Like every vibrant city in the world, Istanbul has its own sound, its own smell, its own rhythm — and if you close your eyes, you can feel it. Emily and Dreyfus, sitting at a table for two on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Bosporus, had their eyes open. They were looking across at the late night lights, hearing the drifting shadow sounds of baglamas and davul drums and thinking — whatever that chocolate dessert thing was, they wanted another slice. And another glass of wine and another hour or so under the stars.
But we don’t always get what we want, do we? And Dreyfus Sinclair was known in this part of the world. And more than one organization keeps track of who gets their passports stamped at Ataturk Airport. And Emily knew the heavy man talking to the head waiter was trouble the minute he gestured toward their table. And by the time he straightened his tie and started walking toward them, she was already reaching for her enameled cigarette case. And she was right, and there he was — looming.
“Mr. Sinclair,” the man wasn’t asking, “My apologies. I’m very sorry to disturb your meal. My name is Taavi, and I have a matter of some urgency to make a discussion with you.”
“Nothing is that urgent, Taavi,” Dreyfus said evenly, without looking up.
Taavi leaned forward slightly and Dreyfus casually moved his right hand to the stem of his wine glass and wrapped his fingers around it like a fist.
Taavi lowered his voice and leaned a little closer. “My father.is sometimes called Karga. He says you are a friend of ours. And he would be very pleased if you would speak with me.”
Dreyfus turned to look at the man.
“My father also says you have a scar on your arm because you don’t know how to … uh …” he searched for the word, “… put down your head.”
Emily could see the shift in Sinclair’s eyes. She knew the look. This was work. She held her cigarette case up like a prize and pointed to the far end of the roof. “I’m going over there by the rail on a completely unrelated matter.” Emily stood up and put her handbag on the table. “Guard the credit cards.” And she turned and walked away.
Emily didn’t like this part. It didn’t happen often enough for her to hate it, but even as an occasional side effect of Dreyfus Sinclair, it was a pain in the ass. She never knew when he was going to get dragged away on business. But right now, she knew she wasn’t going to get another slice of cake, or any more minutes under the stars, or … she wondered vaguely if Turkish TV had subtitles. She opened her cigarette case.
A waiter appeared at her elbow and flicked open a flame. “Tesekkurler,” Emily said in passable Turkish, then continued in English. “Who is that man?”
There was no hesitation. “That is Taavi Bey. He is the son of Ertan Bey. They are a family of some importance in our city.” There was a touch of pride in his voice and deference.
“Tesekkurler,” Emily said again, turned and leaned on the rail towards the water. It didn’t help that Sinclair had talked her into this trip. She should have stayed home with her trees. The pears were growing, and the bottles needed to be kept dry or there’d be blight. “There’s always something,” she thought and exhaled a drift of smoke into the night sky. And now, a family of some importance wanted to talk to Dreyfus Sinclair, and that was something else to worry about.
A few minutes later, as the man Taavi left, Emily went back to the table and nearly collided with two waiters hurrying to bring more dessert and more wine and little cups of coffee and ice cream that smelled like orchids. Emily sat down and looked around.
“You’re doing some serious sucking up here, Sinclair.”
“Nothing to do with me,” he shrugged, and finished one glass of wine. “Compliments of the house.”
Emily made an approving face.
“But I have to go out later.”
“I knew there was a catch.”
“No catch. An old friend just asked me to do him a favour.”
“And you owe him, right?”
“No, that’s the beauty of it: he’s going to owe me.” Dreyfus chuckled and reached the new glass of wine across the table as a toast.
“Karga’s a businessman, Emily. He does a lot of import, export, and he might be interested in importing pear brandy. Maybe you should talk to him while we’re here.”
Emily’s eyes brightened. She reached for her glass.
Later that night when the telephone rang, Emily thought seriously about being asleep. It wasn’t actually late, but two hours of Turkish TV had made her grouchy. Dreyfus was probably just trying to make it up to her, but she wasn’t sure she was in the mood to be seduced. On the other hand, Dreyfus didn’t really call unless he had something to say. Now she was curious. She picked up the receiver.
“Who’s calling, please?”
There was a small laugh. “Are you decent?”
“Barely.” Emily was wearing the hotel bathrobe.
“I’m in the bar. Come for a nightcap.”
“We drink too much,” she said, but the line was hollow.
