The Reveal: What Happened in Bruges?
Inspector Luttwak Reveals the Mystery to his Brother Nicholas
I met my brother at Site Oud Sint-Jan by the garden close to the canal where the Tattoo-man was found.
“This is a beautiful spot, isn’t it?” I said.
“The whole of Bruges is beautiful, dear brother. You should move back here,” he said. “So what have you figured out for me. Who killed the Tattoo-man?” he said.
“This case can be quite simple if one dismisses what is unnecessary and focus ones attention only to what is relevant. Of course, distinguishing what is relevant and irrelevant is the art of the game, eh?”
“Are we to talk in riddles now, Edward?”
“Be patient, Nicholas. All good things come to those who wait.”
“OK, I wait,” he said. “But I chose to remain impatient.”
“As you wish. Anyway, I am reminded of Michelangelo when he sculpted the famous Pieta now in the Vatican,” I began. “Sculpting is easy, he said. The artist simply removes everything that is unnecessary.”
“Michelangelo didn’t say that, my dear brother,” he said. “My impatience grows.”
“OK, let me first start at the end and answer your question: who killed the Tattoo-man. Afterwards, I will provide you with the analysis and I am sure that you will be convinced.”
“Wonderful,” he said sarcastically. “So who killed the Tattoo-man?”
“No one,” I replied.
“No one?” he laughed. “Did you just forget that I have a body in the morgue?”
“Correct. Indeed, you have a dead body. But that is not the same Tattoo-man that we believed or thought he was.”
“Ivana, the girlfriend identified him. As well as two of the students in the class and also Professor Sherbakov. And this dead guy is covered with tattoos and that is why he’s called the Tattoo-man,” he exclaimed. “Have you started drinking already, Edward? It’s not even lunchtime.”
“The dead body that you have lying in the morgue is not the Tattoo-man who is the art model and boyfriend of Ivana but a twin brother,” I explained. “The fact of the matter is that there are two Tattoo-men. I will designate the one you have in the morgue as Tattoo-man two and the other as Tattoo-man one.”
“A twin?” he replied in disbelief. “You’ve been reading too much Sherlock Holmes, Edward.”
“More like John Dickson Carr and his amazing book “The Hollow Man”. But that’s a conversation for another time.”
“So you’re telling me that in essence the victim and the murderer is one and the same man? Do you know how preposterous that statement sounds!”
“Yes and no. And this may seem paradoxical to you but you are applying an incorrect narrative to the evidence rather than utilizing the facts to guide and formulate the narrative.”
“Oh yes, of course!” he said sarcastically. “Please then enlighten me. Go ahead and explain further the correct narrative.”
“We both know that the best evidence comes from the body and the murder weapon. Let us begin there. One mysterious finding stuck out quite prominently to me about this case.”
“Yes, you mean the autopsy report. It stated that the Tattoo-man drowned and that there were no other injuries found, no break in the skin, no bleeding. This didn’t correspond to the finding on the baseball bat, which was covered with the dead man’s blood and fingerprints. DNA analysis confirmed that it was only the Tattoo-man’s blood. We assumed that perhaps the drowned man had a nose bleed. This same man tried to protect himself from his attacker by grabbing hold of the bat and that’s why his fingerprints are all over the weapon.”
“And why were the murderer’s fingerprints not present?”
“My main suspect was Ivana, the girlfriend and she wore winter gloves, of course, like everyone else. The victim, on the other hand, left his gloves in the bar when he was chased away by the Bartender.”
“Don’t you find that story a little too convenient?”
“You mean the nosebleed? Yes, I would agree. But people suffer nosebleeds all the time,” he said. “But brother, you know as well as I do that identical twins do not have identical fingerprints even though they have identical DNA.”
“I know this, of course. This is one of the main things I still remember in my medical training and I was very mindful of that fact. So the only conclusion I could make was that although the fingerprints came from the victim—Tattoo-man two—who is now in your morgue, the blood came from Tattoo-man one.”
Nicholas thought for a while and then said, “Well, this would explain, now that I think about it, how one of the art students described a flower in the list of tattoos on the model’s back, in which place there is a ball-and-claw tattoo on the dead man instead.”
