A long way from home.
The cold water revived him – a bucket of it in his face. He came round gasping. He shook his head and blinked it out of his eyes. His vision was blurry, his mouth and tongue awkward. His ankles were strapped to the front legs of the chair he was sitting on and his arms were tied to the woodwork behind him. His shoulders ached where he’d slumped unconscious for he didn’t know how long.
It was not dark. The light was natural. Either he’d been out overnight or a few hours, maybe only minutes. He hoped for the latter because of what being tightly bound at the wrists and ankles could do to a body’s circulatory system.
He lifted his aching head and tried focussing on something in front of him. He felt nauseous. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He tried again: opened his eyes and blinked and squinted and widened them and blinked again. Slowly, very slowly, a figure came into focus, like something viewed through a sluggish telephoto lens.
It took him a long moment to realise that the person sitting opposite him was dead – strapped to a chair the way he felt he must be – effectively and professionally trussed. The man’s head lolled to one side. His eyes were open and fixed blankly on the floor. Wet blood from the man’s broken nose clung to his top lip, mouth and chin. The man was familiar to him but in the temporary fug of his confusion he could not immediately place him.
As his vision adjusted and cleared, he dragged his eyes away from the dead man to learn what he could of his surroundings. He was in a barn, or a big shed. The floor was dirt. The walls were planks of ill-fitting timber with fragments of daylight breaking through. The windows, high up along one side were grimy and dirt-streaked. He smelled earth and wood and damp and decay.
He took an inventory of the body parts he could feel. Apart from the numbness of his dead limbs, there was no pain. He tried to lick his lips but his mouth was dry.
There was a noise behind him. He tried to turn his head but whoever was there was keeping out of sight.
He said, ‘I’m awake.’ His voice rasped in his dry throat.
A voice said, ‘So we see.’
He thought about the we.
A second voice said, ‘You can see your friend?’
He returned his gaze to the dead man opposite him. ‘Yes.’
‘Then you know we’re not into idle threats.’
He said nothing.
‘You want to know why you’re not dead yet?’
He said nothing.
Over his shoulder came a hand with a piece of paper in it. The first voice said, ‘Because of this.’
The paper was too close to read. It looked like something hand-written. He moved his head to see better. The paper was snatched away.
The voice said, ‘I can’t promise you’ll be walking out of here. But I can promise that things don’t need to be... prolonged.’
Nearing the end of its four-hour flight, the mid-sized Boeing continued its descent to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport, situated on the less-well-known Asian side of the metropolis. From his window seat, Acer Sansom looked down on the great, sprawling mass that was the Anatolian half of the historic city. He felt none of the holiday excitement evident in several of his fellow passengers. But there was adrenalin at work in his system, increasing his heart rate and dampening his palms.
The bright sunshine and blue skies gave him a good, clear view. The landmark sites, iconic buildings and celebrated skylines the city was famous for were across the far side of the Bosphorus Channel – the European side of the city. The Anatolian spread of Istanbul was a carpet of jumbled concrete boxes with few obvious concessions to green or open spaces. Nothing obviously magical about it. The constant flow of tiny vehicles moved along the highways, like vital fluids running through the arteries of some great urban monster. Acer thought about normal life and whether he would be getting his back soon along with the only thing that mattered to him now, the reason he was in Istanbul: to reclaim his daughter.
The plane banked to the right and his city view became a rectangle of sky. He looked across the aisle and saw through the window opposite the vibrant blues of the Sea of Marmara. A container ship, miniature from the distance, was on the move – a thin white strip of churned sea drifted out behind the vessel on the glass-like surface of the water, like a loose thread. As the plane turned, he caught a glimpse of the Princes’ Islands and his gaze hardened.
This was not Acer’s first visit to the city, a place that had been fought over for centuries, a place now more famed for its tourism and history than anything else. He had done some fighting of his own here, spilt blood in the ancient streets with the same murderous hatred that the world’s invaders had shown as he’d pursued those responsible for the devastation of his life. He never imagined he’d return. Back then he believed his daughter was dead.
