A nameless dread grasped Sara when she saw the crowd in front of the bookstore. The avenue was barricaded except for the police cars and two ambulances. When she approached closer, she spotted a third ambulance with its lights blinking. Then she saw the overturned Renault and the intercity bus leaning against the railing which separated the sidewalk from the road. The comments of the crowd were enough to find out what happened.
"There were four of them in that car..."
"One was a child. What a way to go!"
"It was the bus driver. They say he was drunk."
"No way. Two guys sprinkled him with a machine gun."
"They are trying to see if anyone has a description."
" 'I didn't see anything,' That's what they'll all say."
The police let Sara pass through when she told them that she worked in the bookstore. Although the store was untouched, Taner's desk had at least half a dozen policemen bustling around it. Sophie, with her face numb and drawn, sat at the register. Nimet kept walking around, guarding the merchandise. A police photographer was taking pictures of the accident from inside the store.
A man with a note-pad walked to Sara and held out his I.D.
"Inspector Ali Soner."
Sara had not seen a police officer in civilian clothes before.
"I gather you are one of the employees here."
"Tell me what you saw."
"I came to work late and saw the overturned car. It was a total wreck and the bus was damaged also."
"You mean you are just checking in?"
"Too bad. If people cooperated we'd get those guys."
He rubbed his right temple with his pen.
"I would tell you if I had been here."
"Your co-workers were here. Nobody is saying anything."
He paused and looked at her as if she suddenly appeared unplanned.
"I would...If I saw...Really."
He gazed at her with an uneasy smile. Sara caught a touch of surprise in his expression.
"Thank you anyway," he said. "You are the only one here I came closest to believing."
Sara wondered about him as he turned to leave. He looked rather young but seemed to grow older as he talked. The chestnut brown hair peeking from under his cap and the amber lights in his eyes would make a successful composition. If only she could capture this effect in a painting...
It took several hours for the store to resume normalcy. When the police left, Taner called them all to his desk including the boy who did the odd jobs.
"I've gotten a call, anonymous, right before the police arrived. If anyone spills on them they'll blow us up."
"I was at the back," Sophie said. "Even if I wasn't I wouldn't have the guts. They burned down the house of a witness on my block."
Nimet kept rotating her pendant around her neck. She was unusually silent.
"Anyhow," Taner continued, "We cannot save the world. I don't want any of you to say anything now or ever about this. Understood?"
Sara returned to her desk without saying anything.
Sara didn't want to talk to any about the matter anyway. The whole thing seemed like a practical joke made up by an ugly force. Since the December before, the media was put under the Martial law banning the reporting of the atrocities with the hope of ending the violence. Still the news traveled fast by mouth and the accounts of crimes, shootings and bombings increased. People in the public eye, whether from leftists, rightists, youth gangs, political and social reformers, ended up getting killed.
A couple of days after the incident, Sophie asked her, "Did you hear what they did at the bridge?"
Sara snatched an order sheet floating off her desk.
"They held it up."
"How can anyone hold up a bridge?"
"They stopped the traffic on both sides and asked for the release of four convicts. They threatened to shoot at the people and the cars stuck in the middle. The police had to let the convicts out."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that. Except, a guy who was a policeman in plain-clothes recognized two of the men with the submachine guns. So there's a search going on."
"They won't be caught."
Sara stacked the papers on her desk. Sophie changed the subject.
"Do you want to take your lunch-break first?"
Usually Nimet and Taner had their lunch brought in while Sophie and Sara took turns eating at the cafeteria across the street.
"You go first. I am not hungry yet," Sara said.
Sara caught full sight of the man in a wrinkled khaki suit who walked in right then. She recognized him immediately as the detective who had questioned them two days ago. There was a line at the register and she was totaling another customer's bill. He waved at her as he walked to the back of the store.
"Hello, how are you today?" Without waiting for an answer he turned to Sophie, "I would like to have a word with you to set the story straight."
Sophie turned to Sara, pale and nervous. "Can you stay at the register a little more?"
"You go ahead," Sara said. "My lunch can wait."
Later he waited by the door until Sophie took over Sara's place. He was about to address her when Sara raised her hand.
"Hold it. I told you the truth last time."
He smiled like a child, his upper teeth flashing white and the edges of his lips curving upward.
"We'll talk over sandwiches if you don't mind. My lunch had been waiting also."
Inside the cafeteria the midday crowd had dispersed. Still, the smell of fried sausages dominated the interior. A few customers were eating hurriedly around the counters without seats.
When they had picked up the trays and were waiting for the order, he said, "Let's go sit at the tables. I don't like to eat standing up. My mother used to say that Satan pulls your food from under you."
"That's what my grandmother used to say, too," Sara smiled turning her head to him.
"Do you always eat here?"
"It is right across," Sara pointed to the bookstore.
"Convenient, isn't it?"
He took a big bite from his sandwich and chewed it with energy.
"How long have you worked here?"
"About a month and a half," Sara said.
"Since schools are on vacation?"
"I rarely have time to sit down for a lunch like this. This is really pleasant. Do you live around here?"
"No, I take the bus from Bosphorus, Buyukdere to be exact."
"Quite a ride! I live around there also. When I first started on the force, my mother used to pray every day, not for my job hazards but for the ride. I bet your parents are worried too."
"Well, my father is dead. My mother..."She paused not knowing what to say. "She works in Sisli."
"What does she do?"
"She is a seamstress or a tailor then."
"No, she can't tell a pin from a needle. She and her partner own a boutique chain."
Sara changed the position of her legs, crossing them the opposite way.
"I take it you do not care for them much."
"How did you know?"
"Comes with my territory. Am I making you uncomfortable?"
"No, it is just that Mother and I..."
She didn't finish. She rearranged the lettuce on the side of her plate.
"What is the name of their business? They must have a trade name or something."
He put his sandwich down and scanned her all over. His face had lost the easy smile.
"Did I say something wrong?"
Sara stirred in her seat.
"No." He wiped his mouth with the paper napkin. "How does it feel like to be the daughter of a famous woman?"
"I don't live with her. We had a falling out. Something that was long coming."
"I guessed as much."
He had eased up.
"I want to tell you something. After you left last time, my boss told everyone to keep quiet because he received a bomb threat earlier."
"That is the usual story. You know you could lose your job for telling me this." He said extending his palm toward her.
"I know. I felt like telling it to you," Sara replied softly.
"In that case, you didn't tell me but I guessed it. Better yet, you told me nothing." He stood up suddenly. "This was very pleasant but I have to go. I hate to eat and run. Please, forgive me."
She watched him leave, weaving his way around the tables with long strides. She was surprised to have managed to talk that easily to him even about the subjects that disturbed her. How sensible he was when she told him about the phone call! He had wanted to make her feel comfortable. Probably he had believed her that first time.
"He's tough, isn't he?" Sophie asked when Sara returned to the bookstore.
"Not really. He couldn't be too tough with me. I didn't see anything."
Nimet twitched her nose making her glasses move up and down.
"Honey, he wouldn't be too tough with you. Not the way he looks at you."
"Leave the kid alone and go play with your dolls," her brother thundered.
"Butt off..." Nimet hissed.
Sara had gotten acquainted with Nimet's dolls when Taner sent Sema to Nimet's house for assistance with an out-of-print order. Nimet had been out sick with sunburn, which Taner insisted that she had acquired just to spite him.
"All you do is daydream and play dolls," Taner attacked again.
"And all you do is run after married women." Nimet turned to Sophie, "You know married women are the worst. They have the dirtiest minds. Never talk to them. You'll be contaminated."
"You'd die to be one," Taner snickered.
"Bosphorus - 7-"