Emily looked around. Last night’s dress was too complicated and tomorrow’s skirt was for tomorrow and she’d already taken off her makeup, and she really didn’t want to put on a bra. And … ah, the hell with it! The bar was probably closed anyway, and Sinclair had just scammed a bottle of something and was sitting in a corner. She found a pair of jeans from the suitcase and pulled them on (careful with the zipper) and when she couldn’t find a top, just grabbed one of Sinclair’s sweatshirts. It was too big everywhere, but she pushed up the sleeves, picked up the room key card and went down to find him.
The bar was closed, but it wasn’t empty. There were three tables that still had people and thick candles burning, two at the entry and one towards the back, along the water. She picked her way through the dark tables and sat down. It was surprisingly chilly on the banks of the Bosporus.
“Is that my shirt?”
“It’s the closest you’re going to get to touching me tonight.” Emily reached for the glass, “You know, we drink too much.”
Dreyfus shrugged. “Probably, but I’ve got a great story that’s worth a glass of wine.”
Emily lifted her glass. Even in the candlelight, she could see Dreyfus was having fun. Now she was curious. Emily slipped her sandals off and tucked her feet up underneath her in the big upholstered chair. It was a perfect night for one of Sinclair’s stories. She tasted the wine and kept the glass in her hand. ‘Alright, Sinclair, what have you got?”
Dreyfus sat back in his chair, just on the edge of the candlelight. He was a shadow and a voice. “The guy I talked to tonight?”
“Karga?” Emily volunteered.
“Yeah. He’s a big deal. He’s been calling the shots around here since Methuselah was in diapers. Before you and I were even born. The man’s an institution. But way back in the day, when he was still getting his hands dirty, he ran with a woman. A real badass bandit queen. They call her Sahin, the Falcon. She made her bones smuggling whisky and cigarettes, from here across the Black Sea into the old Soviet Union. But get this — in a sailing ship.”
“What? When was this?”
“I don’t know. 60s? 70s? Something like that. Real old school Cold War stuff. Moonless nights, secret coves, sneaking under the radar.” Dreyfus moved his shoulders back and forth, “Dodging patrol boats. Right out of the movies. This goes on for years, and the Russians can’t catch her.”
“Sinclair, are you falling in love?”
Dreyfus put his hands wide and smiled. He took a sip of his wine. “Finally, the Russians have had enough, and they send in a Spetsnaz team and blow up her boat.”
Emily didn’t know what a Spetsnaz team was, but Sinclair was clearly impressed.
“But she doesn’t care. It just makes her mad. She starts running the stuff in trucks up the coast through Bulgaria. But by now, she’s the people’s hero. Romanian kids are spray painting her name on buildings. The Ukrainians are printing cartoons of Brezhnev with bird shit on his shoulder. The Soviets are looking like idiots and it’s embarrassing. They call in the military. They’ve got soldiers, patrols, road blocks, helicopters, you name it, everything out there looking for her, but she just keeps rolling. They know she’s coming, but they can’t do anything about it. Our girl’s playing dodgeball with the Red Army — and winning.”
“You are in love.”
“Of course. Aren’t you?”
Emily took a drink and thought about it.
“Last resort, they put a bounty on her, 250 thousand American dollars. Back then, that’s Bill Gates money, and eventually somebody rats her out and she gets caught.
“Shit!” Emily had been cheering for Sahin ever since the Russians blew up her boat.
“The Soviets put her on trial. It’s a show trial.” Dreyfus made a throw away gesture, “She in a glass cage, handcuffs, manacles. And they televise it. See what happens when you piss off the glorious people’s revolution or some such. Anyway, she’s convicted — obviously — and gets 20 years.”
Emily straightened up in her chair. “This isn’t a very good story.”
“No, no wait!” Dreyfus put his hand up, “That’s not the end of it. They put her on a train. Off to the Gulag. But somewhere along the way, she grabs a guard and jumps.
“Oh, my God!”
“Yeah, jumps from a moving train! This woman is not going to Siberia, regardless. They stop the train. Big palaver. Run back and all they find is a prison uniform and the guard in her underwear, lying there with a broken neck. The falcon has flown. Completely disappeared and nobody has seen or heard of her since.”
“Where did she go?”
Dreyfus shrugged. “Nobody knows. But, talk about a legend. She’s the real deal. They’ve written songs about this woman.”
Emily thought about it. “Okay, but that evil-looking fellow didn’t interrupt our evening just so his father could tell you a cool adventure story.”