The cabin announcement reminded those passengers slow to conform to place their seats in the upright position, stow their tray tables and fasten their seat belts. Passengers were also reminded that Istanbul was two hours ahead of UK time and that it was one o’clock in the afternoon local time.
With only hand luggage and his visa already bought online, Acer was one of the first of his flight to get through passport control and customs and walk through the airport’s automatic sliding doors into the arrivals hall. He slowed his pace and looked at the handwritten signs clutched to the chests of the waiting and bored-looking drivers. He saw his name spelt wrongly – Samson – and crossed the floor to make himself known. The man did not ask to see identification. He did not speak, or smile, or offer to take Acer’s bag. He nodded in the direction of the doors and walked away. Acer followed him.
Light outside the terminal was bright. Acer put on his sunglasses. The air was crisp and still, polluted with the smoke of cigarettes, the horns of the vehicles and the noise of people. It wasn’t Istanbul’s major airport but it was still busy and bustling.
The man he was following did not hesitate in stepping off the pavement to cut between the slow-moving vehicles. It seemed to Acer that he didn’t even look at them. The man exuded a confidence that matched his height, breadth and bearing, and smart appearance. He moved like a successful businessman on his way to an important meeting that wouldn’t start without him. He didn’t move like someone’s driver.
He wasn’t Acer’s driver. The driver was behind the steering wheel. The man from the arrivals hall opened the boot of the big black Mercedes for Acer to stow his bag inside. With that done, the man slammed the lid and got in next to the driver. Acer opened his own door and got in the back. The car accelerated away from the kerb to join the traffic heading for the city. Still not a word or a grunt had been exchanged.
Clear of the airport and picking up speed, the man who had met Acer from the plane used his mobile phone to make a short call. Acer understood nothing of what the man said in his native language but could guess he was letting whoever was in charge know that he had been collected and was on his way.
They motored along through largely uninteresting surroundings and on clear roads for almost half-an-hour, ending up hugging the sea on the coast road. Looking to his left, Acer got his second view that day of where he was heading: The Princes’ Islands.
Acer had learned of his destination in a phone call from the woman who had his daughter and who was bringing her up as her own child. Acer’s daughter, a nine-month-old baby when he had been parted from her nearly a year and a half before, had been taken as a survivor of a massacre by the perpetrators of it. The incident had been instigated by the woman’s husband as an act of retribution against another man. It was an event that Acer’s family and other innocent people had been unwittingly caught up in. Acer’s wife, along with every other passenger and crew member of the ship they had been on, had been slaughtered at sea. Acer had escaped and survived, marooned for over a year on a remote Pacific island, believing that both his wife and daughter had perished together, existing only so that he could avenge them.
The man responsible for all that was now dead – killed by Acer on his previous visit to Turkey. Acer had not known then that his daughter was alive and living in the hills not two miles from his showdown with the man on Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula.
Mrs Botha, the man’s wife, had contacted Acer some months after that episode. She had told him that ‘their’ daughter needed his help. A second phone call followed from a man who seemed well informed regarding Acer’s recent history. He had asked Acer whether he wanted his daughter back. Acer had said that he did. The man had told Acer to book a flight for Istanbul and to pack for a short stay. He was to come to the Princes’ Islands.
Acer had never heard of the Princes’ Islands. Internet research showed they were a collection of small islands in the Sea of Marmara, a short boat trip from the Turkish mainland, off the Anatolian coast of Istanbul. He had no idea which of the islands he would be going to or who he was going to meet or what would happen when he got there. The way the man had spoken to him on the telephone led Acer to believe it would not be as simple and straightforward as being reunited with his daughter and then them both being waved off, goodbye.
