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The white bird climbs above the city of Istanbul: a stork, riding the rising air in a spiral of black-tipped wings. A flare of the feathers; it wheels on the exhalations of twenty million people, one among ten thousand that have followed the invisible terrain of thermals from Africa to Europe, gliding one to the next, rising up from Lake Victoria and the Rift Valley, following the silver line of the Nile, across the Sinai and the Lebanon to the great quadrilateral of Asia Minor. There the migration splits. Some head north to the shores of the Black Sea, some east to Lake Van and the foothills of Ararat; but the greatest part flies west, across Anatolia to the glitter of the Bosphorus and beyond it, the breeding grounds of the Balkans and Central Europe. In the autumn the stork will return to the wintering grounds in Africa, a round-trip of twenty thousand kilometres. There has been a city on this strait for twenty-seven centuries, but the storks have been crossing twice a year for time only held by the memory of God.
High above Üsküdar, storks peel off from the top of the thermal, wingtips spread wide, feeling the air. In twos and threes they glide down towards the quays and mosques of Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu. There is a mathematics to the wheeling flock, a complex beauty spun out of simple impulses and algorithms. As the stork spills out from the top of the gyre its sense for heat tells it there is something different this migration, an added strength to the uplift of warm air. Beneath its wings the city stifles under an unseasonable heat wave.
It is after the hour of prayer but not yet the hour of money. Istanbul, Queen of Cities, wakes with a shout. There is a brassy top note to the early traffic, the shrill of gas engines. Midnotes from taxis and dolmuşes, the trams on their lines and tunnels, the trains in their deeper diggings through the fault zones beneath the Bosphorus. From the strait comes the bass thrum of heavy shipping: bulk carriers piled high with containers edge past Russian liquid gas carriers like floating mosques, pressure domes fully charged from the terminals at Odessa and Supsa. The throb of marine engines is the heartbeat of Istanbul. Between them scurry the opportunistic ferries. Sirens and horns, call and response; motors reversing and burbling as they warp into Eminönü’s quays. Gulls’ cries; always gulls. Dirty, conniving gulls. No one builds platforms on their chimneys for gulls to nest. Gulls are never blessings. The clatter of roller shutters, the bang of van doors. Morning radio, pop and talk. Much talk, of football. Champions’ League quarterfinal. Galatasaray/London Arsenal. The pundits are in full flow from a hundred thousand balconies and rooftop terraces. Pop, football and heat. This is the tenth day of the heat wave. Thirty-three degrees in April, at seven in the morning. Unthinkable. The climate-pundits speculate on whether it could be another Big Heat of ’22 when eight thousand people died in Istanbul alone. That was insane heat. Now some witty phone-in caller is fusing the two punditries together and speculating that if it flattens those pale English footballers, can that be such a bad thing?
Over all, through all, the chorus of air conditioners. A box in a window, a vent on a wall, an array of fans on a rooftop—one by one they spin up, stirring the heat into ever-greater gyres of warm air. The city exhales a subtle breath of spirals within spirals, updrafts and microthermals.
The stork’s pinfeathers feel out the rising airscape. The city’s waste heat may save it those few wingbeats it needs to carry it to the next thermal or away from the stooping eagle. Its life is an unconscious algebra, balancing equations between energy opportunity and energy expenditure. Black feather tips flutter as it slides down across the rooftops.
The explosion goes almost unnoticed in the greater roar of the waking city. A flat crack. Then silence. The first voices are the pigeons and gulls, bursting upwards in clattering wings and shrieks. Then come the voices of the machines: car alarms, security alarms, personal alarms, the hip-hop of call tones. Last come the human shrieks and cries.
The tram has come to a halt in the centre of Necatibey Cadessi a few metres away from the halt. The bomb detonated at the rear; the blue roof is bellied up, the windows and doors blown out. A little smoke leaks from the back end of the second car. The passengers have made their own escapes onto the street and now mill around uncertain about what to do. Some sit on the ground, knees pulled up, deep in shock. Pedestrians have come to help. Some offer coats or jackets; some are making cell calls, hands trying to describe the scene; more stand around feeling the need to offer help but uncertain what to do. Most stand back, watching and feeling guilty for watching. A few without guilt shoot video on their cepteps. The news channels pay money for citizen journalism.
The tram driver goes from group to group asking, Is everyone there? Is anyone missing? Are they all right? And they are all right. She doesn’t know what to do either. No one knows. Now come the sirens. Here are people who will know what to do. Lights flash beyond the press of bodies; the crowd parts. It’s hard to tell victims from helpers; the blood is smeared everywhere. Necatibey Cadessi is a street of global banks and insurance combines, but the ripples from the blast have spread out along the lines of the light rail system. Station by station, street by street, tram by stalled tram, Beyoğlu seizes up. Everyone knows about the bombing now.
From the eye of a white stork riding in from the Bosphorus the paralysis can be seen spreading out from the heart of the outrage. Its eye has no comprehension of these things; the sirens are just another unremarkable note in the clamour of a waking city. City and stork occupy overlapping but discrete universes. Its descent carries it over the bombed-out tram surrounded by flashing blue lights and into the heel of the next thermal. Then the rising heat plumes of Istanbul spiral the stork up in a wheel of white bodies and black wings, up above the eastern suburbs, up and onwards into Thrace.
Necdet sees the woman’s head explode. He was only trying to avoid more direct, challenging eye contact with the young woman with the good cheekbones and the red-highlighted hair who had caught him looking in her direction three times. He’s not staring at her. He’s not a creep. Necdet let his eyes unfocus and wander mildly across the passengers, wedged so politely together. This is a new tram at a new time: twenty minutes earlier, but the connections get him into work less than an hour late, thus not upsetting Mustafa, who hates having to act the boss. So: his tram-mates. The boy and girl in their old-fashioned high-button blue school uniforms and white collars that Necdet thought they didn’t make kids wear anymore. They carried OhJeeWah Gumi backpacks and played insatiably with their ceptep phones. The gum-chewing man staring out the window, his mastication amplified by his superb moustache. Beside him the smart man of business and fashion scanning the sports news on his ceptep. That purple velvet suit must be that new nanofabric that is cool in summer, warm in winter, and changes from silk to velvet at a touch. The woman with the curl of silver hair straying over her brow from under her headscarf and the look of distant rue on her face. She frees her right hand from the crowd, lifts it to touch the jewel at her throat. And detonates her head.
The sound of an exploding skull is a deep bass boom that sucks every other sound into itself so that for a moment after the blast there is only a very pure silence.
Then the silence shatters into screaming. The tram jerks to a halt; the momentum almost throws Necdet from his feet. To go down in this panic is to die. Necdet can’t reach a handrail and steadies himself against the bodies of roaring passengers. The crowd surges against the still-locked doors. Their bodies hold the headless woman upright. The man in the fine velvet suit shrieks in an insane, high-pitched voice. One side of his purple jacket is dark glossy red. Necdet feels wet on his face, but he can’t raise a hand to test it or wipe it away. The doors sigh open. The press is so tight Necdet fears his ribs will splinter. Then he spills out onto the street with no sense of direction or purpose, of anything except a need not to be on the tram.
The tram driver moves from group to group asking, Is anyone missing, is anyone hurt? There is nothing really she can do, but she is a representative of IETT so she must do something, and she hands out moist wipes from a pull-tube in her large green handbag. Necdet admires that her tram has been suicide-attacked but she’s remembered to bring her bag with her.
The wet wipe smells of lemon. To Necdet the folded cone of white is the purest, most holy thing he has ever seen.
“Please move away from the tram,” the driver is saying as Necdet marvels at the little square of cool citrus white. “There may be another explosion.” She wears an expensive Hermes headscarf. It links Necdet to that other scarf he saw around the woman’s head. In the final moment he had seen the wistful regret on her face resolve as if she had received a revelation into some long-rooted family woe. She had smiled. Then she had touched the jewel at her throat.
Passengers crouch around the schoolchildren, trying to ease their crying with words of comfort, offered hugs. Can’t you see the blood on your faces is scaring them all the more?Necdet thinks. He remembers the warm, wet spray into his own face. He looks at the wet wipe balled up in his hand. It isn’t red. It wasn’t blood.
Everyone looks up at the beat of a helicopter. It slides in over the rooftops, defying talk and phone calls. Now sirens lift above the morning traffic noise. It will be the police before the ambulances. Necdet doesn’t want to be near police. They will ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer. He has ID; everyone has ID. The police would scan it. They would read the carbon debit Necdet used to buy his ticket that morning and a cash withdrawal the night before and another carbon debit that previous evening at eighteen thirty. They might ask about the cash. It’s grey but not yet illegal.
And is this your current address?
No, I’m staying at the old Adem Dede dervish house in Eskiköy. With my brother.
Who is your brother? Here they might find they had more questions.
Ismet had replaced the padlock with the new one he had bought. Bright brass, a golden medal on a chain. The tekke’s shuttered wooden balconies overhung the steps; this was a private, shadowed entrance, behind the industrial steel bins of the Fethi Bey tea shop, miasmic and greasy with the ventings from the kitchen extractor fans. The door was of old Ottoman wood, grey and cracked from centuries of summer heat and winter damp, elaborately worked with tulip and rose motifs. A door into mysteries. It opened onto gloom and the acidic reek of pigeon. Necdet stepped gingerly into the enfolding dark. Light fell in slats through the closed and barred window shutters.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Necdet whispered. It was an architecture that commanded whispers. “People live here.”