“No, he didn’t.” Dreyfus poured more wine and offered the bottle. Emily nodded. “The thing is, a couple of days ago, Sahin, the bandit queen, came back. She showed up, out of nowhere, here, in Istanbul. Phoned her old buddy Karga and said, ‘Hi, did you miss me?’ Apparently, some friend of hers daughter got abducted in Rome, and she’s come out of retirement to get her back.”
“Wait a minute. She must be an old lady by now.”
“I think that’s why she got in touch with her partner in crime. He’s the local muscle.”
After years in the company of Dreyfus Sinclair, Emily knew exactly what that meant.
“Anyway, Karga knows where the girl is, and he knows the people who have her. And even though he wants to do a favour for an old friend – and not just any old friend — he really doesn’t want to get into a barney with these nasties. He’s got to live here. So, he’s asked me to help him out for – uh — plausible deniability. He doesn’t want his fingerprints anywhere.”
“Who took the girl?”
Dreyfus could feel Emily’s eyes through the darkness.
“Okay, Russians,” he admitted.
“And – uh — she’s on her way to China for a short movie career. So, I said yes, I’d do it.”
“Are we going to get shot at?” Emily had had some experience with Russians — and Albanians.
“No, no, nothing like that. Karga’s boys are going to do the heavy lifting. I just wait until they’re gone, drive in, pick up the girl and deliver her back to her rightful owner.”
Dreyfus took a drink.
“I’m going to meet Sahin — her real name is Sylvia Harrow, by the way — and her granddaughter, tomorrow in the Grand Bazaar to arrange it. Probably for tomorrow night. We need to do this quickly.”
“I’m coming too. I want to see you fluttering around like the biggest fanboy.”
Dreyfus leaned forward, “Fanboy?”
Emily dipped her head, tipped her glass and looked at Dreyfus from the top of her eyes. She was about to say … but out of the shadows there was a slight change in Dreyfus’ face, subtle, elusive but Emily recognized it. Storytime was over.
Emily put her feet back on the floor, tucked them into her sandals and stood up. “I’m going to go to bed.” She stepped around the table, leaned down and kissed Dreyfus on the cheek.
“Can you fix this?” Emily said softly.
“Yeah.” Dreyfus nodded.
“Alright. Don’t stay up all night,” she said, turned and walked away.
The Grand Bazaar is the one of the few tourist destinations in the world that attracts more locals than foreigners. But there are still enough yabancilar bargaining for trinkets to allow a couple sitting with their helva and coffee to go unnoticed. Dreyfus loved these kinds of places – busy with people, commerce and history – smooth-stone old and full of stories. Plus, he knew that the very best way to remain unseen is to stay in plain sight. Emily, on the other hand, wasn’t sure how to act inconspicuously and kept adjusting her pashmina and sunglasses – until Dreyfus gave her his guidebook and told her to quit. They sat on the edge of a crowd of tables so Dreyfus could see Café Havuzlu’s crowd of tables and both approaches. He had watched Sylvia Harrow and her granddaughter Madison walk in and sit down and was only mildly surprised that grandma didn’t look like a grandma, at all. However, Madison was exactly the kind of pouty teenager he thought she’d be. He sipped his coffee.
“Can you take care of the granddaughter? I want her away from the table,” Dreyfus said evenly without turning his head.
“Are they here?”
“Straight across on the right. No rush. Finish your coffee.” Dreyfus’ expression didn’t change.
Emily gave the market an exaggerated casual glance. It didn’t matter: Dreyfus already knew that no one was being watched or followed. Ms. Harrow had covered her tracks. She knew what she was doing, and Dreyfus preferred to work with people who did. He relaxed – barely. Emily did not and nervously ate another helva. A minute or so later, Dreyfus raised a finger to the waiter and pulled a 50 Lira note out of his pocket. He folded it once and put it underneath his coffee cup. Then he stood up and reached for Emily’s hand.
“We’re going to walk straight across, no hurry, no purpose,” Dreyfus said and stepped forward. Emily caught his hand and stepped in beside him. Several steps later …
“Well, hi! Imagine running into you guys here!” Dreyfus’ voice was North American loud but still 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, Dreyfus 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 stepped forward. She had one job: she hooked her hand under Madison’s elbow, practically pulled her out of the chair and moved her quickly into the market. They were deep in the crowd before Madison reacted and shook her arm out of Emily’s grasp.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Emily stopped. “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 …”
“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t know you.”