“You are most correct, Nicholas.”
Nicholas pondered for a while and said, “This would also explain the discrepancy of the unbloodied drowned man with the very bloody murder weapon.”
“Ahh, you make a correct statement but also a slightly inaccurate one.”
“My impatience is back and growing again, Edward. What inaccuracy are you talking about?”
“Although the bat had been used as a violent weapon, it was not hammered on the dead man but rather on Tattoo-man one. By this narrative, the bat therefore is not the murder weapon at all. As I’ve said before: the bat has the blood from Tattoo-man one but the fingerprints came from Tattoo-man two.”
“Let me get this straight. You’re saying that the drowned man is NOT the boyfriend of Ivana. He is Tattoo-man two and he attacked Tattoo-man one with a baseball bat. Tattoo-man two was the one holding the bat,” he said. “But how did he drown?”
“Simply, I would imagine that during the struggle between the two, Tattoo-man two fell into the canal and apparently didn’t know how to swim.”
“And the blood on Michael the Vagrant’s violin as well as on Ivana’s pink winter gloves?
“Since we have found only one body, I would assume with great confidence that the twin-- Tattoo-man one-- managed to run back to the hotel to meet up with Ivana whereby she must have touched his face while wearing her pink winter gloves. This is also the reason she admitted to the crime: in order to protect the identity of Tattoo-man one with whom she was deeply in love with. The vagrant was playing the violin in the Market square when the injured Tattoo-man one, his head bleeding, accidentally knocked him down while running away.”
“Quite impressive, Edward!” he exclaimed. “How do we confirm all of this conjecture, my dear brother?”
“By finding the Tattoo-man one, the one with the flower tattoo on his back, of course.”
“And how do you propose to find this imaginary person?”
“I have already located him, my dear brother.”
“The trains were still running the night of the murder. I would imagine that a severely injured man who is trying to get out of the city would head to Brussels first. I called the various emergency hospitals in that area. It’s a good thing my French remains intact and is still quite good, thank God. I described a man with a head wound and an elaborate tattoo on his back and arms. Finally, early this morning I received a call and a jpeg photo of the man lying in bed at the Clinic Saint Jean in Brussels. This is the man we all assumed drowned and died a few days ago: this is Mr. Tattoo-man one.” Then I showed my brother the image on my iPhone.
Nicholas took a deep breath, then exhaled loudly behaving exactly as he did whenever he knew that I was close to the endgame in one of our chess matches.
“But what about the motive?” he asked.
“I would imagine it had something to do with the expensive necklace stolen from Dalya or a love affair gone wrong between Ivana and the two brothers. It could have been about money and love as are most motives. But these things we can further unravel once we talk to Tattoo-man one and his girlfriend Ivana.”
“As always, Edward, like one of our chess matches, you have played the game well,” he said. “But isn’t Bruges beautiful, my dear brother?” said Nicholas trying to change the subject.
“Not as pretty as Amsterdam,” I said. “And now that this case has been solved, should we play chess tonight? It’s much delayed already.”
“Only if you let me win at least once,” he said. “I’ll even buy the beer.”
Site Oud Sint-Jan in Bruges, Belgium
Location of the Art Studio.
Tattoo-man two (the drowned man)
Below is the autopsy report that reveals the true identity of the man who died.
Autopsy report: The victim drowned. No other apparent injuries noted. The entire back was covered with elaborate tattoos of what appears to be a scaly serpent, stripes, a ball and claw, two scaly fish on the right arm, ocean waves.
The key description in the above is: “ball and claw” clearly visible on the right side of the back.
Tattoo-man one (twin brother and the "killer")
Below is the witness account of one of the artists in the art school that identifies him as the art model and the boyfriend of Ivana.
“Professor Sherbakov was often drunk. I could smell the alcohol in his breath as early as ten in the morning. What about the Tattoo-man? It’s difficult to draw all those tattoos: the orange dragon, the blue and orange stripes, the flower, the two carp fishes on the arm. And swirling waves all over. Gorgeous!”
The key description above is: “the flower”, which is different from Tattoo-man two, who has a “ball and claw” tattoo instead.