“Some old Greek and a married couple at the front. And an office girl on her own. And that shop for blasphemies in the old semahane. We’ll sort that eventually. This end’s been left to rot for fifty years, just falling apart.” Ismet stood proudly in the centre of the floor. It was his already. “That’s the crime here. God wants this to be what it was before. This is where we’ll bring the brothers. Look at this.”
Ismet flung open a matching door across the dusty room. Colour flooded in and more than colour: a growing verdure of clipped box; the perfume of sun-warmed wood; the burble of water and the sudden song of birds. Ismet might have opened a door onto Paradise.
The garden was six paces across, but it contained a universe. A shady cloister walled with floral Iznik tiles ran around the courtyard affording shade or shelter in every season. The fountain was a single piece of sun-warmed marble, releasing water over a lily-lip into a basin. A jewel-bright lizard started from repose in the sun and dashed along the scalloped rim to vanish into the shade beneath. Herbaceous plants grew tall and cool in small box-bordered beds. The soil was dark and rich as chocolate. A green place. House martins dipped and bobbed along the eaves of the wooden gallery directly above the cloister. Their shrills filled the air. A copy of yesterday’s Cumhuriyetlay sun-yellowing on a marble bench.
“It’s all still here,” Ismet said. “The redevelopers never got around to the back. The old cells are being used for storage—we’ll clear them out.”
“Someone looks after this,” Necdet said. He could imagine himself here. He would come in the evening, when the light would fall over that roof onto that bench in a single pane of sun. He could sit and smoke blow. It would be a good place for a smoke.
“We’ll be all right here,” Ismet said, looking around at the overhanging balconies, the little rectangle of blue sky. “I’ll look after you.”
Necdet can’t let the security police know he has moved into the dervish house that his brother intends to make the home of the secret Islamic order to which he belongs. The police think secret Islamic orders blow up trams. And if they look at his old address, they’ll see what he did, back there in Başibüyük, and why Ismet Hasgüler took his brother of the flesh under his care. No, he just wants to go to work quietly and soberly. No, no police thank you.
The air above the still-smoking tram thickens in buzzing, insect motion. Swarmbots. The gnat-sized devices can lock together into different forms for different purposes; above Necatibey Cadessi they coalesce like raindrops into scene-of-crime drones. The sparrow-sized robots flit on humming fans among the milling pigeons, sampling the air for chemical tracers, reading movement logs from vehicles and personal cepteps, imaging the crime scene, seeking out survivors and photographing their blood-smeared, smoke-stained faces.
Necdet drifts to the periphery of the mill of survivors, haphazard enough to elude the darting drones. Two women in green paramed coveralls crouch with the tram driver. She’s shaking and crying now. She says something about the head. She saw it wedged up under the roof behind the grab-bars, looking down at her. Necdet has heard that about suicide bombers. The head just goes up into the air. They find them in trees, electric poles, wedged under eaves, caught up in shop signs.
Necdet subtly merges with the circle of onlookers, presses gently through them towards the open street. “Excuse me, excuse me.” But there is this one guy, this big guy in a outsize white T-shirt, right in front of him, with his hand up to the ceptep curled over his eye; a gesture that these days means: I am videoing you.Necdet tries to cover his face with his hand, but the big man moves backwards, videoing and videoing and videoing. Maybe he is thinking, This is a couple of hundred euro on the news; maybe,I can post this online. Maybe he just thinks his friends will be impressed. But he is in Necdet’s way, and Necdet can hear the thrum of swarmbot engines behind him like soul-sucking mosquitoes.
“Out of my way!” He pushes at the big man with his two hands, knocks him backwards, and again. The big man’s mouth is open, but when Necdet hears the voice say his name, it is a woman’s voice speaking directly behind him.
He turns. The head hovers at his eye level. It’s her. The woman who left her head in the roof of the tram. The same scarf, the same wisp of grey hair coiling from beneath it, the same sad, apologetic smile. A cone of light beams from her severed neck, golden light. She opens her mouth to speak again.
Necdet’s shoulder charge sends the big man reeling. “Hey!” he shouts. The surveillance drones rise up, fizzing at the edges as they prepare to dissolve and re-form into a new configuration. Then they firm back into their surveillance modes and swoop around the flashing blue lights that have only now made it through the citywide traffic jam rippling out from the destruction of Tram 157.
In the hushed world of Can Durukan the explosion is a small, soft clap. His world is the five streets along which he is driven to the special school, the seven streets and one highway to the mall, the square in front of the Adem Dede tekke, the corridors and balconies, the rooms and rooftops and hidden courtyards of the dervish house in which he lives. Within this world, lived at the level of a whisper, he knows all the noises intimately. This is new, other.
Can looks up from the flat screen in his lap. He turns his head from side to side. Can has developed an almost supernatural skill at judging the distance and location of the nanosounds that are allowed to enter his world. He is as acute and weird as a bat. Two, three blocks to the south. Probably Necatibey Cadessi. The living room has a sliver of a view down onto Necatibey Cadessi, and if he squeezes right into the corner of the rooftop terrace that leans out over Vermilion-Maker Lane, a silver shard of the Bosphorus.
His mother is busy in the kitchen with the yoghurt and sunflower-seed breakfast she believes will help Can’s heart.
No running!she signs. Şekure Durukan has many faces she can put on to augment the hands. This is furious-tired-of-telling-you-concerned face.
“It’s a bomb!” Can shouts. Can refuses to sign. There is nothing wrong with his hearing. It’s his heart. And there is nothing wrong with his mum’s hearing either. Can often forgets that.
Can has found that his greatest power in the first-floor apartment is to turn his back. Half a world can be ignored. His mother will not dare shout. A single shout can kill.
Long QT syndrome. A dry, form-filler’s name. It should be called cardio-shock; sheer heart attack; like a title you would give to the kind of freak-show TV documentary featuring a nine-year-old boy with a bizarre and potentially fatal heart condition. Patterns of chaos flow across Can’s heart. Potassium and sodium ions clash in wave fronts and graphs of fractal beauty like black tulips. A shock can disrupt those synchronised electrical pulses. A single loud sudden noise is enough to stop his heart. The shriek of a car alarm, the clang of a shutter dropping, the sudden blare of a muezzin or a popped party balloon could kill Can Durukan. So Şekure and Osman have devised a tight, muffling world for him.
Odysseus, ancient sailor of these narrow seas, plugged the ears of his crew with wax to resist the killing song of the Sirens. Jason, a subtler seafarer, drowned them out with the lyre-work of Orpheus. Can’s earplugs are inspired by both those heroes. They are smart polymer woven with nanocircuitry. They exactly fit the contours of his ears. They don’t drown out reality. They take it, invert it, phase shift it and feed it back so that it almost precisely cancels itself. Almost. Total precision would be deafness. A whisper of the world steals into Can’s ears.
Once a month his mother removes the clever coiled little plugs to clean out the earwax. It’s a fraught half hour, carried out in a specially converted closet at the centre of the apartment into which Can and his mother fit like seeds into a pomegranate. It is padded to recording studio standards, but Can’s mother still starts and widens her eyes at every muted thud or rattle that transmits itself through the old timbers of the tekke. This is the time she speaks to him, in the softest whisper. For half an hour a month Can hears his mother’s voice as she tends to his ear canals with medicated cotton buds.
The day the sounds went away is the earliest memory Can trusts. He was four years old. The white hospital was square and modern, with much glass, and seemed to flash in the sun. It was a very good hospital, his father said. Expensive, his mother said, and says still, when she reminds Can of the health insurance that keeps them in this dilapidated old tekke in a faded part of town. Can had known it must be expensive because it stood by the water. Beyond the window of the ear clinic was a great ship loaded high with containers, closer and bigger than any moving thing he had seen before. He sat on the disposable sanitised sheet and swung his legs and watched more and more ship come into view until it filled the window. They were looking at his ears.
“How does that feel?” his father said. Can turned his head one way, then the other, sensing out the new presences in his ears.
“There will be some discomfort for a few days,” the ear doctor said. On came the great ship, huge as an island. “You will need to clean them once a month. The electronics are very robust; you’ve no need to worry about breaking them. Shall we try it? Can . . .” And his hearing had flown away, every sound in the world driven to the farthest edge of the universe. The doctor, his father, became like tiny birds. His own name turned into a whisper. The ship sailed past silently. Can thinks of it as the ship that took all the sound in the world away. When he goes up onto the terrace to peer down steep Vermilion-Maker Lane at that tiny vee of Bosphorus, he still hopes that he will see the ship that brings it back again, a different sound in each container.
His mother had made aşure that night. A special pudding for a special time. Aşure was a big treat in her family; they were from the east. Can had heard the story of Noah’s pudding, how it was made up from the seven things left uneaten when the ark came to rest on Ararat, many times from his mother and his grandmother when she was still alive, but that night Mum and Dad told it with their hands. High on sugar and twitching at the discomfort in his ears, Can had not been able to sleep. Airbursts flashed onto the Barney Bugs wallpaper. He had flung open the shutters. The sky was exploding. Fireworks blossomed above Istanbul, dropping silver rain. Arcs of yellow and blue stabbed up into the night. Bronze fire cascaded silver from starbursts of gold so high Can craned hard to see them. All in a hush of muffled thuds and whispered whooshes, detonations muted as a bread crust breaking. The near silence made the lights in the sky brighter and stranger than anything Can had ever seen. The world might be ending up there, the seven heavens cracking apart and raining fire onto the earth. Mortars lobbed their payloads higher and higher. Can heard them as pops on the edge of his perceptions, like pea pods releasing their seeds. Now luminous armies battled above the solar water heaters and satellite dishes of Istanbul: battalions of blazing janissaries armed with flash and artillery against swift, sparkling sipahis who galloped from one side of the sky to the other in a whisper. Above, a little lower than the stars themselves, the angels of the seven heavens warred with the angels of the seven hells, and for one searing moment the sky blazed as if the light of every star since the birth of the universe had arrived at once over Istanbul. Can felt its silver warmth on his upturned face.
