A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
(For Part IX click here)
The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is the one of the few tourist destinations in the world that attracts more locals than foreigners. Close your eyes and it’s a time warp back to the days of Ali Baba — and behind her sunglasses, Madison had her eyes closed. She was seriously hungover, and culture shock had finally caught up with her. Overwhelmed, she just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep. Unfortunately, they had played hide-and-seek with Kemal’s personal assistant, Zehra (who had another marathon tourist day planned) all morning, and they’d barely escaped. So now Madison sat with a plate of food that was making her sick and a vicious headache. Plus, Sylvia had been particularly distant and insistent all morning. Everything sucked, and Madison just wanted to go home.
“Well, hi! Imagine running into you guys here.” The voice was North American loud but mostly lost in the noise of the market.
“Look, Emily. It’s Sylvia and Madison. What are you two doing in Istanbul?”
Before anyone could answer, the man sat down and in a much quieter voice said, “Emily, why don’t you take Madison shopping and … stay where I can see you.”
Emily practically pulled Madison out of her chair and was moving her through the crowd when Madison reacted.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Sinclair has some business to discuss with your grandmother, and from what I understand, we don’t want to hear it. Okay. So let’s just …”
“You know Sylvia?”
“Only by reputation. She’s a bit of a legend around here.”
“Yeah, so everybody keeps telling me,” Madison said sarcastically.
“Whatever! But where I come from, anyone who jumps from a moving train — with a Soviet guard in a headlock to break her fall — is legendary. That’s serious stuff, little girl. Believe me, I know a little bit about dealing with the Russians.” Emily fluttered her left hand. It was missing the ring finger.
Madison wondered what but didn’t ask.
“It was a business deal. Sinclair got what he wanted, and I lost a finger.”
“God, is anybody normal around here?” Madison thought.
“Ms. Harrow, my name is Dreyfus Sinclair.”
Dreyfus Sinclair looked like a college professor who needed some sleep and a haircut.
“We need to make this brief. Right now, we’re just a couple of expats who ran into each other by chance. Let’s keep it quick and simple. I have the person you’re looking for, or at least I will very soon. How are you getting out of the country?”
“You talked to Karga?”
“For our purposes, Ms. Harrow, I’ve never heard of him. What’s your plan to get out of the country?”
Suddenly, this was business.
“I’ve got passports and a car waiting just inside the Bulgarian border. We drive across and either …”
Sinclair put his hand in the air.
“Since the refugees, the border is a lot tighter than it used to be, and there’s no way of knowing who those guys are working for.”
“I know the roads. There are a lot of ways for silly women to get into Bulgaria without having their passports stamped.”
“Do you know them in the dark?”
“And when can you be ready to go?”
“Right now. All I need is time to rent a car.”
“Don’t. I’ve rented one for you.” Dreyfus reached into to his pocket and handed her a key.
“Walk straight that way until you get to the street and press the fob. It’s exactly the same as mine, so when we make the switch, you’ll know what to look for. Do you know the Mall of Istanbul?”
“The big one right on the highway? I can find it.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you there tonight at the main entrance, front and centre, just after dark. Nine o’clock. They’ll be lots of tourists, so nobody’s going to notice a couple more. And I doubt if anybody’s going to think of checking the CCTV at a shopping mall. We make the switch, and you head for the border. And don’t stop. Once the Albanians figure out what’s going on, they’re going to make life very unpleasant around here. You need to be as far away as possible. I’m going to use my car as the decoy. I’ll leave it someplace conspicuous — that should slow them down for a while but not forever. They’re going to start checking, and unfortunately you’re already on everybody’s radar. So, if you can, don’t go back to the hotel, and stay away from your Turkish friends. That’s the first place they’ll look.”
Sylvia did a quick mental inventory of anything they may have left at the hotel. There was nothing they couldn’t lose.
“Okay. I need a place to stay out of sight today. Maddy needs some sleep, and I have to make sure my people are in place.”
“Do you know Salema’s?”
“Uh – it used to be – uh — Ev Nabil?”
“Yeah, I know it. Yeah, that’ll work.”
“Okay, I’ll see you at nine – Mall of Istanbul — and if I’m not there by nine thirty, clear out and run for the border because everything’s gone sideways.”
Dreyfus started to get up.
“Thank you,” Sylvia said sincerely, “I – uh – I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this.”
Dreyfus laughed, “No worries. From what I hear, you used to do this stuff in your sleep. I’ll send Madison back in a minute,” and then louder, “No problem. Your hotel tomorrow night for dinner. ‘Til then.”
When Madison came back, they paid the bill and found the car, a black Toyota Rav4 with tinted windows. Madison had more than a little trouble with the wild Istanbul traffic, and they got lost once, but they finally found Salema’s and got a room – by the hour, no questions asked.
“This place smells!”
“Try and get some sleep, Maddy. It’s going to be a long night.”
Just before nine, Sylvia and Madison drove up to the main entrance of the Mall of Istanbul. They eventually found a parking spot that gave them a good view and sat back to wait. At nine ten, a black Toyota Rav4 with tinted windows pulled into the passenger pickup area. Dreyfus Sinclair got out. Sylvia saw him, got out of the car and walked towards him. Dreyfus stayed with his vehicle and didn’t move– even after he saw Sylvia walking. She dodged across the traffic and held her hands out as a question.
“We’ve got problems. The Albanians are right behind me, maybe 20 minutes, half an hour. And you wanted one girl,” Dreyfus exhaled, “I’ve got five.”