“I don’t know you either, but from what I do know about Sylvia Harrow, you and I need to be somewhere else right now.”
“You don’t know my grandmother.”
“Apparently, neither do you. She’s a bit of a legend around here.”
“Yeah, so everybody keeps telling me,” Madison said sarcastically.
Emily grabbed Madison by the shoulder, reached up with her other hand and pulled off the girl’s sunglasses.
“Alright, little girl! Lose the attitude! Look, in case you haven’t noticed, these people are serious and they don’t have time to deal with a petulant teenager. You need to keep quiet and let the adults work.”
“My grandmother …”
“Your grandmother is busy. She’s trying to make sure some other silly kid doesn’t end up with a short and very nasty movie career. Okay? They’re not planning the prom over there. And if they don’t do it right, people are going to get killed. Do you understand that?”
Emily could see that Madison didn’t – not really. But her eyes said she was trying hard. Clever child. And for that couple of seconds, Emily remembered, without thinking, when she was young – nothing more than a girl — suddenly dealing with a dose of lethal reality. She knew what the beckoning fear in Madison’s stomach felt like. The terror of not being able to run and not knowing what to do if you don’t. She felt a lot more sympathy for this poor girl who was clearly out of her depth.
“Don’t worry,” she said, gently. “Your grandmother knows what she’s doing. Back in the day, she used to play hide and seek with the Russian army. And believe me, that’s a good trick. I know a little bit about dealing with Russians.”
Emily fluttered her left hand, showing off her missing ring finger. Madison moved her eyes in surprise. Emily smiled and dropped her hand.
“Do you know how your grandmother got away? How she escaped?”
“No, I … she never told me.” Madison said, utterly deflated.
“The story goes, on the prison train from Kiev to Siberia she got one of the KGB guards in a chokehold and jumped.” Emily arched her eyebrow, “Moving train.”
Emily made a diving motion with her hand.
“I – uh – didn’t …”
“Hey,” Emily half laughed, “Your grandmother’s hardcore. If anybody can do this thing, she can. It’s going to be alright, but you need to keep your mouth shut and just do as you’re told. Okay?”
Emily gave Madison back her sunglasses with the hand that was missing a finger. She watched Madison’s eyes.
“It was a business deal. Sinclair got what he wanted, and I lost a finger. Now, c’mon! Let’s go look at some scarves.”
“Ms. Harrow, my name is Dreyfus Sinclair.”
To Sylvia, Dreyfus Sinclair looked like a college professor who needed some sleep, not exactly the sort she had expected.
“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?”
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. The passports are to get out again.”
“Do you know your way 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. “Dump it when you’re done.”
Sylvia took the key.
“Walk straight that way until you get to the street, and press the fob. It’s the exact same model as mine, so you’ll know what to look for, when we make the switch. The only difference is yours is black and mine is white. 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. There’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 – at least not right away. 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.”
Dreyfus watched Sylvia trace the plan in her mind. Yeah, Emily was right: he was a fanboy.
“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?”
“Yes, I know it. It’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.”
Dreyfus raised his hand and walked away.
After Madison went back to her grandmother, Emily and Dreyfus wandered and shopped (Emily bought a bracelet) for another half an hour to make certain the two women were gone. Then they left the market and stood at the entrance.
“There’s a white Rav4 around here somewhere.” Dreyfus clicked the fob in his hand. There was a flash and a beep at the end of the street. Dreyfus offered his arm, and Emily fell into step.
“When you go get the girl, I’m going to come with you,” she said.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Emily wasn’t interested in Dreyfus’ opinion. “That girl is frightened out of her skin, Sinclair. And I have a fairly good idea how this Karga fellow is going to convince the Albanians to let her go. Then you’re going to show up with your business face on and scare the shit out of her.”
Dreyfus stopped and turned to Emily.
Without turning to look, Emily pointed her finger forward. “No! That girl’s been through enough, and that’s an end to it,” she said and started walking.
Dreyfus thought about it and gave one long exasperated exhale. He took a few quick steps forward and offered Emily his arm, again.
“I’m really not that scary,” he said.
“Dreyfus, you might act like a teddy bear, and I love you dearly, but on dark nights, wolves make fires to keep you away.”