As the light faded, so the city returned the gift. From the Bosphorus first, the soft flute of a ship’s siren, building in a chorus of tankers, ferries, hydrofoils and water taxis. The streets replied with tram hooters, delicate as prayers, then the brassier, flatter blare of car and truck horns. Can leaned forward, trying to hear. He thought he could make out dance music spilling from the Adem Dede teahouse. He could feel its beat, a pulse against his own. Beneath it all, human voices, cheering and whooping, laughing and singing, shouting nothing at all except for the joy of making pure noise; all bleeding into an aggregate of crowd. To Can it was a hiss of static. The people packed the streets and the little square with its two teahouses and one minimarket. Many carried little flags; more had bottles. Can could not believe so many people lived in tight, enclosed Adem Dede Square. Cars sounded their horns in exuberance and flew flags from their windows; the white-on-red crescent and star of Turkey, and a blue flag bearing a circle of golden stars. Those same flags were in the hands of the people in Adem Dede Square: crescents and stars. Can watched a young bare-chested man swing along the balcony of the konak on the corner of Vermilion-Maker and Stolen Chicken Lanes, his country’s crescent and star painted white on his red face. The crescent made him look as if he were smiling. He turned to wave down to the crowd. They waved up. He pretended he was going to jump down. Can held his breath. It was the same height as his viewpoint. The crowd now seemed to be cheering the man on. Suddenly he let go. Can always remembers him falling through the streetlight, his skin shiny with sweat, his face eternally grinning in the face of gravity. He vanished into the crowd. Can never learned what happened to him.
He only knew his mother was beside him by the touch on his arm.
“What’s happening?” Can asked. His own voice seemed small as a lizard’s. His mother knelt beside him, pressed her lips close to his ear. When she spoke he felt its tickle as much as heard the words.
“Can, love, we’re Europeans now.”
Can runs through the hushed corridors of the dervish house. He knows all the best vantages onto the world beyond. Can runs up to the terrace. It smells of hot wooden patio furniture and desiccating geraniums. Can lifts himself up on his tiptoes to peer over the wobbly wooden shuttering. His parents will condemn him to a world of whispers, but they never think that he might just fall off the terrace. He sees smoke rising up between the circling storks. There is not very much of it. Necatibey Cadessi, as he thought. Then his fingers grip white on the age-silvered balcony rail. The air above Adem Dede Square fills with grainy motion, as if from a dust dervish or a plague of locusts. The flock of insect-sized swarmbots barrels through the middle air, flowing around streetlights and electricity cables, channelled into a stream of furious motion by the close-pressing apartment blocks. Can beats his fists on the rail in excitement. Every nine-year-old-boy loves bots. Right in front of his eyes they turn in midair and pour down steep Vermilion-Maker Lane like water over rocks. In the open sky above the rooftops, the dancing-hall of storks, the wind would overwhelm their nanofan engines and disperse them like dust. Can finds flocks within flocking, flows within flows, strange currents, fractal forms, self-organising entities. Mr. Ferentinou has taught him to see the blood beneath the world’s skin: the simple rules of the very small that build into the seeming complexity of the great.
“Monkey Monkey Monkey!” Can Durukan shouts as the tail end of the swarm vanishes around the twists and staggers of Vermilion-Maker Lane. “After them!”
A stir in the still-shadowed corners of the dining room, a scurrying in the intricate woodwork of the terrace screen. From nooks and crevices the machines come clambering, scampering, rolling. Tumbling balls fuse into scuttling crabs; many-limbed climbing things link and twist into arms. Piece by piece the disparate units self-assemble until the last section locks and a plastic monkey leaps up onto the rail, clinging with hands and feet and prehensile tail, and turns its sensor-dotted head on its master.
Can pulls the smartsilk computer out of his pocket, unfolds it and opens the haptic field. He flexes a finger. The robot monkey twitches alert. Can points, and it is off in a thrilling spring up onto the power line and a hand-and-foot gallop over the street to a coiled jump to the balcony opposite where the Georgian woman insists on hanging her underwear out to dry. Up up and up again. Can sees it perched on a parapet, a shadow against the sky.
Can’s toy BitBots cannot compare to the police machines that flocked past him, but Mr. Ferentinou has pushed them far beyond the manufacturer’s specifications. Can clicks the Monkey icon. Bird, Snake, Rat and Monkey are the four manifestations of his BitBots. Between their four elements, they create the city that is barred to Can. He sees through their eyes. Can giggles in excitement as he falls in behind Monkey’s many sensors and careers across rooftops, weaves through mazes of aerial and cable, leaps the thrilling gaps between close-shouldering konaks. By map and the point-of-view camera link Can steers his eyes down through the roofs of crumbling old Eskiköy. Only a boy could do it. He is part superhero, part extreme-sports free-runner, part city-racer, part ninja. It is the greatest computer game. Parapet to parapet to pole to hands feet and tail scramble down the plastic sign of the Allianz Insurance. Can Durukan arrives at the scene of the blast, clinging upside down to the bottom of a giant letter I.
It disappoints. It is not a very big explosion. There are ambulances and fire trucks and police cars with flashing lights and news crews arriving by the minute, but the tram hardly looks damaged at all. Can scans the crowd. Faces cameras faces cameras. A face he recognises among the onlookers; that rat-faced guy who has moved into the empty quarter of the old house; the one with the brother who is some kind of street-judge. At first Can resented their squatting. The deserted rooms filled with dust and pigeon shit were his undiscovered country. He had thought of sending Monkey—the only one of his agents with hands—to move things around, pretend to be the ghosts of old unquiet dervishes. But Rat-Face might lay a trap for mischievous Monkey and capture him before he could split into his separate units and slip away. Observation was the game.
Rat-Face is trying to slip away. He almost starts a fight with a big man in a white shirt. What is he doing now? He looks as if he’s seen a ghost. Now he’s barging his way through the crowd. If the scene-of-crime bots see him they’ll needle him with their stings. That would be exciting. Can still wishes ill on Rat-Face and his kadı brother, defilers of his sacred space. No, he’s made it out.
Monkey uncurls his tail from the stanchion and prepares to swing back up onto the rooftops. Nothing decent to post online. Then Can notices a glint of movement in the Commerzbank sign on the building to the left. There’s something in there. Monkey swivels his sensor-studded head and zooms in. Click click click. Movement, a glitter of plastic. Then the disparate motions come together. Can holds his breath. He looks close up into the face of another many-eyed monkey bot. And as he stares the head turns, the smart-plastic camera eyes bulge and focus and stare back.
The confectioner Lefteres used to say that all the Greeks in Eskiköy could fit into one tea shop. Now they fit around one table.
“Here he comes now.”
Georgios Ferentinou waddles across Adem Dede Square. Squareis too grand for what is little more than a widening of the street that runs past the Mevlevi tekke. An old public fountain stands in a niche in a wall, dry longer than any Eskiköy resident’s memory. Room enough for two çayhanes, Aydin’s kiosk on the corner of Stolen Chicken Lane with its spectacular display of Russian porn clothes-pegged to the bottom of the canopy, Arslan’s NanoMart, the Improving Bookstore that specialises in colourful publications for elementary school children, and That Woman’s Art Shop. Aydin the pornographer takes his morning tea in the Fethi Bey çayhane, on the insalubrious staircase on the derelict side of the dervish house. Adem Dede Square is small enough for two tea shops but big enough for rivalries.
“Hot,” Georgios Ferentinou wheezes. He fans himself with a laminated menu. The order is immutable as the stones of Aghia Sofia, but Bülent the çayhane owner always lays out the menus. That cheap bastard Aykut across the square never takes that trouble. “Again.” He sweats freely. Georgios Ferentinou is a fat bulb of a man, balanced on tiny dancer’s feet so that he seems permanently on the teeter-totter. None of his çayhane compatriots have ever seen him in anything lesser than the high-waisted trousers and the white linen jacket he wears today. A hat perhaps, in the highest of summers, like the terrible ’22, and when the sun gets low and shines through the slot of sky along Vermilion-Maker Lane, a pair of tiny, round dark glasses that turn his eyes into two black raisins. On those increasingly rare days when snow falls in Adem Dede Square and the tea drinkers are driven inside behind breath-steamed windows, a red woollen scarf and a great black coat like some old Crimean trader from the last days of the empire.
“Hot as hell,” Constantin agrees. “Already.”
“We’ve saved you a leg.” Lefteres pushes a plate across the small café table. Upon it a marzipan lamb lies slaughtered, its body broken. Delicate red frosting crosses adorn its grainy, yellow flanks. For over one hundred and fifty years since they arrived from Salonika into the capital of the empire, the family Lefteres made marzipan Paschal lambs for the Christians of Constantinople. Lambs for Easter; crystallised fruit made lustrous with edible gold and silver foils, the gifts of the Magi, for Christmas. Muslims were not ignored by the Lefteres: sesame candies and brittle sugary confection dishes for Sweet Bayram at the end of Ramazan. Boxes of special lokum and pistachio brittles for wedding calls and sweetening conversations. Family Lefteres sold the shop before the end of the century, but the last of the line still makes his sweet lambs and jewelled fruit, his Bayram delights for Adem Dede Square. And he is still known as Lefteres the Confectioner.
Bülent sets down Georgios Ferentinou’s invariable glass of apple tea.
“Here’s the Father now,” he says. The last of the four old Greeks of Adem Dede Square sits down heavily in his ordained seat beside Georgios Ferentinou.
