I must have taken a few bad turns as I couldn't find the house. It was getting late as I roamed the city, thinking of Yosht who always said that 'whenever I'm in Amsterdam my heart opens like a flower, while my soul gently bleeds.' I knew I was close because I recognized the surroundings and I knew there should be a woman on this block, sitting there, as the night grows still, when suddenly I found myself on the other side of the canal and across the water spotted that slim, tall building in between its two big neighbours. I continued till the next bridge, crossed the canal and walked back.
Her voice through the intercom was loud and clear: 'Who's there?'
'Erik Beken, a friend of Yosht.'
'Yosht is not here.'
'Do you know where he is?' Can I come up please?' I begged.
'The fourth part of the day is already gone,' was Yvonne's answer. Then there was a click and the front door opened. I climbed the stairs and found Yvonne, waiting for me in the doorway, leaning heavily on a walking cane. She looked brittle as a fallen leaf and fragile like a bird.
'It's been a long time,' she said, 'and it's late, but please, do come in.'
Her room was so stuffy I could hardly breathe. We sat down at the round table near the window from where we could see the street lights reflected in the water. With a steady hand Yvonne poured me a small glass of her favourite herbal liquor.
'He was here. He left a few days ago. He said there were lawmen on his trail.'
'I knew it!' I exclaimed. 'I knew he would come to you. How did he seem to you?'
'Well, you know Yosht, always in a hurry. Always with a plan in that messy head of his.'
'Yosht always has plans, but did he confide in you?'
'No, but there is a note he left behind. He knew you would come here looking for him.' She stood up from the table and walked to a cabinet. She opened the top drawer and took out a folded paper. It was then that I noticed that the bottom drawer was not entirely closed. Through the gap I could see what looked like bundles of banknotes. Yvonne turned around and caught me looking at the bottom drawer. She smiled. 'You want to have a closer look? Come over and feast your eyes.'
I opened the drawer and it was filled with tidy packages of banknotes. 'What on earth is that?' I asked pointing at the contents of that drawer. 'Ransom money? That's what it looks like.'
Yvonne laughed and explained that this was part of the proceeds of the sale of her building. A developer wants to turn it into a hotel, together with the properties to the left and right of her. 'This way I am never short of cash and besides, I never trusted banks.' Yvonne handed me the note Yosht had left for me. I recognized his handwriting:
Remember the Fifth of Octagon.
I will wait for you there.
Read the message in the glass
'Made no sense to me,' Yvonne said, shrugging her shoulders. 'That note is a riddle.'
'Yeah,' I said, 'sort of,' and folded the note into my wallet.