It was mid-August. Sara tried to keep her occasional mood swings in check that had sprouted up after the rape. She indulged in hard work in order to divert her thoughts from that horrid day. Still she kept repeating the incident in her mind. It would be a mistake to let anyone else in on this shameful event. No one needed to know. After all, even her mother didn’t believe her. She was sure others would think that she had encouraged Enver. Sometimes, she felt guilty for provoking his anger and not acting smarter. Hadn’t he told her that if she chose, she could be more influential than her mother? If she were able to play her cards right, maybe he wouldn’t do what he did. No, on the other hand, Enver would always want more, for he was plain evil. Sara’s thoughts seesawed between this, that, and her own guilt, without letting up.
In the bookstore, one Thursday, when Sophie was out with a terrible summer cold, it fell on Sara to attend the cash register. Nimet had come in limping. She had stuck her foot with a needle when she was sewing up a doll’s dress. Taner was upset.
“Only you would prick yourself with a stupid needle. It isn’t that I cannot deal with the extra work. It’s your idiotic ways. A woman playing dolls at your age!”
“Shut up, you big bully. You mention my age again...”
Nimet quieted suddenly as the first customer walked in. Sara admired Nimet’s business sense although she didn’t like to hear her constant bickering with her brother.
Toward midmorning when the store emptied momentarily, the anticipation of another sibling combat gripped Sara; however, the second she saw the next customer, she knew she would have welcomed their contention instead.
“Well, Sara. So you work here.”
Enver walked in toward her with a friendly gesture.
Sara froze. She became worried that she would open her mouth and a different voice would emerge.
“May I help you?” Taner asked him, examining his misshapen form under the designer silk-suit; expensive attire never failed to impress the salesman in him.
“Are you the owner or do you work here?” Enver answered him with a question of his own.
“The owner. May I help you?”
“I am Sara’s mother’s partner and a friend of their family. Sara has been telling me what a fine establishment you have. I see how right she was. My compliments.”
Enver shook Taner’s hand cordially.
“Thank you, thank you, Sir. Sara has been a fine addition. She’s the hardest worker around here,” Taner said.
Why, a compliment from Taner? Sara couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Someone was trying to impress someone, and from the way the conversation was rolling, Sara guessed that the effort was reciprocal.
“Only I didn’t come here for Sara, as much as she’d have liked me to. Right, Little Girl?”
Enver winked at Sara, his grin picking up strength. Then he faced Taner.
“I have a rather large order. My partner and I decided to install few bookcases for the employees in our company. With your help we might be able to fill them up with books and material about the textile industry and clothing know-how. Maybe we could add a few magazines too.”
“Please, walk upstairs with me, Sir. We can consult the catalogues.”
“I was also wondering if you handled printing pamphlets and such?”
“We work on a commission basis and forward the orders to a printing company. You will be very pleased with the quality.”
His voice alert and intense, Taner showed Enver the way upstairs, as Sara’s heart started pounding from the drama of the moment. Enver was closing in on her. She felt trapped and netted like game in a different habitat. She frowned acknowledging she would have to speak to him soon. She figured she had to make concessions if she were to survive in the world at all; yet, she detested Enver from the foundation of her being. Yet, her mother was right on one account. Enver knew business. He knew how to get the red carpet treatment and he knew how to plague Sara. Afraid and aching with bruised nerves, Sara rung up the wrong price for another customer. It took her a while to correct the mistake. When the woman left with her purchase and a sour expression on her face, Sara looked up to see that on the upstairs landing Enver and Taner were having coffee together.
Enver coughed and took out another cigarette. Taner jumped to serve him with his lighter. Enver had trained him almost instantly. Enver took a puff and stood up. Sara stiffened but she kept her fingers on the cash register.
“So you like working, I see...”
How she hated him!
“Terrific boss you have.”
“Yes, he is.”
Sara managed a halfway smile toward Taner.
“It so happened that we understood each other. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Sara bent down to pick up a fallen piece of paper. Maybe she should have knocked the entire counter over. Then she wouldn’t have to look at Enver’s face.
“I have to leave now. Thanks for the coffee. Goodbye, Sara.”