“God save all here.” Father Ioannis stretches his legs painfully out under the table. “God damn my knees.” Without a word Bülent sets down the Father’s linden tea in its delicate tulip glass. Father Ioannis takes a sip. “Ah. Great. Bastards have been at it again.”
“What are they doing this time?” Bülent asks.
“Someone slopped a bucket of piss into the porch. Half of it ran under the door into the sanctuary. I’ve been up since four trying to scrub it all off. Bastards. What I can’t figure is, they must have been storing it up for days. All those teenagers standing around pissing in a bucket and giggling to themselves.”
“This is assuming,” says the most quiet of the Adem Dede çayhane divan, “that it was actually human urine. It could have been some large animal.”
“In the middle of this city?” says Father Ioannis. “Anyway, God and His Mother preserve me, I know what human piss smells like.”
Constantin the Alexandrian shrugs and examines the cigarette burning close to his yellow fingertips.
“It’s going to take a lot of incense to get rid of the stink before Easter, and who’s going to pay for that?” Father Ioannis grumbles. “I can’t even get the Patriarchate to fix that tile on the roof.”
Georgios Ferentinou thinks this Easter he might visit the shrine of Aghia Panteleimon. He has no belief—faith is beneath his dignity—but he enjoys the designed madness of religion. The minuscule church is tucked away down an alley off an alley off an alley. Older than any name in Eskiköy, Aghia Panteleimon let the district grow up around it like a fruit around a seed. It houses the sword that bent rather than behead its eponymous martyr (until he so decided) and a fine collection of icons of its patron saint, some in the alternate, Russian style, with his hands nailed to his head. The woman who owns the art gallery in the former dancing hall has made Father Ioannis a fine offer for his macabre icons. They are not his to sell. If he does go this Easter, Georgios Ferentinou knows he may well be the only attendee. Perhaps a couple of old widows, come from Christ-knows-where in their raven black. Even before the ethnic cleansing of 1955 the tide of faith had ebbed from Eskiköy. Yet lately he has sensed it stealing back in little seepings and runnels, feeling its way over the cobbles and around the lintel stones. It’s a more strident faith than that of either Aghia Panteleimon or the Mevlevi Order. It has an easterly aspect. It’s rawer, younger, more impatient, more confident.
“It’s the heat I say, the heat,” says Lefteres the Confectioner. “Makes them fighting mad.”
“And the football,” Bülent adds. “There’ll be some English fan stabbed before the end of the week. Heat and football.”
The Greeks of the Adem Dede teahouse nod and murmur their agreement.
“So have you finished that lampoon then?” Father Ioannis asks.
Lefteres unfolds a sheet of A4 and slides it to the centre of the table. It is blank white.
“I have decided not to do this one.”
Lefteres, master of sugar and succulence, paschal lambs and gilded fruit, is the resident lampoonist of Eskiköy. A pestering boyfriend, an unrecovered debt, unwelcome loud music or somebody fly-tipping in your Dumpster: go to Lefteres at the Adem Dede çayhane. Pay him what he asks. It will not be cheap. Quality is never cheap. But the very next morning Eskiköy will wake to find a single sheet of A4, always handwritten, thumbtacked to the offending door, gaffer-taped to a window, gunged to the windshield of a parked car. In the best Turkish verse and scansion and the highest of style, every vice is listed and shamed, every personal attribute ridiculed. Every intimate detail is excoriated. Lefteres’s research is immaculate. It works without fail. The crowd at the door is an ancient and powerful sanction. Word of a new lampoon travels fast. People come from far beyond Eskiköy to read and marvel. There are international Web sites dedicated to the lampoons of Lefteres the Confectioner of Eskiköy.
“Have you told Sibel Hanım?” Georgios Ferentinou says.
“I have indeed,” Lefteres says. “She wasn’t happy. But I told her that part of my commission is that I must be absolutely satisfied myself that there is just cause as well as clear social need. That’s always been the case. Always. The woman is not a prostitute. Simple as that. Georgian she may be, but that doesn’t make her a prostitute.”
Since the Caucasus and central Asia found that the front door to Europe now opened onto theirs, Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, Ukrainians, workers from as far as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, Syrians, Lebanese, Iranians, Kurds in their tens of thousands have flooded across Anatolia, the buckle strapped across the girth of great Eurasia, Istanbul the pin. And that is how Georgios knows Lefteres’s reasons for not accepting the lampoon. Istanbul was a city of peoples before and knows it shall be again, a true cosmopolis. The time of the Turk is ending. Georgians, Greeks: sojourners alike.
“Here, do you know who I saw yesterday on Güneşli Sok?” Constantin asks. “Ariana Sinanidis.”
“How long is it since she went to Greece?” asks Lefteres.
“Forty-seven years,” says Georgios Ferentinou. “What’s she doing back here?”
“Either a will or a property dispute. What else does anyone come back for?” Constantin says.
“I haven’t heard of any deaths,” Father Ioannis says. In as small and intimate a community as the Greeks of Istanbul, every death is a small holocaust. Then the bomb goes off. The sound of the explosion echoes flatly, flappingly from the house fronts. It is a little blast, barely distinguishable from the growl of morning traffic, but the four men at the table look up.
“How far was that?”
“Under a kilometre, I’d say.”
“Well under a kilo. It might well have been just the detonator.”
“Whereabouts would you say?”
“I would guess down towards Tophane Meydanı.”
“No guesses. This is an exact science.”
Constantin taps up news feeds on the smartpaper lying among the tea glasses and coffee cups.
“Necatibey Cadessi. Tram bomb,” Constantin says.
Behind the counter, Bülent clenches a fist.
“Bastard!” says Lefteres. “What’s he made now?”
Georgios Ferentinou pulls out his ceptep. His thumb moves unswervingly over the icons.
“The Terror Market is up twenty points.”
“Lord Jesus Son of God have mercy on us,” says Father Ioannis. His fingers tie a knot on his prayer rope.
“Breakfast is on the house then,” says Bülent.
Georgios Ferentinou never saw economics as the Dismal Science. To him it is applied psychology, the most human of sciences. There are profound human truths in the romance between want and aversion; delicate beauties in the meshing intricacies of complex financial instruments as precise and jewelled as any Isfahan miniature. The blind wisdom of the mass still amazes him as it did when he first discovered it in a jar of plushy toys. The jar had sat on the desk of Göksel Hanım, his morning-school teacher. She had brought it back from a visit to her sister in Fort Lauderdale. Seduced by the Mouse, she had gone on a plushy spree across Disneyworld. Goofies and Mickies, Plutos and Stitches and little Simbas were packed together like pickles, eyes gazing out at eight-year-old Georgios Ferentinou. Çiftçi, Göksel Hanım had insisted on calling him. A Turkish transliteration of his name. Çiftçi had found the compressed figures strangely attractive. It would be quite good, he thought, to be squeezed into a jar full of other soft bodies.
“Guess how many there are,” Göksel Hanım said to her class, “and you will win them.”
Çiftçi was lazy. He was told that every day by Göksel Hanım. Lazy and dull. He wanted the bodies in the jar so he did what any lazy and dull boy would. He asked his classmates. Their answers ranged for fifteen to fifty. Dull, lazy and reluctant to commit to decisions, Çiftçi added the answers and divided them by the number of pupils in the class, rounding up for luck.
“Thirty-seven,” he said confidently to Göksel Hanım. Thirty-seven there were, exactly. Göksel Hanım gave him the jar grudgingly. He stared at it for months, on his bedside table, enjoying their captivity. Then one day his mother had taken them away to clean them. She returned them all to their confinement, but damp had got in, and within two weeks they were green and bad smelling and were thrown out. It was his first exposure to the power of aggregation. The mass decides.
There is a market for anything. Debts. Carbon pollution. The value of future orange harvests in Brazil and gas output in the Ukraine. Telecommunications bandwidth. Weather insurance. Buy low, sell high. Self-interest is the engine; aggregation, like the class of ’71, the gear-train. Georgios Ferentinou has merely extended the free-market principle to terrorism.
The market is played this way: A network of a thousand traders is strung across Istanbul. They range from economics students to schoolchildren and their mothers to real traders on the Stamboul Carbon Bourse. All night AIs sift the news networks—those deep channels that Georgios Ferentinou took with him when he left academia, and less exalted sources like chat rooms, forums and social- and political-networking sites. By dawn they have drawn up a long list of potential future news. Georgios Ferentinou’s first task of the day, even before he takes his breakfast tea at the Adem Dede teahouse, is to draw up that day’s list of tradable contracts in his pyjamas and slippers. By the time he shuffles across the square to his table, the offers are out across the city like soft-gliding storks and the bids are coming in. I’ll buy twenty contracts at a settlement price of one hundred on Galatasaray beating Arsenal two–one on Thursday. How much do you want to pay for them? That depends on how likely you think it is that Galatasaray will beat Arsenal two–one. This is the easiest future contract, a straight sporting bet. There is a clear termination point at which the contract is fulfilled—the sound of the referee’s final whistle in the Galatasaray Stadium—and a simple payout. All you have to do is decide how much you will buy that payout for, and for others to decide how much they will pay to buy that contract off you. All trading is betting.
How much would you pay for a contract with a settlement of one hundred on a bet that the price of gas will rise by 15 percent by close of trade next Monday? Thirty? Fifty, for a hundred payout? What if you see the price rising on the Carbon Bourse? Seventy, eighty? Turn those prices into percentages and you have a probability; you have a prediction of future news.