Slightly giddy with tension, Emily looked across at the derelict buildings of the old docks and decided that all they needed was a blanket of fog to turn this into a 40s gangster movie. They’d been sitting for what seemed like hours (less than twenty minutes) by a tangle of wire, rust and weeds that used to be a fence. And even though they were hidden in the long shadow late evening light, they could see from the water to the roadway clearly enough to read the graffiti on the corrugated metal walls. There were scraps of rope and wood lying around and chain and large haphazard shapes of metal, some corroded barrels and scattered dilapidated crates. It was a lonely, dirty place that smelled thirsty, oily and stained.
But Dreyfus didn’t see any of that. All he saw was the long open space between the buildings on the right and the one by the water that he was interested in. He’d already mentally driven down, turned the car and taken Emily in to get the girl. He’d already counted the seconds, and the only thought he had now was, even though he knew Emily had been right to insist on coming, he wished he’d left her at the hotel.
There was movement.
There. On the edge of the furthest building. Just? But, but, Dreyfus wasn’t certain. He clenched his eyes closed — one … two … three … and open. Yes, it was still there. And another one. And … Dreyfus slightly brushed his hand against Emily’s leg and pointed his finger over the dashboard.
“Just like we talked about,” he said without moving his eyes. “Wait for me to turn and …”
“I know what I’m doing,” Emily snapped, pushed the bottle of water away with her foot and picked the flashlight up from the floor.
The shadows were real now. Five men moving quickly, quietly, half crouching, half running across the open space from the buildings on the right. They didn’t stop at the building by the water, but — in one continuous motion — flung open the door and were inside. There were flashes of light through the open door and muffled pops as if someone was snapping bubble wrap. And then the men were outside again. They paused, looked around and started back the way they had come. Dreyfus reached for the ignition.
Suddenly, the world burst open in sharp lines of whining fire that staccato cracked and ricocheted against the broken pavement. One of the running men folded over like a puppet without strings and another, stuttered, fell and struggled to his feet. The rest dropped to the ground, shooting.
“Shit!” Dreyfus turned the ignition key and looked behind him.
“No,” Emily shouted, “We can’t leave her.”
Dreyfus turned, his face fierce with argument. “You’ll have to go in alone!” he shouted.
“I know. Go! Go!” Emily shouted back — her teeth tight.
But it was Emily’s eyes Dreyfus saw, and without hesitation, he pushed the car into gear and accelerated forward into the firefight.
It wasn’t thinking anymore, just instinct — foot on the pedal, across the asphalt, behind the men, turn, turn, turn, gripping the steering wheel and leaning to help the car doughnut around to the door of the building. The zipping, hot metal hissing chaos, coming at them, around them, trying to find them. The tires squealed in pain, fishtailed and straightened, and Dreyfus drove his foot into the accelerator and then wham into the brake. The car slid and screamed and jerked hard as it stopped.
“Go!” Dreyfus shouted, pulled the Beretta from under his arm and shot two-handed through the open window. The explosions were sharp, loud and terrifying.
Emily lunged out of the car, stumbled, lurched and ran for the door. Inside she turned on the flashlight. There were three men dead at the table: one still in his chair and two more on the floor in pools of glistening blood. Emily gagged and turned the light up to the walls. There were two doors. She ran to the first one, shouting.
“Hello! Are you there?”
The door was locked. Key! The key! She banged on the door.
“Are you there? Tell me if you’re there! I’ve come to get you!”
There were sounds, cries and, “Yes! Yes! We’re here!”
Key! Emily turned the flashlight back to the table. There had to be a key. She ran back, the surge of adrenaline killing her gag reflex. There was no key. No key! Emily fanned the light across the room. Something. Something heavy. Nothing. Shit! Shit! Shit! She turned the light back to the table. Something! There was an assault rifle leaning on the wall. She snatched it up and ran back to the door. She put the flashlight on the floor, grabbed the gun with both hands and drove the butt straight down on the door knob. The old wood groaned. She tightened her grip and drove it down again. The knob bent. Once more. She slammed the butt down as hard as she could, and there was a crack as the wood splintered. Emily dropped the gun, turned around and kicked backwards with the flat of her foot. The wood around the knob shattered, and the door was free.
Emily picked up the flashlight, shone it forward and stepped into the room. “Oh, my God!” She hadn’t expected the smell, but it was the eyes that shocked her. Fever-bright, frightened animal eyes, cringing against the light. Emily shone the light across the floor to the open door.
