Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 20 – Mauvais Pas)


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 Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas Wednesday, June 15, 2011
21 Sinan Qua Non
22 Spirit-Level


23 Witness
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 20

Mauvais Pas

“Time slows and life extends beyond imagination . . .”

Joe Simpson
One Life

The Adalar ferry to the largest of the four Princes’ Islands had taken about an hour to sail from the Old City and after it docked, Flanagan had quickly crossed the promenade to Büyükada’s old square and joined the short queue for a horse drawn phaeton that would bring him up to the monastery. Most of those queuing were island locals, he noticed, returning from the city laden down with bags of clothes and shoes, happy to be home again.
The phaeton driver, bored with an unproductive day sensed a foreigner’s tip, and was fully intent on taking Flanagan on the full ‘Büyük’ tour of the island’s sights before a sharp exchange meant he had to settle for the shorter and more direct ‘Küçük’ route. After circling the small square they headed west passing the narrow street where the summer residence of the Papal Nuncio to Turkey stood and immediately behind it where the island’s biggest mosque had been built. Flanagan smiled, as he looked at mattresses and bedding being aired on the mansion’s steps and balconies and at the thought of Angelo Guiseppe Roncali, the future Pope John XXIII, being called to prayer five times a day with the newly mandated 1932 Turkish version of the traditional Arabic adhan by his back garden mosque’s muezzin.
The late afternoon air was cool but there was enough weak winter sunshine to make it tolerable and once they had passed the mansion where Trotsky had begun his History of the Russian Revolution, and the other clapperboard Charleston-like mansions that lined the elegant boulevard out of town, Flanagan was pleased to note that the horse had increased its trotting tempo to move at speed through the winding avenues of tall trees that spiralled upwards around the mountain.

It was nearly 4.00 pm when they pulled into the phaeton terminus at the base of the final summit of Yuce Tepe. Flanagan paid off the driver and began the short but steep climb to the Monastery of St George. Initially he climbed quickly but then felt a cloud of tiredness settle on him. The flagstones underfoot were slippery and he had great difficulty keeping his balance. Putting one foot in front of the other became frustratingly difficult and he had to rest on two occasions to stop falling over. This development worried and annoyed him. He was used to his fingers and hands cramping with tiredness but his feet or legs had never been a problem before. After twenty minutes of this effort he was greatly relieved to feel the ground level out.