Thirty, fifty, one hundred, what are these? Kudos: the artificial currency of Georgios Ferentinou’s Terror Market. A light, odourless virtual money, but not without value. Kudos are not points in a game. They can be exchanged for other virtual-world or social-networking or online-game currencies, some of which can be converted up into real-world, pocketable cash. They can be traded. That is another one of Georgios Ferentinou’s behavioural economics experiments. Kudos are worth something. Georgios Ferentinou understands there is no market without real gain, and the possibility of real loss. The money makes it work.
Here’s another contract. Settlement price one hundred kudos. There will be a suicide strike on Istanbul public transport on a major arterial during the current heat wave. Do you buy it?
Georgios Ferentinou checks the closing price. Eighty-three kudos. High, given the plethora of speculative factors: the time since the bombing at the bus station; Ankara’s announcement of a clampdown on political organisations opposed to the national secular agenda; the possibility that the heat wave might break in glorious lightning among the minarets of Istanbul. Then he tracks the price since the contract was offered. It has risen as steadily as the thermometer. This is the miracle of the Terror Market. Buying and selling, petty greed, are more powerful prophets than the experts and artificial intelligence models of the National MIT security service. Complex behaviour from simple processes.
The woman who runs the religious art shop in the bottom of the dervish house crosses the square. She squats down to unlock the security shutter. Her heels come a little off the ground as she balances on the balls of her feet. She wears good boots and patterned tights, a smart skirt not too short, a well-cut jacket. Hot for this weather but stylish. Georgios Ferentinou watches her run up the shutter with a rolling clatter. Such unconscious ease costs gym fees. Her ceptep rings, the call tone a spray of silvery sitar music. Georgios Ferentinou looks away with a small grimace of regret. He was admired once too. A disturbance in the air draws his eyes up, a shiver like heat haze, a plague of tiny mites, the visual equivalent of the glittering glissando of the art-shop woman’s call tone.
The swarm of gnat-sized machines swirls in the choked air of Adem Dede. Even the boy bringing the sesame-dusted simits from Aydin’s kiosk looks up. Then the cloud of nanorobots pours down Vermilion-Maker Lane like water over a weir, following the stepped terrain beneath them, flowing around the schoolchildren, the women, old Sibel Hanım labouring up and down the steps. Follow the flock. Avoid near neighbours but try to maintain an equal distance from them. Cohesion, alignment, separation. Three rudimentary rules; the well of complex liquid beauty.
In the corner of his vision Georgios Ferentinou glimpses the little monkey-bot go helter-skelter across the electricity line and jump to the offending Georgian woman’s balcony. A strange world that boy inhabits, he thinks. A world of whispers, of distant tintinnabulations on the edge of hearing, like angel voices. But is it any stranger than four old Greeks, flotsam adrift for decades in the crash and suck of history, gathering over tea and doughnuts to divine the future?
And Ariana is back. Almost half a century and she is in Eskiköy. No deal, no play of trades and future outcomes could have predicted that. Ariana is back and nothing is safe now.
The yalı leans over the salt water, balcony upon balcony. Adnan opens the roof terrace’s wooden shutters. The heat of the morning beats in mingled with coils of cool from the Bosphorus. The current is dark. Adnan has always felt the Bosphorus to be dark, dark as blood, dark as the birth canal. It feels deep to him, deep and drowning. He knows where this fear comes from: from his father’s boat and the endless sunlit afternoons of a childhood lived on water. This is why his seal of success has always been a place by the edge of the water. It is the lure of the fear, the reminder that everything you have won may be lost in an unconsidered moment. The early sun turns the side of a Russian gas carrier into a wall of light. It is a monster. Adnan Sarioğlu smiles to himself. Gas is power.
“One million two hundred you say?”
The real estate agent waits by the door. He isn’t even properly awake, but he’s shaved and suited. You have to get up early to sell to the gas lords. A dealer knows a dealer.
“It’s a very sought-after location, and as you can see, you can move straight in. You have your own boat dock and waterside terrace for entertaining.”
Adnan Sarioğlu shoots some video.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in this property,” the realtor presses. “These old yalıs do go fast.”
“Of course they do,” says Adnan Sarioğlu. It is not a real yalı; those were all bought up long ago, or are collapsing under the weight of their decaying timbers in forgotten coves along the Bosphorus, or have burned decades since. It is a fake, but a good fake. Turkey is the land of the masterful fake. But it is far far from that hateful little eighth-floor apartment huddling between the roar of the expressway and the blare of the mosque.
He pans the ceptep across the terrace. Already he is filling the space with skinny Scandinavian furniture. This could be an office. It would just be leather sofas and old Ottoman coffee tables, lifestyle magazines and a killer sound system. He would come in the morning and summon his avatars to spin around him, hauling in spot prices from Baku to Berlin. The big dealers, the paşas, all work this way; from the boat club, from the gym, from the restaurant. Perfectly weightless. Yes, this is a house to start his dynasty. He can’t afford it. The realtor’s background check will have disclosed that. But they will have shown that he is the kind of man who could have money, very very much money, and that’s the reason the agent has got up in the predawn and showered and shaved and scented and put on his good suit.
He pans the ceptep across the reach of the waterway. He blinks the zoom in on the pastel houses along the European shore. Bigger cars, faster boats, deeper docks, farther from their neighbours’ shadows. Money and class have always clung to the edge of Europe. He double-takes, pans back. Between the shiny slick twenty-first-century yalıs with their low-sloping photosynthetic roofs is a pile of timbers, grey and lone as a widow, roof caved in, front wall slumping towards the water, window frames eyeless and half closed. A ghost of a house, abandoned and neglected among its young, tall, brilliant neighbours. A true yalı. It may have stood, decaying year upon year, from the Ottoman centuries. He blinks closer onto its empty windows, its sagging lintels and eaves. He cannot begin to imagine how much it would cost to return it to habitability let alone make it a place to raise a family, but he knows where he will go next. He begins here; he ends on the shadow of the bridge, on the toes of Europe.
On the edge of his vision he glimpses smoke. The plume goes up straight as a flagpole into the clear blue air. In an instant he has zoomed in on it. A map overlay gives him a location: Beyoğlu. Now a news mite bursts into the steady procession of gas spot prices across his retina: TRAM BOMBING ON NECATIBEY CADESSI. PIX TO FOLLOW.
Ayşe rides that tram.
Her ceptep rings three times four times five times six.
“You took your time.”
“That shutter’s sticking worse than ever. It’s going to need replacing.”
“So you totally missed the bomb, then?”
“Oh that was down on Necatibey Cadessi. A swarm of police bots just went past.”
Adnan wonders if Ayşe’s otherworldliness is her natural aristocratic nonchalance or some emanation from the art and artefacts that surround her. That shop, for all the hedge fund managers and carbon paşas looking for a little investment in religious art; it’s not a proper business. It’s a lady’s pursuit. She’ll give it up when they move in here, when the babies start to come.
“It was your tram.”
“Do you not remember I said I was going in early? There’s a potential supplier calling before work.”
“Well, you watch yourself. These things never happen in ones.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for suicide bombers. How’s the yalı?”
“I’ll send you the video. I may be late back. I’m trying to get a meeting with Ferid Bey tonight.” The name-drop is as much for the realtor as for his wife. There is a beat of radio silence that is the equivalent of an exasperated sigh.
“I’ll see you when I see you then.”
At some dark hour he will slip back through the curve of taillights arching over the bridge to the eighth-floor apartment. She may be watching television, or half-watching it while she puts on laundry, or if his meetings have hauled on and on, be in bed. Then he will slip in without turning on the lights, a quick mumble as she surfaces through sleep like a dolphin, in behind her to press the rough warmth of his dick against the bed-heat of her smooth ass and the return press, then down with her, lured down into sleep so fast there is not even time for the twitch of the terror of drowning. All around, the sweet incense of fabric conditioner. It’s no way to live. But he has seen the end of it. A few more days of effort and it’s over.
Adnan Sarioğlu snaps off his ceptep.
“One million two hundred thousand you say?” he asks.
“We’ve had a number of offers,” the realtor says.
“I’ll give you one million one.”
“Offers are generally in excess of the asking price.”
“I’m sure they are. But this isn’t an offer; this is a price. In cash.”
The realtor flusters. Adnan drives home his advantage.
“One point one million euro in cash to your office by noon Friday.”
“We, ah, don’t usually deal in cash.”
“You don’t deal in cash? Cash is king, is what cash is. Do anything with cash, you can. Friday, lunchtime. You have the contract on the desk and I’ll sign it and shake your hand and you take my fucking cash.”
Three minutes later Adnan Sarioğlu’s car leans into the on-ramp to the bridge, accelerating into a stream of Europe-bound vehicles. Autodrive makes microadjustments to the car’s speed; the other vehicles read Adnan’s signals and correspondingly adjust their distances and velocities to accommodate him. All across the Bosphorus Bridge, through every arterial of vast Istanbul, every second the ceaseless pump of traffic shifts and adjusts, a flock of vehicles.
Drive-time radio news at the top of the hour. The tram bomb is already downgraded. No one dead besides the suicide bomber. A woman. Unusual. No promise of Paradise’s rewards for her; just eternity married to the same old twat. Something in the family. It always is. Men die for abstractions, women for their families. No, the big story is the weather. Hot hot hot again. High of thirty-eight and humidity 80 percent and no end in sight. Adnan nods in satisfaction as the Far East gas spot-price ticker crawls across the bottom of the windshield. His forty-eight-hour delivery put-options on Caspian Gas will hit their strike this morning. Nice little earner. He’ll need the premiums for a few small necessary purchases on Turquoise. Cash is always king. Adnan slips the nozzle of the inhaler up his nostril. The rush of inhaled nano breaks across his forebrain and the numbers become sharp, the focus clear. He hovers high above the golden fabric of deals and derivatives, spots and strikes. Only the concentration-enhancing nano makes it possible for Adnan to pick a pattern from the weave of transactions. The old traders use more and more to keep pace with the young Turks. He’s seen the shake in their hands and the blur in their eyes as he rides down the express elevator with them to the underground parking lot after the back office has settled out. Nano, Caspian gas, CO2 and traders: all the many ways of carbon.