Sara nodded her head as if she was greeting him. She watched Taner follow him to the door and hold it open for him. Naturally, she was befuddled when Taner turned around with narrowed eyes, as if stung by a swarm of hornets.
“Oh, no,” Taner exclaimed, “Not that man again!”
What? Had he gone mad? A few seconds later she understood why. Whistling a tune, detective Ali Soner was diving in through the door with his hands in his pockets.
He stood right in front of Sara and asked, “Have you eaten yet? Let’s go to lunch.”
She looked at him wondering what she had let herself in for. After the day he had bought “Grimm’s Tales”, Ali Soner had kept coming back. On several occasions he bought mysteries and even a cookbook. Twice he interrogated Taner, making Sara cringe with guilt. She shielded her eyes with her right hand for a moment.
“Thank you, but I can’t. We are short-handed today. I think I’ll eat in here.”
“Then, I’ll eat in here with you.”
Sara backed up and looked at him in astonishment. He was talking in earnest, his brown hair shaggy and ruffled over his forehead, bringing out the sparkling amber in his eyes. He had on denim jeans with a short-sleeved knit shirt, as if he was going for a drive in the country in his day off.
“It’s okay, Dear. Go with him,” Nimet urged Sara hanging onto the banister.
“Go with him, Sara, for Heaven’s Sakes!”
Taner obviously didn’t want to look at Ali during his lunch.
As they crossed the street, she became aware of him holding her hand. She hadn’t realized that she had let him.
“Let’s go to a different restaurant, “he said. “Why are your hands so cold on such a warm day?”
“A delayed reaction to an unwelcome face.” Sara corrected herself immediately, “Not you. Please, don’t think that. Someone else came into the store before you.”
She was horrified at her own thoughtlessness, but he was smiling.
“Yes, I know,” he said. “Your mother’s partner.”
“How did you know?”
“Comes with my territory.”
His mouth was pulled into that big grin again.
“To tell you the truth, I’m awfully glad you show such a violent reaction to him.”
“You wouldn’t be, if you knew why.”
Ali Soner stopped suddenly in the middle of the crowded sidewalk. His face had stiffened.
“He did something very bad to you, didn’t he?”
Sara’s voice had come out in a whisper. She didn’t want to talk about Enver anymore.
“That kind of a man should be hanged.”
They walked in silence the rest of the way.
Ali took Sara into a restaurant specializing in various types of kabobs. The hostess showed them a window seat but he declined. Ali Soner chose a small table by the back wall.
“We wouldn’t want to be sprayed with bullets there by the window,” he said. “You never know, after the bridge incident I have to be extra careful.”
“Oh, were you the one?”
He nodded admittingly.
“I was tailing one of them. Except I didn’t know they’d pull a thing like that. One never knows,” he said thoughtfully, and then taking a gulp of water afterwards, “There are so many of them,” he murmured.
“How would they know it was you?”
“Supposedly, they shouldn’t. But they have ears everywhere. They might suspect.”
“Which group is this?”
“Radical leftists. They call themselves Giant something.”
Sara stared at the view of the half-eaten portion of her platter with regret. Slender slices of lamb sizzling over snowy yogurt dressing on warmed pita seemed like a page out of an artist’s cookbook. Too bad she was so full...
“No need to waste,” said Ali, scraping her leftovers into his plate.
Sara thought of Lamia. How she would shudder at Ali's behavior! Sara, on the contrary, enjoyed watching him. Whatever he did, Ali Soner did not feel awkward about it. He was a person; he was real.
“Do you mind if I ask you some questions about this and that? You don’t have to answer when and if you don’t want to.”
He stabbed his fork into a mouthful.
“Sure, go ahead.”
“When did your mother and Enver meet?”
“You know him, don’t you?”
“I told you. Comes with my territory.”
Sure of himself, he undid the top button of his shirt.
“I think they met when I was eleven or twelve,” Sara answered him.
“What do you think? Do they make all the decisions together about business?”
“I doubt it,” Sara said, brushing off crumbs from her dress. “I remember when we ran the first store together, Mother kept falling behind in the profit column.”
“How do you think it is now?”
“I bet he tells her what to do, step by step. She told me something like that a few days ago.”