“C’mon! Nobody’s going to hurt you, but we have to go! We have to go now!”
She shone the light back. The room was alive with movement. Emily stopped. Eyes? There wasn’t one girl here; there were half a dozen! There was a second, maybe two — and then another surge of adrenaline and Emily recovered.
“Come on. Now. Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Emily waited until they were all out of the room. “Stay close to me. Follow the light. Don’t look. Just follow the light.”
Outside, the evening was loud, popping with sound, but it was away from them – somewhere else. Coming out of the darkness, Emily squinted against the late light. She grabbed at the backdoor handle, missed and tried again. The door opened.
“Dreyfus. . .”
“Later. It was an ambush. They’ve taken the fight to the road. Get her in here. We have …” Dreyfus twisted his head, “What the hell?”
“We haven’t got one girl; we’ve got five.”
“Get them in. We’ll figure it out later. C’mon.” Dreyfus kept the Beretta pointed through the window. Emily managed to get one seat folded down and then half pushed the first girl in.
“All the way back. Move. All the way. MOVE!”
The next three understood and scrambled in, then there was hesitation and Emily simply lifted the last girl and shoved her in on top of everyone else. She slammed the door and shouted, “Go! Go! Go!” as she jumped into the front seat. Dreyfus tossed the gun into Emily’s lap, found the gear, accelerated and they were moving fast back through the broken gate before Emily got her door closed.
There are three bridges over the Bosporus, and Dreyfus was driving hard for the middle one, Sultan Mehmet. He’d memorized the route and there wasn’t much traffic, but he was having trouble – a lot of trouble. The truth is Dreyfus wasn’t a very good driver, and he knew it. Plus, unlike lines on a map, Istanbul streets were narrow and indistinguishable. And it didn’t help that there was a military-green Land Rover appearing and disappearing in his rear view mirror, or that Emily was on her knees beside him, leaning into the back seat with her damn ass in the air. She was struggling to untangle a tangle of terrified arms and legs. The five girls were trying their best, but they were frightened and confused, shaking and sobbing. One poor thing, directly behind Dreyfus, had drunk the water too fast and was gagging it back up in long, slimy strings. Dreyfus tightened his concentration.
“Just sit up. Sit up! There. Now put your foot. No, no, here … move just a bit … Like. Yes, there!” Emily turned her head to Dreyfus. “We have to stop so I can fix the seats!”
“No!” Dreyfus’ voice was measured, “Not until we get across the bridge.” Dreyfus turned into another nondescript street. “Do the best you can.” Forward, he still couldn’t see the approach to the highway. He checked the rear view mirror. Not there now – not yet, anyway. Then, there is was again – the Land Rover. This wasn’t just someone out for an evening drive; it was definitely the Albanians, likely a spotter car, sent after them from the firefight and probably already calling for reinforcements. If he could get to the highway, Dreyfus knew he could lose them in the asphalt knots of entrances and exits – but where the hell was it?
A car surprised him, coming out of a side street. Dreyfus automatically swerved, throwing everyone screaming sideways, and the other driver jammed his brakes and lay on the horn. Just past the avoided collision, Dreyfus stomped his own brakes, found reverse by feel, spun the steering wheel and, less than five seconds later, was accelerating backwards. He hit the stopped car just in front of the passenger door, crumpling the hood and the front quarter panel. More screams and Emily with some industrial-strength swearing, but the thick rubber bumper of the larger Rav 4 absorbed most of the impact. Dreyfus shifted back to drive, pushed hard on the gas pedal and sped off. The Land Rover was trapped behind the wrecked car – for now. But it was the two or three minutes Dreyfus needed to find the bridge and get over to the European side. Once he was there, he could get off the highway and disappear out of the range of the traffic cameras.
Thirty minutes later, that’s where they were — away from the cameras, parked on a side street. Dreyfus had folded the back seats down, and Emily had rearranged the girls so that, even if they weren’t comfortable, they could at least lean on each other. They didn’t care. They were still in shock, hollow-eyed, empty with exhaustion and clinging to Emily’s voice. She left the passenger door open and stepped back to where Dreyfus was closing the hatchback.
“Alright, that should do for now. Are you sure you don’t want me to drive the rest of the way?” Dreyfus didn’t miss the slight slap against his automotive skills. Lady Perry-Turner was nothing if not resilient.