Music: the special call tone of his paşa, his white knight. Adnan clicks him up on the windshield.
He is a fat-faced man with skin smooth from the barber’s razor, almost doll-like in its sheer buffed finish. Adnan recalls from his research that Ferid is very vain, very groomed.
“I’m interested in this. Of course I’ll need much more detail, but I think we can do business. I’ll be at the Hacı Kadın baths from seven thirty.” He laughs hugely, though there is no comedy in his words.
“I’ll see you there.”
The call ends. The Audi stitches itself in and out of the traffic, and Adnan Sarioğlu beats his hands on the dashboard and whoops with delight. A new call chimes in; a poppier tune, the theme from an animated TV series that Adnan and his three fellow Ultralords of the Universe grew up with.
Adnan and Oğuz graduated from the MBA and entered Özer together. Adnan floated into lofty hydrocarbons and the realm of abstract money; Oğuz was pumped into Distribution, the all-too-solid domain of pipelines and compression stations, tanker terminals and holding centres. It’s lowly, unglamorous; very far from lunch at Olcay and champagne at Su come bonus time. Too easily overlooked. That was why, when the idea of Turquoise struck in its full, lighting intensity as he rode the elevator up the glass face of the Özer Tower, Oğuz was the first call of his old college friends.
“Volkan’s got a fitness test at twelve.”
“He’ll never make it,” Adnan says. “Fat bastard’s so out of condition he can’t even touch his toes.”
Oğuz’s face grins in the smartglass of the windshield. The four Ultralords of the Universe are also ultra-Galatasaray fans. On their bonuses they could easily afford a corporate box at Aslantepe, but they like to be in the stands, with the fans, with their kebabs and their small flasks of sipping rakı. Cimbom Cimbom Cimbom! Fighting stuff that rakı. The Ultralords understand going to games. It is not about sport. There is no such thing as sport. It is about seeing the other team lose. One million goals would not be enough to crush the opposition. When he is up there with the rest of the boys, Adnan wants to see the opposition all die on stakes. The Romans had it right. It’s fighting stuff. Give us blood.
“So where are you?” Oğuz asks.
Adnan flicks on his transponder. A map of mid-Istanbul overlies Oğuz’s grinning face on his windshield. Oğuz is on the Fatih Sultan Bridge to the north. The distances are comparable; the driveware calculates traffic densities. A little jockey-programme generates odds. Oğuz’s grin widens. He likes those odds.
“I’ll go five hundred euro.”
“Eight hundred.” Adnan likes those odds too. “And the tip.” There is etiquette to the Ultralords of the Universe’s street races. The tip is that the loser pays the winner’s traffic fines.
“Element of Air assist me!” Adnan shouts. “In three. Two. One.” He grabs the steering handset and flicks off the autodrive. Warnings blare through the car. Adnan ignores them and floors the pedal. The gas engine barely raises a note, but the car leaps forward into the traffic. The self-guiding cars fluster and part like panicked chickens as Adnan piles through. There is a time to peel out from the flock. Adnan Sarioğlu laughs as he spears through the traffic. The Audi leans like a motorbike as he crosses lanes. Cars peel away like the bow-wave of a Russian gas tanker. The game is on. Adnan feels the roar build inside him, the roar that never goes away, that is in the kick of the nanotuned gas engine of his street-sweet German car, that wells in him when Ayşe moves against him on those nights he slips home in the dark, when she murmurs so and opens to let him press inside her; but most, most in the shriek of gas hurtling down the Blue Line, under the Bosphorus, out into the world of money, that is the deal, every deal, every closing. The roar that never, never stops. In seven minutes he will take Oğuz for five hundred euro and a dozen traffic-cam fines. Tonight he will meet the manager of one of Istanbul’s fattest hedge funds. On Friday he will slap down a briefcase full of notes in front of that piss-eyed realtor in his hideous shiny little Lidl suit and set the name of Sarioğlu down by the waters of the Bosphorus. It is the game, the only game and the always game.
The angel is blind and shackled by an iron band around his right foot. His eyes are blank stone orbs. He is naked and wreathed in flame, male, marvellously muscular and lithe yet sexless. He flies by the power of his own will, arms outstretched, intent but ignorant, blind to his own blindness, straining against the single shackle. The blind angel’s left arm claws for the child. He craves it with sense other than sight.
The second angel cradles the child away from that grasp. He too is male, defined yet kept chaste by the leg of the child. He stands on a ribbon of cloud low on an indefinite sea. He looks to the blind angel with an expression of incomprehension. The child, a sturdy lad improbably muscled, faces away. His arm is held up in a plea for help. His hair is very curly. The succouring angel looks like a prig. All the passion, all the energy, is in the blind, burning angel.
“William Blake, The Good and Evil Angels,” Ayşe Erkoç says, leaning close over the print. “I love William Blake. I love his vision, I love the prophetic fire that burns through his art and his poetry, I love the completeness of his cosmology. I’ve studied William Blake, I’ve read William Blake, I’ve seen William Blake, in folio, and in London. On very rare, very special occasions, I’ve sold William Blake. Original William Blake. This is not William Blake. This is garbage. The paper’s all wrong, the line is like a five-year-old’s, I can smell the bleach from here, and there’s a spelling error in the text. This is an insult to my professionalism.”
Topaloğlu’s cheeks quiver in embarrassment. Ayşe thinks of them as two slabs of condemned liver. Offal propped apart by a wide, rural moustache.
“I mean no insult, Mrs. Erkoç.”
“There’s a world—no, a universe—of difference between unclear provenance and a Grand Bazaar fake,” Ayşe continues. “If I can see it, my buyers can see it. They know at least as much as I do. These are collectors, aficionados, investors, people who purely love religious art, who love nothing else. They may not care where or how I get a piece. They care very much that it’s genuine. The moment they hear I’m selling fakes, they go to Antalya Fine Arts or the Salyan Gallery.”
Topaloğlu’s humiliation deepens. He is a cheap little peddler with the soul of a carpet seller, Ayşe thinks. Abdurrahman recommended him to Ayşe as a man who could get Isfahan miniatures. She will have to have a word with Abdurrahman Bey.
“I may have to reconsider our business relationship.”
He’s pale now. Hafize, the gallery assistant, eavesdropper and interferer in concerns not hers, dips in and haughtily sweeps away his tea glass on her tray. She’s wearing the headscarf again. Ayşe will have to have a word with her. She’s become bolder in her flaunting of it since the tarikat, the Islamic study group, began meetings in the old kitchen quarters. Ayşe’s seen how the young men look at her as she locks the gallery shutter of an evening. They want her and her idolatrous images out. Let them try. The Erkoçs have good connections and deep purses.
“What else have you got?” Ayşe asks.
Topaloğlu sets out miniatures like fortune-telling cards. He has donkey teeth, yellow plates of enamel. They make Ayşe feel ill. She bends over the miniatures laid out on the table in the private viewing room and clicks down the magnifier lens in her ceptep eyepiece.
“These are genuine,” Topaloğlu says.
But very poor, Ayşe thinks, scanning the brushwork, the framing, the fine detail of the backgrounds. In the Isfahan and Topkapı schools, miniatures were the work of many hands. Each artist had his specialisation and spent all his life perfecting it. There were masters of roses, of cloudscapes, of rocks; there were maestros who never painted anything but tilework. These are obvious apprentice pieces. The contrast between the exquisitely drawn figures and the crude backgrounds is glaring. The fine eye, the minuscule detail has not yet emerged. The great miniaturists, anonymous all of them but for their style, could paint a trellis, a window screen, a tiled wall, with a single hair. These are production-line works for volumes of Sufi poetry, the kind that minor paşas and beys bought by the shelf to impress their inferiors.
“Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Is that it? What’s in the shoebox?”
Topaloğlu has been keeping it by his side, half hidden under the flap of his jacket. A Nike box, a style from five years back, Ayşe notes. At least he is wearing proper gentlemen’s shoes for this meeting, decently polished. Shoes speak loud, in Ayşe’s experience.
“Just a few of what you might call trinkets.”
“Show me.” Ayşe does not wait for Topaloğlu to open the box; she snatches off the lid. Inside there is indeed a rattle of junk: Armenian crosses, Orthodox censers, a couple of verdigrised Koran covers. Grand Bazaar tourist tat. Amidst the tarnished brass, glints of silver. Miniature Korans. Ayşe greedily lays them out in a row along the table. The recessed ceiling bulbs strike brilliants from the thumb-sized silver cases.
“These I’m interested in.”
“They’re twenty-euro pilgrim curios,” Topaloğlu says.
“To you, Mr. Topaloğlu. To me, and to the people who collect them, they’re stories.” She taps the cover of a twentieth-century electroplate silver case, the crystal magnifier an eye, a good-luck boncuk charm. “A boy goes off to military service; despite her best efforts his mother can’t get him into a soft option like the jandarmeri or the tourist police, so gives him a Holy Koran. Keep the word of God close and God will keep you folded into his breast.” An early nineteenth-century gold shell case, exquisitely filigreed. “A merchant from Konya, after years building up his material goods, finally frees himself from his worldly obligations to undertake the Hac. His concubine gives him a keepsake. Remember, the world will be waiting.”