“Your mother is considered to be very important in Dincer Enterprises, did you know that?”
“Well, Mother has good taste and pizzazz. Their kind of business depends on that. Why are you asking?”
Ali frowned without a word. Then he leaned forward to her.
“They are suspected, Enver mostly, of being involved with some guerilla organization. I trust it is best to tell you the truth. Who knows, you might be able to help.”
“You would trust me? Even if Mother...”
“Call it instinct. Also I tailed you for a while, asked around and stuff.”
He straightened in his chair, looking worried.
Sara smiled at him, amused. She had not suspected anyone to be following her.
“Whew!” he sighed. “You are not mad at me.”
“No, I am not. You were doing your job.”
“Not a word of this to anyone, especially to your mother.”
He reached out for her hand from across the table.
“Okay. Except I don’t think that Mother would be involved in such things.”
“Possibly not. She’s too close to him though. Don’t forget that.”
He wiped his plate clean with a piece of bread and stuffed it in his mouth.
“One more question, okay?”
“What did he want from your boss?”
He tilted back in his chair.
“Books. Also he said he wanted pamphlets printed.”
“Garbage! His firm already has a printing service.”
“I think he wants to get back at me through my boss. I spit at him once,” Sara’s face reddened.
“Not the spit. Must be more than that,” Ali said, smiling sideways.
“Maybe. Anything you want me to do?”
“Nothing now. I'll give you my number if things come up.”
He took out a torn piece of paper from his shirt pocket, scribbled on it, and handed it over to Sara.
“Let me write down Madam Arakian’s number, in case you need me," Sara said, as she put the paper in the zippered section of her shoulder bag.
“Don’t bother. I have it.”
“Comes with your territory, right?”
“Smart Lady.” His laugh was hearty.
Nimet looked at Sara with playful mischief in her eyes, when she entered the bookstore.
“Well, well... The star of the show is back.”
“What show? “ Sara asked.
“The show of hearts, Silly.”
“It isn’t what you think.”
The second Sara said that she was sorry. ‘Let her think what she wants. It is safer that way,’ she corrected herself internally.
Taner emerged from behind his desk.
“What did he ask you?”
“Nothing,” Sara faked a giggle. “Nothing at all.”
“What was so funny?”
“I can’t tell you. It is personal.”
Sara glimpsed at Nimet who was rolling her eyes, her mouth stretching from ear to ear. She had created the appropriate effect.
Now Sara knew why Ali had taken her to lunch. He was probably tailing Enver. She felt pleased that he trusted her enough to tell her. Yes, it would be like Enver to get involved with the worst for his own end. What did he care if people died or suffered? She unzipped the pocket in her bag and glanced at the number. When she was putting it back, the keys to Lamia’s apartment and office clinked. She realized that she could have told Ali about them and the document. Should she call him right away? She decided against it. There was no place around to make the call without anyone hearing it. ‘Better use the phone in the candy store when no one is there,' she reasoned.
That night Madam Arakian stayed in the store until late. She had a new shipment in, and she said she wanted to take inventory. Sara did not get a chance to phone.
“Just look at us!” Madam Arakian laughed when they were done. “We are both covered with sticky goo. Why, I have it even in my hair...”
“It is the bag that must have slid behind the storage. The whole thing’s melted.”
“They make nothing like they used to. Hard candy’s not supposed to melt.”
Sara decided to call Ali first thing in the morning as she slipped into her bed. The events of the day still hassling her, she closed her eyes to a disturbed sleep.
She knew she could be dreaming, yet the dream was not a dream; it was a yield sign on the side of a road, like a warning. She was falling into a pit sucked in by gravity or something ominous. Lamia kept calling her from the bottom. Sara saw her at a distance, the edges of her image blurred, her hair grown long, colorless and loose around her shoulders. She was wearing a long white gown like a shroud. Around her indefinite dark shapes moved in a ritualistic dance, with the spears in their hands exploding into a sudden blood-red fire, which kept growing and growing, finally engulfing everything. Sara wanted to surface from the dream but she was powerless. Her eyelids stuck together with melted candy. She found no scream in her throat.
She suddenly awoke, wet with perspiration. Her room was pitch black inside and the sky appeared moonless from her window.