“No, the alibi’s more important. But I don’t see any cabs around here.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll find my way to the St. Regis. But I’m going to have a big drink before I go back to the hotel.”
Dreyfus smiled, “Have one for me.” He exhaled and raised five fingers. “This blows the hell out of Plan A. I’ll deposit our girl, whichever one she is, but I’m going to have to get the others over the border. They’re not safe here. Russians?” Dreyfus shook his head, “They’ve got a long reach in this town.”
“Do what you do. Just fix it. I’ll be at the hotel until you get there, and if anybody asks, you’re upstairs — dying of diarrhea.” Emily smiled.
Dreyfus rolled his eyes skyward.
“Go, you’re going to be late.” Emily reached up and kissed him, turned and went back to the passenger door. She stuck her head in.
“Girls. Okay, just a little bit longer. Stay quiet, and we’ll get you out of here as soon as we can. Alright?” Emily closed the door. She wasn’t sure if the girls understood or not, but she didn’t think it mattered anyway. She walked away.
Dreyfus got in the driver’s seat and started the engine. He watched Emily for a few seconds, then turned the car into the street and drove past her. He only had the original route to the Mall of Istanbul in his head. That meant getting back onto the highway and being seen by the traffic cameras, but he knew he had at least a twenty minute head start on the Albanians, and he didn’t want to waste it.
Emily walked around the corner and stopped at the first open shop window.
“Taksi nerede?” she asked.
“One street more,” the man answered in English and pointed, “Busy street, lady. A lot of taxis. You go there.”
“Tesekkurler,” Emily said, turned and walked away, vaguely wondering how Dreyfus was going to get those girls over the border.
Two hours later, Dreyfus had abandoned his car at the furthest point away from where the S.S. Delfini was still tied up to the dock — directly across from it, on the European side of the Bosporus. As he walked away, he could see the emergency lights flashing across the water. He had to duck into a doorway as several sirens wailed past him. Driving over the speed limit under a lot of traffic cameras had helped the authorities — and the Albanians, and probably the Russians — find him. He waited until the sounds of the sirens weren’t moving anymore, and then walked away. The empty car would keep them busy for a while, and every minute meant Sylvia Harrow and the girls were closer to the border. Sylvia Harrow was quite a woman, especially from a time when women were supposed to be seen and not heard. As he walked, he could feel the adrenaline dissolving away, and he wondered if Emily would still be awake when he got back to the hotel.
At about the same time, Emily got out of a taxi at their hotel. She’d taken the first taxi to the St Regis Brasserie, gone to the bar and ordered a large whisky. And even though she wasn’t dressed for it (there were traces of blood and vomit on her jeans and jacket) the downside of the Pretty Girl Rule is pretty girls don’t sit alone for very long. The first taste hadn’t even begun to warm her when there was a lurking movement that brought her mind out of the middle distance. She focused and looked. He was too boyish to be handsome and a couple of years too old to still be boyish. (But he obviously didn’t know that. He thought it was charming.)
“Hi, there! You look a little sad. Would you like some company to cheer you up?” The accent was foreign-born English Public school.
“Actually, I’m waiting for someone.” Emily could see him weighing the possibilities.
“Well, he’s not here. I could buy you a drink and we could wait together?”
Emily’s face didn’t give away her long-suffering sigh or the chain of thought from annoyed to benevolent, or her unconscious change of accent.
“How about if you just give me the money and we’ll call it even?”
The look was confused, and Emily laughed. “Wrong woman, wrong time, sport.” Emily said and fluttered her fingers. The dismissal was kindly but final. The man gallantly tipped his head and left, and Emily was left alone to linger over the rest of her drink. When she finished and the bill came, she picked it up, stepped over to the boyish Casanova who was sitting with his friends at the bar. She put it on the counter and pushed it in front of him.
“Thanks for the drink,” she said, smiled, and walked away. This was a new experience for Agosto Marino, Assistant Italian Consul, but his friends would never tire of reminding him of it.
Outside, she asked the doorman to find her a taxi, and when it came, she got in and slumped into the seat. She was tired but still excited and hoped Dreyfus was already at the hotel. She wanted to hear what happened. She wanted an end to the story. And she wanted Dreyfus back where she could see him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there when she got to reception to pick up the key card. She turned around, disappointed, seriously worried that Dreyfus was on his way to the Bulgarian border, and she didn’t see the man get up off the lobby sofa and approach her.