The Mercedes stopped at the kerb by traffic lights opposite a small ferry terminal. Acer read the words Bostancı and Princes’ Islands on a sign above the entrance. The man who had met him in the arrivals hall got out and opened Acer’s door for him. The gesture seemed more an instruction to get out than something courteous. The man retrieved Acer’s bag and stood at the kerb of the busy road. Acer joined him. The car sped away with a little squeal of warm rubber on tarmac.
The lights changed. They crossed the road with the crowd. The man did not enter the ferry terminal. He went left and through an entrance that looked like something more private and exclusive. They were on the same stretch of the marina as the ferryboats but separated from it by ugly, razor-wire-topped fencing.
Acer followed the man to a fine, sleek-looking craft built for speed over short distances rather than comfort over long. As the man stepped aboard, he exchanged words with another who was standing on the prow of the boat. Acer followed him up. The skin, hair and eye colour of both men and the driver suggested close and pure-blooded connections with middle-Eastern culture. The men were all smartly and similarly dressed in charcoal-grey suits, open-necked white shirts and polished black shoes. They all wore sunglasses. Acer noticed that the suit jackets were not expensively tailored to the level of hiding the weapons beneath them.
Learning that men employed by who he was going to see wore guns as casually as he would wear a watch disturbed him greatly. He knew nothing about the man who had summoned him to Istanbul other than that he spoke excellent English with only the slightest accent. The picture that was developing did not encourage Acer’s expectations regarding a friendly welcome followed by a quick departure with his daughter.
The new man stepped forward to block Acer’s way. He planted his feet shoulder-width apart. There was something innately aggressive in both the man and the movement. He was broad, almost neckless, shaven-headed and with a primate’s brow. He was a few inches shorter than Acer but much heavier. The suit looked tight on him, especially across the shoulders. His arms hung loosely at his sides and his fingers flexed, like a weightlifter psyching himself up for a competition snatch. The man looked like he’d have been more comfortable in loose-fitting sweats. He resembled a gorilla in a suit.
Unconcerned by or just enjoying the public exhibition he was making of them to the dozens of people waiting only yards away for the ferry, the gorilla indicated that he was going to search Acer. Acer lifted his arms. The man moved in and patted him down quickly and efficiently. Then he stood and stared at Acer with a blank expression. Acer smelt cigarettes and the man’s last meal on his breath. After a long moment, the man stepped aside and with an economical gesture pointed the way to the seats. Acer made his way across the nose of the boat and stepped down into the seating area to join the man who had his bag. He took a seat next to the rail, content to stare at the view as no one wanted to talk to him.
The man who had searched him sat behind the wheel and started the engines. Their idling tempo and tone suggested a lot of horsepower.
As they waited, the note of the engine and the smell of the burning fuel floated another memory to the surface of Acer’s thoughts. It was of the last time he had been in a speedboat: the Aegean Sea off the Turkish coast of Bodrum at the dawning of a perfect summer’s day. Acer had been at the wheel of that boat. A man had been shooting at him with a high-powered rifle. The boat had been disintegrating around Acer as the bullets had torn through its flimsy structure. Acer had taken the boat out into deeper water, turned it to confront the larger vessel bearing down on him and opened the throttles to their maximum. The engine had spluttered and almost stalled. Then it had caught and Acer had guided it, skimmed it across the mirror-like surface of the sea like a missile at its target: the boat superior in size and strength where his enemies were.
Acer’s keenest recollection of the last seconds before impact was of his acceptance of his impending and inevitable death as he settled his score with Mrs Botha’s husband. Acer’s last glimpse of Botha had been of the man hurrying away from the railings in search of shelter from the promised collision.
Some life-preserving force had encouraged Acer to bail at the last safe moment – when he had been certain the damage he would do with his ‘missile’ could not be stopped – to plunge into and claw his way down through the crystal clear waters of the Aegean. The shock waves of the explosion as the two craft converged had sent him spinning and disorientated under the water. When he surfaced, nothing recognisable remained of either boat. A pillar of smoke, exploded ship parts and burning fuel covering the surface of the water in every direction. He had turned his back on it all and swum for the shore.