“How can you tell it’s a Konya piece?”
“It’s in the Mevlevi style, but it’s not a souvenir from the Rumi pilgrimage—those usually are cheap mass-produced tourist junk. This is altogether a much more fine work. There’s money and devotion here. Once you learn to see, you begin to hear the stories.” Ayşe rests her finger on a tiny silver Koran no larger than a thumb, delicate as a prayer. “This is eighteenth-century Persian. But there’s only half a Koran. A Holy Koran, divided?” She opens the case and sets the little Persian scripture in the palm of her hand. “What’s the story there? A promise made, a couple divided, a family at war with itself, a pledge, a contract? You want to know. That’s the market. The Korans, as you say, are trinkets. Stories; people will always buy those.” Ayşe sets the tiny hemi-Koran back into its case. “I’ll take these three. The rest is rubbish. Fifty euro each.”
“I was thinking three hundred would be more appropriate.”
“Did I hear you say that they were only twenty-euro pilgrim curios? Two hundred.”
Topaloğlu shakes on two hundred.
“Hafize will arrange payment. You can bring me more of these. Then we’ll see about the miniatures.”
Topaloğlu almost bares his rural teeth in a smile.
“Good to do business, Mrs. Erkoç.”
Footsteps on the stairs and along the wooden gallery; Hafize’s heels. Modest headscarf and fashion heels. A tap at the door. The look on her face is part puzzlement, part suspicion.
“Madam, a customer.”
“I’ll see him. Could you deal with Mr. Topaloğlu? We’ve settled at two hundred euro for these three.”
“Cash,” Topaloğlu says. Hafize will screw another 20 percent off the price; her “administration fee.” For a young woman with aspirations to respectability, she’s as tough a bargainer as any street seller spreading his knockoff football shirts on the quay at Eminönü.
From the encircling balcony Ayşe looks down into the old semahane, the dance floor where in another age dervishes spun themselves into the ecstasy of God. A man bends over a case of Torahs. The great brass chandelier hides him, but Ayşe catches a ripple of gloss, like oil sheen in an Eskiköy puddle, across his back. Nanoweave fabric. Expensive suit.
As Ayşe descends the stairs Adnan warbles a video clip onto her ceptep. She glimpses wide Bosphorus, a white boat at a jetty, dipping gulls, a slow pan along the strait to the bridge. A gas tanker passes. So Adnan lets the camera linger on the gas tanker. His palace, his dream, when he closes Turquoise. Still the wrong side of the Bosphorus, Anatolian boy. She needs to get back to Europe.
“I am Ayşe Erkoç.”
The customer takes her proffered hand. Electronic business cards crackle from palm to palm.
“Haydar Akgün. I was just looking at your Jewish manuscripts. There is some very fine micrography here.” Moiré patterns, blacker on black, mesh across the fabric of his suit. Silver at his cuffs. Ayşe admires silver. There is restraint in silver.
“It’s actually double micrography. If you look closely you’ll see there is calligraphy within the calligraphy.”
Akgün bends closer to the page. He blinks up his ceptep. Lasers dance across his eye, drawing a magnified image on the retina. The folio is from a Pentateuch, the panel of lettering set within a decorative frame of twining flower stems, trellises and fantastical heraldic beasts, dragon-headed, serpent-tailed. The decoration teases the eye; the look beyond the surface dazzle shows the outlines to be made up of minuscule writing. It is only under magnification that the second level of micrography appears: those letters are in turn made up of chains of smaller writing. Akgün’s eyes widen.
“This is quite extraordinary. I’ve only seen this in two places before. One was a dealer in Paris; the other was in a codex in the British Library. Sephardic, I presume? Spanish, Portuguese?”
“You’re correct on Portuguese. The family fled from Porto to Constantinople in the fifteenth century. The micrographic border is a genealogy of King David from the book of Ruth.”
“Exceptional,” Akgün says, poring over the weave of calligraphy.
“Thank you,” Ayşe says. It is one of her most adored pieces. It took a lot of discreet envelopes of euro to get it away from the police art crime department. The moment her police contact showed the Pentateuch to her, she had to possess it. For others it might be the prestige they could garner, the thrill of control, the money they could make. With Ayşe it was the beauty, that cursive of beauty spiralling through Aramaic and Syriac texts to the demotic Greek of the Oxyrhynchus, the painstakingly squared-off Hebrew of the Talmudic scholars of Lisbon and Milan, the divine calligraphy of the Koranic scribes of Baghdad and Fes and learned Granada. It flowed into the organic lines of gospel illumination from monasteries from St. Catherine’s to Cluny, in the eternal light of Greek and Armenian icons, through the hair-fine, eye-blinding detail of the Persian miniaturist to the burning line of Blake’s fires of Imagination. Why deal in beauty, but for beauty?
“You wonder how far down it can go, writing within writing within writing within writing,” Akgün says. “Nanography, perhaps? Do you think it could be like nanotechnology, the smaller it gets, the more powerful it becomes? Are there levels so fine we can’t read them but which have the most profound, subliminal influences?”
Ayşe glances up to the balcony where Hafize is guiding Topaloğlu to the back stairs down into the old tekke cemetery. She subtly unfolds three fingers. Thirty percent discount. Good girl. Gallery Erkoç needs every cent it can find.
“A nanography that slips into the brain and compels us to believe in God?”
“If anyone could it would be the Sephardim,” Ayşe says.
“A subtle people,” Akgün says. He unbends from the codex. “They say you can get hard-to-find items.”
“One should always take the praise of one’s rivals with a pinch of salt, but I do have a certain . . . facility. Is there a particular piece you’re looking for? I have private viewing facilities upstairs.”
“I think it’s unlikely you’d have it in stock. It is a very rare, very precious item, and if it can be found anywhere it will be in Istanbul, but if you can source it for me I will pay you one million euro.”
Ayşe has often wondered how she would feel if a life-transfiguring sum of money walked into her gallery. Adnan talks of the fist-solid thrill of the leveraged millions of his gas trades solidifying into profit. Don’t let it seduce you, he says. That way is death. Now a thousand-euro suit offers her a million euro on a Monday morning, how could she not be seduced?
“That’s a lot of money, Mr. Akgün.”
“It is, and I wouldn’t expect you to embark on such a project without a development fee.”
He takes a white envelope from inside his jacket and gives it to Ayşe. It’s fat with cash. She holds the envelope in her hand and orders her fingers not to feel out the thickness and number of the notes.
“You still haven’t told me what you’d like me to find.”
Hafize has returned from exiting Mr. Topaloğlu. Her customary haste to make tea—tea for every customer, tea, tea—is frozen by those words, one million euro.
“It’s quite simple,” Akgün says. “I want to buy a Mellified Man.”
Leyla on the Number 19, wedged hard against the stanchion in her good going-to-interview suit and business heels. Her chin is almost on the breastbone of a tall foreign youth who smells of milk; behind her is a fat middle-aged man whose hand keeps falling under social gravity to her ass. What is keeping the tram? Five minutes ago it jolted to a stop dead in the middle of the Necatibey Cadessi. Doesn’t IETT know she has an interview to get to? And it’s hot, getting hotter. And she’s sweating in her one and only going-to-interview suit.
The driver announces an incident on the line ahead. That usually means a suicide. In Istanbul the preferred self-exit-strategy is the dark lure of the Bosphorus, but a simple kneel and prostration of the head to the guillotine of the wheels will do it quick and smart. Down in Demre, where the sun glints bright from the endless polytunnel roofs, it was always the hose pipe through the car window.
“There’s been a bomb!” shrieks a woman in a better business suit than Leyla’s. There is a ceptep over her eye; she is reading the morning headlines. “A bomb on a tram.”
The effect on the Number 19 is total. The sudden surge of commuters lifts little Leyla Gültaşli from her feet and swings her so hard into wandering-hand-man that he grunts. People push at the doors, but they remain sealed. Now everyone is thrown again as the tram lurches into motion. It’s going backwards. Wheels grind and flange on the track.
“Hey hey, I’ve got an interview!” Leyla shouts.
The tram jolts to a stop. The doors open. The crowd pushes her out onto the same halt at which she boarded. She has thirty-five minutes to get to this interview. Her shoes are trampled and her suit is rumpled and her hair is ruffled and she is lathered in sweat but her face is right, so she puts her head down and pushes out through the turnstile into the traffic.
Leyla had organised the interview preparations like a wedding. With the hot night greying into day outside her balcony she was striding around in her underwear, unfolding the ironing board, flicking water over her one good suit and blouse as she applied the hot metal. She has got into terrible habits since Zehra announced she was moving back to Antalya. While the suit relaxed on the hanger, losing the just-ironed smell of fabric conditioner, she showered. The water was as mean and fitful as ever. Leyla wove and shimmied under the ribbon of tepid water. Seventy seconds, including shampoo. No more. The landlord last week had slipped a leaflet under every door explaining that the municipal water charges were going up again. Unquenchable Istanbul. The hair straighteners were already plugged in and coming up to temperature. Leyla Gültaşli got jiggly with the hair dryer and went over her pitch.
Gençler Toys. Toys for boys. Six- to eleven-year-olds. Lead lines: BattleCats TM; Gü-Yen-Ji, their ceptep-handshake trading card game, was EU Toy of the Year two years ago. Their success is built on BitBots. The creepy kid upstairs has them. Leyla’s sure he watches her with them. But they have a vacancy in their marketing department and Leyla is Marketing Girl, so she’ll talk BitBots and BattleCats TM as good as any of them.
The suit, then the slap. One hour twenty to get to Gençler. Plenty of time. Bag; a good brand not so high-marque as to be obviously a fake. Which it is. A girl of business needs one convincing accessory in her wardrobe. And the shoes and out.
