Being The Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011
1 The Exchange Sunday, January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday, February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos Tuesday, May 10, 2011
14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square
18 The Uncontainable
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being
Becalming Unscientific Postscript
“Nightingales are put in cages because their songs give pleasure.
Whoever heard of keeping a crow?”
Jelaluddin Balkhi (Rumi)
The tall dark-suited man with reflecting sunglasses watched, with a slightly sneering smile, as the Mercedes SLK pulled across the flow of the traffic, ignored the blaring horns, and screeched to a halt in front of the restaurant entrance, a restaurant famous for its geographic location right on the Bosphorus in Bebek – and for its social visibility. He stepped forward to pull the car door open. ‘I’m Captain Reza the General’s aide-de-camp. The General is upstairs, Colonel. Waiting for you.’ he said looking at his watch.
The driver stepped out. ‘Thank you, Captain,’ the man said, half raising his hand as if to salute, then thinking better of it changed the direction to brush some cigarette ash off the cuff of his suit. He brushed past the younger officer. Behind him, silently, a young valet attendant in a green Nehru jacket and red fez tassled cap slid in, closed the door and drove the car away.
A brisk wind was blowing as the officer reached the glass panel-doors at the top of the restaurant steps. Another young boy in a Nehru suit held them open for him. The army officer could see in the distance that because of the wind funnelling down from the Black Sea the General had declined the open terrace in favour of a table in the far corner where there was a full view of the room. He also knew that this very public display of endorsement, of patronage, on the part of the General, was deliberate, the senior officer’s exercise of his status under Article 118 of the Turkish constitution, its power and its obligation.
‘Devlet,’ Colonel Mehmet Zorlu whispered to himself, as he looked around the room, reminding himself of the undefined notion of Turkish statehood and the expected and fundamental duty of every Turkish man, woman and child to subscribe to its obligation. An obligation determined by the will of the chosen men like the General. He was now to be one of those chosen men, a Guardian, and today was his ordination.
Zorlu walked slowly, enjoying the moment. Men nodded towards him and women leaned towards each other as he passed their tables. Soon all of Istanbul – all of Istanbul that mattered he determined – would be talking of him. Approaching the General’s table, he apologised for being late. The General smiled thinly as he looked up at the younger man and indicated for him to sit down. A waiter held out his chair.
Uncomfortable in the silence that followed, he concentrated on studying the menu – a redundant exercise, and Mehmet Zorlu knew it! He waited and then watched as the older man ordered for both of them: kadin budu, the Lady’s Thigh – ground meat, rice and eggs – for himself: kilic siste – swordfish – for him; and a red wine from Mamara called G. The older officer, a heavy man, was dressed, Zorlu noted in admiration, was dressed in a dark-blue suit exquisitely tailored to hide his paunch. He watched as he pulled out a cigar holder and small guillotine from his breast pocket. The General touched a slight scar that ran down his temple before guillotining the tip of his cigar and slowly lighting and puffing on it. Zorlu couldn’t help but stare at the manicured nails and the, very obvious, missing two fingers – the index and thumb – from the General’s right hand. He already knew the full story of the General’s fingers: a famous archer in his youth, he had mutilated himself, in despair at failing to qualify for the Olympics in Rome. It was the last time the General had failed at anything and that same brutality he now brought to bear on anybody else’s failure to meet expectations. Mehmet Zorlu waited for the older man to speak.
‘It is better that we meet here! More eyes, less ears.’
‘Yes, General,’ Zorlu agreed.
‘Is it arranged?’ the General asked, matter-of-factly.
‘Yes sir. There are two special force units in place, ready to go to Kirkuk on your signal. The targets have been identified. Unit 8200 and Mossad have been most helpful in this regard. It was Unit 8200 that tipped us off about Ocalan’s aide and the woman arriving from Izmir.’
‘We must prevent any immediate power base being established by the mountain Turks in the new Iraq.’ The General exhaled a smoke ring towards the roof.
‘And the Americans? What do you expect of them, General?’ Zoprlu asked.
‘As always they confuse information with intelligence. They are out of their depth because their superior technology has dulled their wits. I give them six, maybe seven months, and then they’ll pull out of their arrangements with the Iraqi Provisional Government. No more Vietnams. They have no stomach for body bags any more. We must be ready to move.’
‘Yes, General,’ Zorlu nodded.
‘That is why Mehmet, getting back that dossier is so important. It –’
The waiter approached. Both men fell silent as their food was served and they began to eat. Every now and then another diner would approach their table and shake the General’s hand. Each time, Zorlu noticed the instant stiffening of four other diners, two men and two women, at the next table. Alert, hands dropping simultaneously beneath the tablecloth, relaxing only when the pleasantries were concluded. They were not eating, just sipping glasses of water.
‘I need you to handle this personally, Mehmet,’ the older man finally said as their plates were cleared.
‘It is most important. That dossier must not get into the hands of the Americans or British. If they know of our true plans for Iraqi Kurdistan, or our arrangement with Baku, then it will cause great difficulty. We are not yet ready.’
‘What of our own government, General?’
‘Motherfuckers, all of them! We’ll let them get on with fooling themselves . . . and the Europeans, that they have the power to determine the future of Turkey. Imbeciles. The military is, and has always been, Turkey. Have they not learnt that lesson? We have that power and we will exercise it when we see fit. ’
‘Yes, General. I’ll see to it personally.’
‘Good. How is your wife, my godchild?’