The gorilla called out, disturbing Acer’s vivid recollection. Acer turned to see the driver of the Mercedes hurrying along the concrete quay towards them. He hopped aboard, untied the mooring rope and, after stowing it, joined them in the seats. He was out of breath and sweating. This man was older than the other two. His face was lined with age and his hair was grey and thinning. His suit looked a size too big and his shoes needed a polish. Acer caught the sound of the wheezing breath of a heavy smoker.
The boat backed out. The gorilla opened the throttle a little too far and the craft moved forward a little too fast in a majestic arc of sea. Acer felt strongly that the younger man’s vanity was enjoying the attention they were getting from those still standing on the quay. No one on board said anything. Probably they were used to him.
Once they were through the stone entrance of the small harbour, the gorilla increased the engines’ revs until they felt like something near their maximum. The lightweight boat reared up and they skipped over the Sea of Marmara in an arrow-straight line towards the Princes’ Islands.
Out on the open water the air was crisp and cold.
Despite his rising anxiety and impatience regarding his reason for being there, Acer welcomed the respite of the short trip across the sea. Salt water had played an important part in his life ever since he was a child. He felt an affinity with it that was more enduring, more powerful, than any feelings he had for terra firma. Any opportunity to renew his acquaintance with it was an opportunity to embrace. Even this. Close proximity with the sea had the power to calm him, ease his tensions, dilute his worries and disperse his fears. As he sat staring at the looming spectacle of the Princes’ Islands rising up out of the water ahead, he felt the influences of the sea working their magic on him.
The speedboat crossed the watery divide between islands and mainland in a matter of minutes. As they approached, Acer saw that the islands’ steeply sloping elevations facing Istanbul were littered with a jumble of homes, squeezed in shoulder to shoulder, a higgledy-piggledy mess with hardly any greenery to break up the prevailing whiteness.
The boat veered through the channel between the two largest of the islands. From his online research, Acer knew the island on his left was called Büyükada, the island to his right Heybeliada.
Glancing left, Acer saw a ferry leaving Büyükada’s small quay. The waterfront was filled with restaurants and shops with their multi-coloured awnings and signs. In the bright sunshine it looked inviting. Acer wondered what it looked like in the wind and rain or the snow he knew Istanbul saw plenty of. He did not see many people around, but the tourist season was well past and it was the middle of the week.
As they followed the curve of the island on their right, Heybeliada, the number of properties fell. In their place, large pockets of pine trees interspersed with well-detached, large and luxurious-looking homes characterised the slopes.
The speed of the boat dropped abruptly as the gorilla in the suit angled the craft towards a small, perfect and natural-looking horseshoe bay on the side of the island furthest from the mainland. As they entered into the calmer waters, protected by the rocky outcrops, Acer learned what he could of the place.
In stark contrast to the hundreds of closely crammed homes that shelved the slopes the other side of the island, Acer could make out only one large and very secluded property. This was buried about halfway up the incline, deep in the greenery of pine forest that swept down the steep face of the island from summit to shoreline and from left to right as far as the curves of the island allowed him to see.
Anchored in the bay were two impressive seagoing vessels. Both looked built for long distance travel in a high degree of comfort. One was modern: sleek fibreglass hull, chrome railings and fittings, and tinted glass. Its size and design hinted at big engines and a small crew. The other boat was bigger: wooden hull, brass fixtures and fittings, plenty of rope-rigging and canvas for the pilot to call upon. It suggested days of lazy sailing, lounging about under awnings on gaily coloured cushions with an endless supply of chilled drinks for those along for the ride. Lots of hard physical work and attention to the true business of sailing for those crewing it. Acer knew which boat he’d prefer. He’d always favoured wind power over engines.