“You are alone tonight?”
Emily’s head dipped and her shoulders slumped in resignation. She inhaled, raised her head, exhaled and looked at the man. “I am in no mood for this bullshit.”
But another man stepped forward. He moved his jacket back to show Emily the black grip handle of his gun.
“Where is your husband?” The first man asked.
Emily’s mind clicked off the possibilities – but there really weren’t any. All she could do was keep these men off-balance, stay in a public place and hope to hell Dreyfus could get to Bulgaria and back before the bar closed.
“I’m going to the bar to wait for him. Perhaps you’d like to join me?” Emily turned and took a step towards reception.
“Excuse me: when my husband comes in, can you tell him I’m waiting for him in The 47 with his friends? Thank you so much.” Emily turned back without looking at either man, and walked directly to a table in the middle of the bar by the water.
Dreyfus’ taxi was twenty minutes behind Emily’s, and he stopped at reception to get a key card in case she was already asleep.
“Your wife got a card earlier, sir, and told me to tell you she would be in The 47, having a drink with your friends.”
“Yes, sir. They were waiting here when she came in this evening.”
Dreyfus looked across into the bar. Emily was at a table by the water. She was on his left. There was one man sitting across from her and one facing Dreyfus, with his back to the glass barrier that separated the bar from the Bosporus. They weren’t local toughs: more likely middle management. Dreyfus picked his target. He took a breath and step-marched through the bar, hitting the wooden floor hard with his boot heels and scraping chairs out of his way. Conversations stopped, and people turned to look. By the time Dreyfus got to the table, both men had recognized the threat and were already half out of their chairs. Dreyfus went behind Emily, and his last three steps were a running crouch. He grabbed the man by the belt with his right hand, pulled up and at the same time drove his left shoulder into his chest, pushing him backwards. Caught off guard and off balance, the man fell sideways against the top of the barrier, and his momentum and upper body weight flipped his feet into the air. Dreyfus let go of his belt, pushed hard, and suddenly the man was head first over the plexiglass and headed for the water. There was a splash.
Dreyfus half-turned, put his right hand inside his jacket and faced the man who was now standing across from Emily.
“Alright, you better start explaining — or swimming lessons are going to be the least of your worries!”
There was a scream or two and some shouting, then general confusion as the people in the bar reacted and a couple of them ran over to help. Dreyfus didn’t take his eyes off the man in front of him, who was angry, but wary. This wasn’t what he expected.
“We had some property stolen tonight. My boss wants to talk to you.”
Dreyfus shook his head. “Nothing to do with me. Call the police.”
“My boss says …”
“I know who your boss is, and if he has anything to say to me, he should say it himself. But he better hurry — we’re going home tomorrow.”
“Oh, no you don’t, Sinclair,” Emily interrupted. “We’re not going anywhere. You promised me Ephesus. You promised me a proper holiday. ‘I’ll take you to the ruins and roger you rigid.’ That’s what you said.”
“I never said that,” Dreyfus took a quick look down.
“Words to that effect.” Emily lifted her index finger, “Don’t try and weasel out of this. I’ve spent four days watching Turkish television and getting fat on room service. You owe me. Now, quit playing silly buggers with your friends, and let’s go have a proper holiday.”
Dreyfus exhaled. He looked back at the man in front of him who was still wary but now just confused. He hadn’t expected this either. Behind him, Dreyfus could see a couple of people had pulled the wet man out of the water.
“Alright, you tell your boss whatever problems he has, I had nothing to do with it. But …” Dreyfus pointed, “As a courtesy, I’ll call him in the morning. Now, this is over. Collect your boyfriend and clear off.”
The man looked as if he was going to say something, thought about it and turned around to help the other man. It took several minutes for them to leave and the bar to settle back to normal — although a lot of people simply paid their bill and left. When they were gone, Dreyfus sat down.
“Were you really going to shoot that fellow?”
“No, I gave my gun to Sylvia Harrow.”
“Let’s have a drink, and you can tell me all about it,” Emily said, reaching up to signal the waiter.
“You know, we drink too much?”
The next day, Emily and Dreyfus took a flight to Izmir and rented a car (Emily drove.) They went to Sirince and for three (or was it four?) days, they sat in the sun, ate, sang, laughed and drank wine with the locals — and, more importantly, spent more than one night in the ruins, under the stars.
This is the entire tale for those who prefer to binge.