‘In good health. Looking forward to our daughter’s wedding.’
‘And your son?’
‘Starts his Master’s in MIT in September, when his cadet training is over.’
‘Does he plan to stay on in the military?’
‘Good. It is the only future in Turkey. I will not detain you any further Mehmet. Go with my blessing, with all our blessings.’
As if by magic his chair was already being held for him. Zorlu got up and turned to leave.
‘The true secret is with us.’
Colonel Mehmet Zorlu watches from the shadows. The woman, in her early 40s he guesses, is slumped in a high-backed chair, her hands tied behind her. She is naked and exposed apart from the long dank blood-stained hair that covers her left breast. Hard to know what colour it really is, he thinks. Her head rests on her chest, moving sideways and back on the point of her chin. Tears flow down her cheeks, coursing clear streaks through the grease and grime that covers her face. A single arc light shines brightly in her face. In its glare, through half-closed and bruised eyelids, he knows she can just make out the shape of her tormentor, a bull-necked face in the sun. From somewhere else she hears, as they all hear, and reacts to the scream of a man. Its piercing agony penetrates the room. He continues to watch, unbothered.
‘In God’s name, no,’ she whimpers with the hoarse cry of a wounded animal.
‘Give me the information I want and this will be all over for you,’ the bull grunts.
Zorlu watches her legs being separated and follows closely as the Captain’s nightstick gets closer, pushing against her, penetrating her, higher and higher. Nice move, he thinks, feeling horny.
‘Tell me,’ the inquisitor shouts.
The nightstick is withdrawn, brought up to her mouth and pushed in.
‘Taste your own cunt-fear, bitch!’
Zorlu hears a tooth break and sees her face distort. She can taste her own blood, he senses . . . and more. She starts to choke and tries to pull her head back. Then the vomit comes, shoots out of her. Bad move, he thinks. Starve them first, deny them water. No vomit to annoy.
‘Bitch,’ the inquisitor roars, covered in bile, lifting the stick to strike her.
‘Hold it, Captain Remzi,’ he suddenly orders. ‘Clean the woman up and bring her back to her cell. She is no good to us dead.’
Later – how much later, she isn’t sure. Outside the woman thinks she can hear the song of a nightingale: lu lu lü lü li li. Again and again, higher and higher. Must be near dawn she thinks. She is curled up on the floor of her cell. Beside her is a pot. She had tried to urinate but all that came was blood. The cold has made her skin blue and the bruising black. The door opens. A blanket is thrown down to her.
It was the same voice that had intervened earlier. She just pulls tighter into a ball. Two pairs of hands lift her and sit her on a chair.
‘This is not good for you. Your husband cannot help, your family cannot help, your fucking newspaper friends cannot help, nobody can help you. You are disappeared. Save yourself further pain by telling me where the dossier is. We know you have it. Where is it?’
She shakes her head. ‘I don’t know . . . what it is you want?’
‘Listen. Your friend the devil-worshiper is dead. He was not as brave or as strong as you. Typical Kurd shit of a man. Their women have always been stronger and great fucks as well. Like to get it up the ass. But then you know that.’
‘Please . . .’
‘Don’t think we don’t know about all your screwing around. Fucking that Irishman. Fucking that hiristiyani filth. Fucking any mountain man with a dick bigger than his brain.’
‘I don’t know . . .’
There is a knock on the door. ‘Colonel. The hekim is here with his drugs.’
‘Took his fucking time!’
‘Please . . .’
‘Shut up bitch. Hold her down boys! I feel like one good ass-fuck before we scramble her brains. I want her to know what a man in uniform can do for her. I want her to feel the power of a ‘Guardian’.’
‘Please. Oh God . . .’ she cries.
They meet at the house hidden in a private estate on the heights above Bebek. The General was in the garden pruning roses and did not look up as Colonel Zorlu approached.
‘What happened,’ he asked.
‘She never broke. Died on the table,’ Zorlu replied, wishing at this moment for some of the strength she had had. ‘I am sorry General.’
‘Fuck! I’m very disappointed, Mehmet. Very disappointed indeed.’ The General turned to face his subordinate.
Zorlu could see the stumps of the missing fingers blanche. He spoke quickly, ‘We have another possible lead, General. Her friend, the Irishman, is in town. I am having him followed. I am certain . . . I have information he knows something of the dossier. Who else would she have trusted?’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes sir,’ Zorlu said with as much certainty that he could muster.
‘I hope so Mehmet. I do hope so… for all our sakes.’ The General angrily snipped at the stem of a resistant rose bush, inspected his work and then looked at Zorlu. ‘How do we explain her death?’
‘Easy General.’ Zorlu relaxed a little. ‘The two of them together, the Kurd terrorist and herself in a pit, made to appear like they were stoned. An honour killing.’
‘Does the husband agree?’
‘He does. The new de-criminalization of honour killings by the Government made it easier for me to persuade him to in time take responsibility for the act. One or two years in a plush jail, money in the bank, in truth, his honour satisfied for her long history of betrayals. A good deal all-round.’
‘Very ingenious, Mehmet.’
‘Thank you, General.’
‘And the dossier?’
‘Give me two days. No more.’
‘That is good. You must join us for lunch on Saturday… you and your wife. We, the incoming Council members and our wives, are flying to the house in Dilmun.’
‘Thank you, Sir. I would be honoured.’
‘And so you shall, Mehmet . . . if this works out.’