The engines grumbled as they came alongside a long wooden jetty that jutted a good distance out into the bay. Acer looked down into the crystal clear waters to the stony bottom. It was just deep enough for a shallow dive for someone who knew what they were doing.
The three men stepped off the boat and waited for him. The man who had met Acer at the airport still had his bag. Acer was beginning to think they might not trust him. He also believed that his bag would be thoroughly searched before he was allowed near it again.
The four of them walked along the jetty towards the island. The men’s formal footwear beat a noisy tattoo on the woodwork, drowning out the gentle lapping sounds of the sea as it sloshed against the jetty’s supports. Apart from that, the place seemed eerily quiet. Peaceful.
The jetty led to a wide paved area – something a small truck could have turned in comfortably – that cut across the beach of sand and pebbles and led to what looked like the start of a tarmac road that disappeared into the shade of the forest. A four-wheel-drive vehicle was waiting for them. Acer noticed poles with cameras high above the ground and covering every direction.
Acer’s bag went into the boot. The four of them got into the vehicle. The man who had driven from the airport was at the wheel. No one spoke as they climbed the steep incline from the shore to the house in the forest. Acer let the window down for the air and the smells of the place. His action earned him a quick look from the gorilla sitting next to him but nothing more.
After about a minute, they turned off the road that continued to snake away upwards and out of immediate sight. They were still on a good surface. The road was hemmed in on either side by ranks of mature pine trees. The heady forest scents filtering in through the window brought more memories back for Acer. Some good, some bad. He had no time to explore them. They broke clear of the forest and onto an area of brick-paved driveway that sat at the front of the property Acer had first glimpsed from the sea.
It was an impressive and imposing wooden-fronted building constructed in the traditional Ottoman style: intricately decorated, lavishly fashioned and painted a brilliant white. Every window had shutters; the roofline was a jumble of slopes, valleys, cupolas, ridges and peaks; every first floor window had a balcony – the carpenter responsible for the balustrades had excelled himself with his decorative fretwork. An elaborate portico protected the front door from the elements and the sun. The whole effect was of a property lovingly cared for, very expensive and very exclusive. The only incongruity was the number of small cameras fixed to each corner, covering every aspect.
The roughness of the natural environment had been halted a few dozen metres from the building on all sides. It had been replaced with formal shrubs and borders of flowers. Like the building, the roadway, the jetty, the boats and the vehicles, the gardens looked like money was no object for whoever held ultimate sway over this little Turkish empire.
The car came to a stop and the three men got quickly out. There seemed a greater urgency to their movements, a sharper edge to them. And Acer soon saw why. As he got out of the car, a man came through the large front door and walked towards them. The man moved with a self-assurance that came with power and control over others, with comfort and familiarity in his surroundings, with the knowledge that he was important.
He walked up to where Acer stood and stopped and stared. Acer removed his sunglasses and looked back. The man was a little shorter than Acer and narrower in the shoulders. His suit did look expensive. Acer saw no sign of a weapon beneath his jacket. In jeans, casual shirt under a waxed jacket and solid boots, Acer was starting to feel distinctly under-dressed for the occasion.
Acer put the man in his middle-thirties. He was handsome by any standards and Acer intuitively understood the man knew this. He had light olive-coloured skin, large brown eyes, a good nose and a full head of styled hair. A quarter of an inch of shaped, thick black stubble covered his strong jaw. The man took a long moment to study Acer’s face, his eyes in particular. Acer felt the man’s eyes looking into him.
Then the man smiled – an expensive smile or just naturally fortunate with his inherited dental properties. He offered his hand. Acer felt it best to be civil. He took the man’s hand and felt the soft but firm grip of a businessman.
In his barely-accented English, the man said, ‘Welcome to Heybeliada, Mr Sansom. My name is Kaan Oktay.’
Acer said, ‘Thank you. When can I see my daughter?’
Oktay smiled again. ‘I understand your eagerness, Mr Sansom. Truly I do. Your daughter is here and well and happy. She is sleeping at the moment. Come with me. You will meet my father and we will discuss what is to be done. Then you will see your daughter.’