Twenty-two minutes now, and she curses herself for not thinking to wear trainers. Put the good shoes in the bag and change in the ladies room when you’re making the final adjustments to your face. She can run—just—in these shoes. But the crowd is growing thicker on Necatibey Cadessi, and now she hits the police line, and before her is the tram with its windows blown out and its roof bowed up and people standing around among the crisis vehicles with their red-and-blue flashing lights. The road is sealed. Leyla gives a cry of frustration.
“Let me through let me through!”
A policeman shouts, “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” but Leyla plunges on. “Hey!” To her left is a narrow sok, more stairs than is sensible in this heat and these shoes. Fifteen minutes. Leyla Gültaşli takes a deep breath, slings her bag over her shoulder, and begins to climb.
Once there were four girls from the south. They were all born within fifty kilometres of each other within the smell of the sea, but they didn’t discover that until the dervish house. The condition of Leyla moving from the plasticland of Demre to Istanbul was that she place herself under the care of Great-Aunt Sezen. Leyla had never met Great-Aunt Sezen or any of the distant Istanbul side of the family. Their third-floor apartment in the sound-footprint of Atatürk Airport had a Turkish flag draped over the balcony and a Honda engine under the kitchen table and was full of noisy, clattering relations and generations over whom Great-Aunt Sezen, a matriarch of seventy-something, ruled by hint and dint and tilt of head. The country girl from the Med found herself plunged into an involuntary soap opera of husbands and wives and children, of boyfriends and girlfriends and partners and rivals and feuds and makings-up, of screaming fights and tearful, sex-raucous reconciliations. In the midst of this storm of emotions Leyla Gültaşli tried to work, seated at the kitchen table, her knees oily from the manifold of the Honda engine while her extended family raged around her. They thought her dull. They called her Little Tomato, after her hometown’s most famous export. That and Santa, its other global brand. Her studies suffered. She began to fail course elements.
She went to Sub-Aunt Kevser, grand vizier of the Gültaşlis, who called Leyla’s mother in Demre. The two women talked for an hour. It was decided. Leyla could share an apartment with suitable girls, provided she report to Sub-Aunt Kevser every Friday. No boys of course. There was a respectable girl from Antalya at the Business College who had a place, very central, very good value, in Beyoğlu. So Leyla entered the dervish house and discovered that it was central because it was tatty, sorrowful Eskiköy and good value because the apartment had not been renovated since the declaration of the Republic a century ago. Among three Marketing and Business students, Leyla had even less peace than she ever knew in Honda kitchen. They still called her Little Tomato. She liked it from the girls. Sub-Aunt Kevser called faithfully every Friday. Leyla answered as conscientiously. After two years she graduated with honours. Her parents came up on the bus for her graduation. The Istanbul branch moved family members around rooms like tiles in some plastic game to find space for the Demre tomato-growers in Runway View Apartments. Her mother clung to her father throughout the event at the campus. They gave her gold and had their eyes closed in every single photograph.
So: these four girls from the south who shared a small smelly apartment in Adem Dede tekke. They all graduated from Marmara Business College on the same day. Then one went to Frankfurt to work in an investment bank. One moved out to a Big Box start-up on a bare hill outside Ankara. Five weeks ago the third one announced she was moving back to Antalya to marry a hitherto-unsuspected boyfriend, and Leyla was left friendless, cashless and jobless in the crumbling old dervish house, the only one not to have secured some shape of future. Istanbul was overcommodified with bright young girls with diplomas in marketing. Day by day, bill by bill, the money was running down, but one thing was sure: she was never moving back to that apartment full of screaming lives and jet engines.
Leyla’s counting the steps: thirty-one thirty-two thirty-three. The lie of the streets is familiar: there’s the end of Vermilion-Maker Lane. She’s within a couple of hundred metres of home. She could slip back for comfortable shoes. Twelve minutes. If she can get up onto Inönü Cadessi there are buses and dolmuşes and even, though they would consume the last of her cash, taxis, but it all has to connect sweet, and this is Istanbul. Her fingers shake from exertion. There is a humming in her ears. God, she is so unfit. Too many nights in front of the television because it is voices and lives in the apartment. Then Leyla realises it’s not the thrum of her own body. This is something outside her. She is fogged in a cloud of mosquitoes. She waves her hand at the swarm—shoo, evil things. The bulge of black sways away from her hand and thickens into a hovering dragonfly. Her breath catches in fear. Even Leyla Gültaşli has heard of these things. Up and down Vermilion-Maker Lane morning people stand in place while the dragonfly bots ascertain identities. The machine hovers on its ducted-fan wings. Hurry up hurry up hurry up. She’s got an interview in ten minutes, minutes ten. Leyla could crush the thing in her hand and be on her way, but it scares her. Soldiers you can flash eyes at, flirt a little to make their day and they’ll nod you on. Soldiers are men. These things carry poison darts, she’s heard, evil little nanotechnology stings. Defy them at your peril. But it’s slow slow slow and she’s late late late. She blinks at a wink of laser light: the security drone is reading her iris. The dragonfly bot lifts on its wings, then blows into a puff of mites. On your way now. Up and down the stairs, along Vermilion-Maker Lane, the dragonflies evaporate into smart smoke. She’s passed, but she’s horribly hideously fatally late.
All the traffic that has been diverted from the bomb blast has been pushed onto Inönü Cadessi. Leyla wails at the immobile mass of vehicles, nose to tail, door to door. Horns blare constantly. She squeezes between the stationary cars. A little bubble citi-car rocks to a sudden stop and Leyla shimmies in front of it. The driver beats his hand on the horn, but she sashays away with a cheeky wave of the hand. There’s a bus there’s a bus there’s a bus. She dances a deadly bullfighter’s dance through the pressing traffic, closer, ever closer to the bus. The line of passengers is getting shorter. The doors are closing. Damn these stupid shoes, what possessed her to put them on? Men never look at shoes. The bus is pulling away from the stop, but she can make it she can make it. Leyla beats on the door. Two schoolboys leer at her. She runs alongside the crawling bus, banging on the side. “Stop stop stop stop!” Then a gap opens in front of it and it surges away from her in an aromatic waft of biodiesel. Leyla stands and curses, the traffic steering around her; good, long, southern tomato-grower curses.
Dolmuş dolmuş dolmuş. There’s a cluster of them, slope-backed minibuses huddling together like pious women, but they’re too far down the street, too distant from the stop, and even if she could hail one it would have to travel at the speed of light to get there on time. Faster. Not even the Prophet on Burak could get to Gençler Toys in time for the interview. Leyla wails, throws up her arms in despair in the middle of gridlocked Inönü Cadessi. Her ceptep alert chimes to reinforce her failure. Out of time. Over. No point even calling. Istanbul is too too full of Leyla Gültaşlis.
“I could do that job!” she shouts to the street. “I could do that job easy!”
She’s sick to her stomach, sick in her suddenly stupid and vain suit and shoes, her cheap knockoff bag. She needs that job, she needs that money, she needs not to go back to Runway View Apartments, but most of all she needs never again to see the sun glinting from the endless kilometres of plastic roof over the fields and gardens of Demre and breathe in the cloying, narcotic perfume of tomatoes. Leyla is very close to crying in the middle of traffic-clogged Inönü Cadessi. This won’t do. She can’t be seen like this. Go home. Tomorrow you can pick yourself up and smarten yourself and get out there again and show them you’re good. Today, rage and cry and kick things around where no one can see you. Why why why did this have to be the day that a suicide bomber decided to blow himself up to God? It’s so selfish, like any suicide.
She is halfway down the steps to Adem Dede Square when her ceptep calls. Sub-Aunt Kevser. The last person she needs to talk to. Her thumb hovers over the reject icon. She can’t. You are always available. The mantra was drummed into her at business school.
“You took your time.” As ever when she talks with Leyla, she looks like a schoolteacher.
“I was just doing something.”
“Doing?” There’s always been the assumption that Leyla’s aspirations are dispensable. The women drop everything for the family: it was the way down in Demre; it’s the way up in Istanbul.
“It’s all right, nothing much.”
“Good good good. Remind me, what was that course you did?”
You know full well what I do, Leyla thinks. I can’t see her, but Great-Aunt Sezen is behind you directing this from her chair.
“Would that include raising finance and finding backers?”
Just tell me, you bad old crow.
Sub-Aunt Kevser continues, “Did you ever meet Yaşar Ceylan?”
“He’d be your second cousin. Smart boy. University educated.” Rub it in, sterile spinster. Yes, I only went to a business college.“He’s set up this new business start-up thing over in Fenerbahçe with some boy he did his doctorate with. I’ve no idea what it is; some new technology thing. Anyway, they’re very smart, very clever but useless at anything practical. Yaşar wants to expand but doesn’t know how to get to the people with the money. He needs someone to get him to the money men.”
You see, you knew all the time.
“When does he need someone?”
“Right away. But you said you were doing something, so I don’t know . . .”
“Has he got any money?” Ever the drawback to working with family.
“He’ll pay you. So you’ll do it?”
“I’ll do it. Give me his number.” Sub-Aunt Kevser’s face is replaced by a ceptep number. Leyla stores it quickly. God God thank you God. Sometimes family is your friend. She almost skips down the last few steps into Adem Dede Square. From desolation to ludicrous exultation in seven steps. Fenerbahçe. Business start-up. New tech. Fresh university graduates. It all means only one thing. The big one, the one that promises to build the future and change the world, the one where you can really make your name.
Text © Ian McDonald
Cover art © Stephan Martiniere