Flanagan stood in front of the main chapel of the monastery complex and rested there for a few minutes before moving through its open door. He felt uneasy and wondered why there were no priests or penitents to be seen. Surrounding him and the entire complex, he noticed, was a dense quietness, an eerie stillness that contrasted markedly with the spasms in his hands. He retreated from the church apse and walked around its eastern perimeter to make his way to the small tea garden situated beside a restaurant at the very apex of the summit. The restaurant was closed and the garden empty of people. ‘Good,’ he sighed before descending again towards the church entrance.
Flanagan stopped and looked around before he headed towards a small side entrance gate to the monastery complex’s western side. He passed a row of flat tombstones – one with a skull and crossbones carving that stared starkly back at him – before he pushed open the gate and descended a steep set of steps to the first of the smaller chapels built into the side of the hill. He ducked his head as he entered and immediately turned to face an altar of dark wood and icons, the altar of Our Lady of Blachernae. Moving close he stretched up and dropped his hand into the narrow space above the altar frame. For a moment his heart stopped, when he could feel nothing, but then he found what he had come for and pulled the plastic folder towards him until he could get a grip and withdraw it over the frame and down into both his hands. He recognised Alanna’s handwriting on the cover. ‘Thank God,’ he murmured and having tucked the slim folder into his bag began his retreat. Then … a noise. He heard the footsteps first and felt a draft of wind. The hairs on his neck instantly prickled. He turned around slowly holding tightly onto the bag.
‘That saves me, and you, a lot of trouble.’ The voice was chilling, threatening.
‘What do you want? Who are you?’ Flanagan asked, frightened by the cold, dead eyes of the man opposite.
‘Please step outside Dr. Flanagan. This is not to be your sanctuary.’
‘How do you know my name? Who are you?’
‘Either you step out now or I will have you dragged out. Your choice.’ The stranger moved to one side tight up against a wall.
The two men looked at each other for a moment before Flanagan decided to obey and step out into the sunshine. The man follows him.
‘What is it you want?’ he asked again as his eyes adjusted. He looked up and saw that there were two other, younger men standing near the top of the steps. They grinned at him and one spat towards were he stood.
‘My name is Colonel Mehmet Zorlu of Army Intelligence and I want you to hand over the dossier, hidden here by the woman,’ the man with the ice-cold voice rasped.
Flanagan spun round and confronted the officer. ‘What’s happened to Alanna? What have you done with her?’
Colonel Zorlu shrugged, dismissively, before he moved in close to stand beside Flanagan as he leant against the perimeter wall. He then looked out over the nightshade waters of the Mamara that pounded the base of the cliff, far below them. ‘Do you see that island over there, Dr. Flanagan?’ he asked as he pointed to a small island in the distance.
‘Yes.’ Flanagan nodded. His hands shook uncontrollably.
‘That is Yassiada island, where Adnan Menderes was tried in 1961 by the Turkish Military and where he was held before being hanged on Imrali. Menderes found out the hard way that we . . . we, the military are the real power in Turkey and Menderes forgot that. He tried to deny the great legacy of Kemal and pander to the needs of minorities who wanted to see this great country destroyed. It is best that you don’t either.’
Flanagan suddenly thought of the papal mansion again, and the muezzin’s call disturbing the future Pope John XXIII and how Menderes had come to power in 1950 on a popular platform of repealing the ban on the Arabic version of the adhan. And of the name of the Turkish Foreign Minister who was hanged on Imrali with Menderes. ‘But you said your name was Zorlu?’ Flanagan said.
The soldier smiled, his harelip exposed momentarily before it curled upwards again to bury itself under a bushy moustache. ‘You have a good memory Dr. Flanagan. I am impressed. Fatin Rüstü Zorlu was a relation of mine. He trusted . . . was duped by Menderes. That was his mistake and he paid for that gamble with his life. I will not make the same. The dossier please.’
‘But he was posthumously pardoned in 1990.’
‘Guilt or innocence have no meaning for the dead, Irishman. Now stop stalling and hand over the dossier,’ the Turkish officer rasped.
Flanagan looked back up at the younger escorts and wondered whether they had guns. If only he could climb and run along the perimeter wall, he thought. He then realised he would have to choose – again.
‘I know what you are thinking,’ Zorlu said without looking back from the sea. His harelip quivered. ‘This moment, this particular moment in your life, is what is known in mountaineering terms as a mauvais pas, Dr. Flanagan. You have a decision to make. If you take the step, perhaps you will make it, but you also know that one error, one minute error of judgement will mean your long fall into hell, a death of splattering against the rocks down there, perhaps. . .’ He then swivelled and fixed Flanagan with his stare. ‘Or you can pull back, not take the step, not take the risk, knowing that the climb is then over but you live to think about that failure. I have climbed many mountains Dr. Flanagan, and know what I am talking about.’
Flanagan stalled for time. In the soldier’s eyes he saw that whatever he decided he was a dead man walking. Where is she? What had they done to her? ‘Where is Alanna?’ he demanded again.
‘The woman does not matter. She was a traitor to this country by trying to undermine its balance, its very delicate balance.’
‘You mean your power and that of the Generals?’
Zorlu’s eyes narrowed. ‘You have no knowledge of what it is to be a soldier, a warrior, or a leader of men. Power is exercised to instruct the ignorant. That is the secret of our effectiveness.’
The emphasis was blatant and Flanagan’s eyebrows arched. I just wonder, he pondered. ‘Secret. I know who you are now, Colonel. The true secret is with us. You are Muserin,’ Flanagan said aloud.
‘How . . .’ The colonel started to shout but then quickly calmed to a whisper, out of earshot of the men above, ‘How could you possibly know about that?’
Flanagan knew he was clutching at straws. He knew he had to keep the bluff going and keep the officer off-balance. It was his only hope, he realised. ‘I know many things, Colonel Zorlu. I have made sure that if any harm comes to me this information will be passed to a senior politician in the Turkish government. Names, rituals, intentions, the lot! That is my power and –’
‘One moment,’ Zorlu interrupted as he turned away to dial in a number on his cell-phone and, after connecting, speak in a low voice.
Flanagan watched him carefully and watched the skin flush in the man’s neck as he talked. The call terminated and Zorlu turned back to face him again. His eyes are murderous, Flanagan saw. He felt his hands begin to stiffen up and then spasm. The Colonel’s image blurred and then camke back into focus again.
‘My superiors do not give a shit for any secret obligations. But I believe in the legacy, I believe in the responsibility of the ages. Your knowledge has saved you for now Dr. Flanagan, but only if you hand over the dossier.’
‘The dossier . . . now! Or you die where you stand. Those are the orders from my superiors, your superiors.’
Flanagan saw Zorlu look up at the men on the steps behind. He turned. They pulled back their jackets to reveal holstered guns and began to descend towards him. He reached into his bag, withdrew the folder and handed it over.
‘Mauvais pas. You live to climb again Dr. Flanagan,’ Mehmet Zorlu sneered. ‘But not in Turkey! Leave and never return. This is a final warning.’
‘What happened to Alanna? Tell me where she is. Please,’ he pleaded.
‘The Kurd woman is dead, Dr. Flanagan. She was braver than you and took the step.’
‘You bastard . . . you bastard,’ he cried out as he slumped to the ground.
‘Leave Turkey Dr. Flanagan or you will join her. You have 24 hours. After that the Muserin can no longer protect you. Good day.’

Suddenly Jerome Augustus Flanagan was alone again. Above him a swirling wind rattled the gate at the top of the steps against the stone flagstones. Tears flowed down his cheeks, and a sobbing wail welled up that racked his whole being.

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