Acer knew he had to accept this. Aggressive demands and posturing would get him nowhere in this company. He had waited a long time to see his daughter again; he could wait a few minutes more.
The five of them walked back to the house. Acer noticed that his bag had been left in the car.
The temperature outside was bordering on warm. Inside the air was cool and fragrant with the scents of timber and polish. The woodwork of the outside of the house seemed amateurish when compared with the internal fixtures and fittings. Acer could not help but appreciate and marvel at the craftsmanship involved in the decor as they crossed the space between the front door and another that led out into a back garden.
With a nod, Oktay dismissed the three who had brought Acer from the mainland. They turned towards a building in the grounds. It looked modern and functional. There were a number of antennae and satellite dishes on the roof. Acer believed it the sort of building a rich and cautious man might run his home security operation from, among other things.
Oktay led Acer across a wide expanse of manicured lawn towards an area of shade beneath a broad-leaved tree. The leaves were browned and dry and shrivelled but still managing to cling on to some kind of life.
Under the tree sat a figure in a lawn chair. Getting closer and with his eyes adjusting from the glare of the afternoon to the shade, Acer could see he was an old man, probably in his seventies. On first glance he reminded Acer of the leaves above his head. He was dressed less formally than the others, more comfortably. He had a head of thick silver hair that was swept back harshly from his face and kept there with hair product. His facial features were larger versions of Kaan Oktay’s. The backs of his hands and his face were mottled with liver spots. He was heavily wrinkled and his exposed flesh hung loosely on his shrunken frame. Apart from a well-trimmed moustache, he was clean-shaven. The man did not get up. He looked at Acer with a vacant expression that hinted at a tedious life, boring routines and dull days. The overall combination was of a body possessed by a feeble mind.
‘My father,’ said Oktay.
Acer did not think the old man wanted to shake hands. He nodded at him, turned to the son and said, ‘Does your father speak English?’
‘No. Not one word.’ Oktay motioned to empty chairs and said, ‘Please, sit.’
A woman dressed in the uniform of domestic help approached from the house. She carried a tray that held three empty glasses and a jug of yellow liquid with fruit in it. They waited while she set it on the table and poured each of them a drink.
Acer remembered one of the few phrases he’d learned from his previous time in Turkey. He said, ‘Teşekkür ederim.’
The woman bobbed her head in response.
The old man said something in Turkish. Acer looked at the son.
Oktay said, ‘My father asks if you speak Turkish.’
Acer shook his head. ‘Not much more than that. Just a few holiday phrases I picked up.’
‘Of course,’ said Oktay. ‘I must remember, you have been in Turkey before.’
Oktay spoke quickly in Turkish to the old man who grunted in reply and seemed to lose interest. His eyelids fluttered and closed for a while.
Acer had no doubt that they knew all about his Turkish past from the woman he had made a widow. Then he wondered what they thought about it. He was glad that the men he’d killed had not been Turkish nationals.
The old man put out his hand for a glass and Oktay passed it to him. Acer decided to take one and quench his thirst. It tasted good. Like lemonade should. Homemade.
Oktay breathed in deeply through his nose and let the air out the same way. He said, ‘Well, Mr Sansom. We should talk business. Your daughter will be awake soon and I’m sure you are anxious to see her.’
Acer wondered whether his daughter really was asleep. ‘Business? My daughter is here. I’ve come to collect her. That’s all the business we have.’
Oktay frowned. He shook his head a little sadly, like he regretted what he was about to say. ‘I’m afraid that, for you and your daughter, things are not so straight forward.’
‘What do you mean? Why? We don’t know each other, do we?’
‘I don’t owe you money, do I?’
‘Then why do I get the feeling that I do and that until I pay my debts my daughter doesn’t leave this place?’
