normally, Tamara works in the same window room in de Wallen, Amsterdam’s red light area. Tonight she decided to take a break and work somewhere else. Where her usual window is located on the canal the tour groups, stopping to stand and stare at her with a mixture of wonder and disapproval, drive her crazy. On most days she doesn’t care one way or the other but sometimes she has had enough of all the people. It’s also a nuthouse here in the Oudekennissteeg, between the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, but because the street is so narrow it forces people to at least keep moving on through.
Between her workroom and that of her colleague Iris next door, there is a shared bathroom with connecting doors. They have known each other for a while and have even seen clients together on occasion. That creates a bond. Iris is a beautiful woman with a full head of blond curls. Usually she wears romantic white lingerie, complete with a garter belt and garters embellished with tiny roses. Tamara loves looking at Iris, admiring how she glows under the black-light. No wonder she is almost constantly busy.
But tonight Tamara notices that Iris doesn’t look her best and seems tired and anxious. Just now when they spoke with each other, Iris’s eyes were startled looking and kept darting nervously back and forth. She seemed more a frightened deer than her normal confident, sexy self. Tamara thought about this as she looked at the people strolling past her window without really seeing them. From the room next door soft music is playing. Iris loves classical music; a welcome relief from the house music her colleagues on the canal listen to.
A man comes up to Iris’s window. From where she stands she can see him clearly. Dressed to the nines, complete with tie and attaché case, he briefly glances at Tamara as he raises his hand to greet Iris. Tamara hears the door open and notices that he steps in over the threshold without the usual questions being asked. It’s probably a regular client, Tamara thinks, or someone Iris knows. But for some reason his body language seemed suspicious. He had a stern look and didn’t look as if he was interested in being a client and also not friendly enough for an acquaintance. Tamara suddenly feels restless and thinks she should do something. She opens and closes the door to the street to make it seem that she has a client and then draws the faded red curtain. Taking off her shoes, she walks carefully on bare feet into the shared bathroom and sits on the toilet pretending to pee so she won’t get caught eavesdropping.
At first it’s quiet in the room. Then she hears the man ask: ‘The woman next door, can she hear us?’ Tamara realises that they are talking about her and wonders whether going into the bathroom was such a good idea. She hopes neither of them has to use the toilet and doesn’t dare to move. She hears Iris tell him that the shared bathroom helps to dampen the sound between their rooms and offers to set the music a little louder. Despite the lively notes of Vivaldi, Tamara hears the sound of the man opening his attaché case and take something out. ‘Put this under your mattress,’ he says, ‘someone using the code words ‘Don Vito’ will come to pick it up tonight.’ Iris must have taken it from him because the next thing Tamara can hear is rustling and assumes Iris is doing what he told her to do. ‘Are we through after this?’ She asks him. Instead of an answer, Tamara hears the curtain slide on its rail and the door to the street open. ‘Keep working your regular shifts so that I can stay in touch with you,’ he says. Just then Tamara thinks, shit! He’s going to see that my curtain is also closed and then he might ask Iris to check the bathroom. She hoists her thong hastily and quickly sneaks back to her room. Hopefully by opening and shutting her door before she went into the bathroom they will think I have a client. And sure enough, at the exact moment that she let’s go of the bathroom door handle she hears Iris open the door from her side. She hears her tell the man that it’s empty and he leaves. After a brief moment there’s a knock on the bathroom door. ‘Tamara are you there?’ Iris asks. ‘I know that you don’t have a client and that you were listening at the bathroom door.’ Opening the door, Tamara gives Iris a look of guilt and concern. ‘Sorry,’ she says. ‘But when I saw him coming in your direction I had a bad feeling. Do you want to talk about it?’
With a sigh Iris enters Tamara’s room and sits on the bed. ‘I heard you leaving the bathroom and wanted to have a look but I deliberately took my time opening the door so that you could get out in time. To be honest, I am happy you’re here tonight and that you heard us.’ Iris sighed again and explained: ‘He’s a corrupt cop. The dick has been blackmailing me for a while now and is using me as a go-between. He gets paid good money to give witness testimonies to criminals and he’s smart enough never to deal directly with them or to send anything via internet or the post. Instead, he dumps the documents here with me and they come and pick it up.’ ‘How is he blackmailing you?’ Tamara asks. ‘You know that I have a son?’ asks Iris. ‘He threatens that he’ll go to my son’s school to complain about me, to tell them about my work. That would definitely cause trouble for me around custody and they’d take him seriously because he’s with the police. I already have enough trouble with my ex. This would be the last straw and he’ll take me to court for sure.’
Tamara is seething with anger after hearing this and exclaims: ‘My god, what a bastard! Have you thought about telling someone?’ ‘Yes, of course,’ says Iris ‘but who? How do I know who I can trust, who can really do something to help me. You know how people think about us. There are plenty of people who really couldn’t care less if I lose custody of my kid.’
Next week part 2!