Oktay met Acer’s stare. ‘That is, in fact, a usefully simple way of looking at our situation, Mr Sansom. Allow me to explain.’
Acer bit back his barbed comment and listened.
‘Yes, your daughter is here. She is living here under our... protection. For now. We will be happy to pass her into your care. In time. But first we require something of you.’
‘What sort of something? A guarantee that I’ll not go running to the authorities over a case of kidnap?’
Oktay allowed a high-pitched noise of amusement escape him. ‘That is rather dramatic, Mr Sansom. And anyway, you should believe me when I say that going to the authorities in Turkey would not be your best option. The first I would hear of it would be when they contacted me to ask what I would like done with your remains.’ Oktay wasn’t smiling now. He had fixed Acer with a hard and serious look. ‘What we require from you, Mr Sansom, is a favour. A few days of your time. A bit of effort. Some goodwill. That is all.’
‘What gives you the right to ask for anything in exchange for my daughter’s freedom?’
Oktay scratched his stubble and cleared his throat. ‘Let’s call it a Turkish custom. You see, when you killed Mr Botha you deprived my sister of a husband, her children of a father and, whether you like it or not, you insulted my father and our family name. Turkish custom. Sometimes it can be so... archaic and primitive, I know, but there it is. It has its uses. Now, according to Turkish custom we must level some sort of punishment at you for that insult. Ordinarily that would be a simple matter of your death. And the deaths of every member of your immediate family. It is not enough to simply settle things with an eye for an eye. For our ‘eye’ we must take the eyes, the ears, the nose... I can see you understand. Honour is restored for all to see. The message is sent: do not engage in violence with the Oktay family. Do I make myself clear, Mr Sansom?’
Acer said, ‘Where is your family from, Sicily?’
The man smiled. ‘We can call it a Mediterranean mentality, if it makes you feel better.’
‘It doesn’t. Botha killed my wife, left me for dead and took my daughter. What I took was my revenge. He was my eye for an eye.’
Oktay shrugged. ‘So it escalates into a family feud. Do you have much family left, Mr Sansom?’
‘My daughter is it.’
‘Good. It is comforting to know that, should it come to it, this will not be something to spill over into future generations.’
Acer shook his head in his dismay. ‘What is this favour you want me to do for you?’
Oktay smiled. ‘That is better. Let us talk of positive ways to reconcile our differences with each other. To settle our debts.’
Acer began to feel that the whole conversation was based on a lie. He doubted very much whether Botha, a South-African, a foreigner, would have been welcomed into this family. Acer felt it more likely that the old man across from him would have washed his hands of his daughter for marrying a yabancı and then bearing him children, polluting the family gene pool. Acer felt that this whole Turkish custom crap, this Mediterranean mentality bullshit was just a smokescreen – an excuse to compel him to do some dirty work for them. And even then there would be no guarantee that they would honour their side of the bargain and, if the son were to be believed, no legal way he could force them.
Oktay said, ‘There is someone my family would like... taken care of, I believe is an appropriate euphemism.’
Oktay winced, just a little. ‘If you prefer.’
‘If I prefer? Let me get this straight: you’re telling me that if I murder someone for you, you’ll let me take my daughter and that will be an end to our ‘business’? All debts settled?’
The old man fidgeted in the chair and said something to the son. Oktay answered him briefly. He then turned to Acer and said, ‘Please, Mr Sansom, moderate your tone. My father becomes agitated easily these days. It is not good for him. Now, will you do this thing or are going to be a problem for us.’
‘Do I have any choice?’
‘To be completely honest with you, no. Not now. I’m afraid that because I can’t have enemies running around out there looking for ways to hurt me, if you refuse, your body will never be found. There is a lot of water and there are a lot of hungry fishes out there.’ He gestured towards the sea.
Acer snorted. ‘Swimming with the fishes. How original.’
Oktay smiled. It seemed genuine. ‘Come, come, Mr Sansom, it is not as though you are a stranger to killing.’