Friday morning at seven-thirty, Sara dialed the phone downstairs. It rang a few times, until a man answered in a drowsy voice.
“Mr. Ali Soner?”
“Huh? What’d you say?”
“I’m sorry,” Sara said. “I must have the wrong number.”
“Sara? Is that you?”
“Yes, did I wake you? Sorry.”
“So what? It’s okay. What’s up?”
“I remembered something but I couldn’t get to a phone.”
“Great, tell me.”
"I have two keys. One is for my mother’s place. She has recently put a new file cabinet in her bedroom. Last time I was there, I searched it,” Sara said, her voice quivering to a low.
“You did the right thing. Go on.”
“There were lots of papers. I didn’t know which was important. One of them upset me terribly.”
“They have an agreement between them. When one dies, the other gets the whole business.”
“That’s like him.”
“Please don’t think that I want any part of that business or their money. If anything, he deserves it. Mother could never have done it without him. It is just that...” She couldn’t finish because she couldn’t say the words.
“You are worried about the death clause. It might be something to keep in mind for the future. What’s your other key for?”
“Her office. When I lived with her, I used to go wait there to go shopping with her.”
“Tell you what. Let’s get those keys duplicated, in case something happens to them. Can you get that document photocopied?”
“Does your mother know about the keys?”
“No, I don't think so.”
“Good. Let's have it stay that way. And one more thing. Call me Ali. I hate formality.”
“Okay. But I have to go now. I hear Madam Arakian walking around upstairs.”
“I’ll be in touch.”
She put the receiver down. Ali Soner’s number was a local one. ‘At least he lives around here,’ Sara thought. That idea in itself was soothing.
Sunday morning when Madam Arakian went to church, Sara tried again only to find Lamia at home to answer the door.
“Sara, is everything alright? Is there something wrong with Madam Arakian?”
“No, I just wanted to see how you were.”
“How nice! Come in.”
“Are you alone, Mother?”
“Yes, why do you ask? Are you going to bring up Enver again?"
"You know how things are here. Before you left to live with Madam, you stayed right here in this apartment when he slept over.”
“That was before. I don’t want to bother you unnecessarily.”
“You wouldn’t and you know it.”
"I just came to see you. That's all."
Several times during the following week Sara found her mother home when she tried to get the document and Lamia seemed delighted with this newly found intimacy with her. Although Sara wanted to avoid running into Enver, she kept trying, because in a week, her school would be open and her time would be limited. Sara desperately wanted to get something on Enver. She yearned to see him suffer, but her wish had more to it than her personal vengeance. If Enver was backing the terrorists, he deserved punishment.
Friday, before they closed up, Ali walked into the bookstore. “Let’s leave together,” he said in a natural manner, making Nimet give Sara a didn’t-I-tell-you look.
As they left, Nimet chimed, “Have a very nice evening.”
“Does she always sing her goodbyes?” Ali asked when they were outside.
“Only when she imagines romance,” Sara chuckled.
“I don’t like it when she asks for details.”
“Live entertainment, right?”
He was grinning.
“She’s okay, really. Just a bit eccentric.”
“I parked my car over there. We can discuss the other matter on the way.”
Ali drove Sara in a small white Murat, a car made in Turkey, which hopped on each bump on the road. Using her arm straight as a support against the dashboard, Sara explained why she could not get the document.
“I had duplicates made for those keys,” she said. “And I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity when I’ll be able to get the document.”
“When you get in, check through all the papers. There may be something there.”
“Why don’t you go look at it yourself with the other key?” She asked Ali. “You’d know better than me.”
"Let’s not scare them in case things go wrong. Should that happen, I’d have to talk about it in the department. I don’t want them to know what my leads are.”
“You never know. No one is to be trusted. Anyone could be a spy for someone. Even when we come up with hard evidence, the judges let the criminals go for fear of their own lives. Such is the state of things.”
“I heard that even in jails there is no real punishment.”
“You heard right. They escape all the time. They have friends everywhere.”
“Then, what do you guys do?” Sara looked at Ali.
“Nothing. We are powerless. Except, I am gathering evidence, that’s all,” Ali sighed. “I am sure someday we’ll get a responsible government.”
“Hopefully before an all-out civil war.”
“Things are discouraging, but we do the best we can.”
He fished for the radio button. Sara turned it on for him.
“The problem is, I’m starting school on Monday. I’ll have less time.”
“Aren’t you quitting your job?”
“Taner proposed an arrangement. He’ll pay me for full time work if I take care of the files and orders after hours during weekdays and tend customers on weekends.”
“You’ll have free days, zillions of them. Because of the riots, the universities get closed a lot.”
A popular love song started piping in from the radio.
“I know, but I still want to go to the academy,” Sara said feeling happy and nervous.
Twisting in bed that night, it occurred to Sara that she had trusted a complete stranger. Yet, when she thought of the document, she was sure that it was the right move. Ali Soner said he lived inland, about two miles from her. That was a bonus.
In a week, Sara had learned to tell her way inside the Academy through her nose. Each room owned its smell according to the medium and the fixers used. The large studio where drawing was taught had the scent of decaying leaves. The lecture hall’s perfume was linoleum polish, but pungent turpentine dominated the entire school.
After classes Sara took the bus to get to the bookstore, and since every night she had homework, the document had to wait until Friday evening. Even if she had found the time, the maid would have been working inside her mother’s until five in the afternoons.
On Friday evening, Sara had an opportunity. After the bookstore, she went directly to Lamia’s place. No one was there. They usually had a staff meeting every Friday evening at the Dincer Enterprises. She found the document, and put it in her bag. She was just about to leave when she heard voices in the hall. She turned off the light, went into her old room, and crouched behind an armchair thinking, ‘Isn’t this odd? I am hiding like a thief in a place I should have called home.’
The voices of Enver and Lamia echoed through the apartment in constantly varying pitches. They were fighting. How unusual it seemed! Maybe Lamia’s image of her saint was changing.
“No, I don’t want to sell. I want to keep that building for me and Sara.”
“Why don’t you trust me? Didn’t I always take care of you?”
“That isn’t it. I bought that building with my parents’ inheritance. Sara has a share in that.”
“I am sick of Sara. That girl is never going to come around. She is leading you by the nose.”
“Shut up, Enver. Don’t ever talk like that about my daughter.”
“Will you listen to me, Woman? They’ll blow up two of the stores if we don’t pay them.”
“Sell something belonging to your wife then.”
“I thought you liked her.”
“This has nothing to do with her or Sara. Look, maybe we can get a loan.”
“Not anymore. We are overdrawn,”
“I wish this whole mess would clear up,” Lamia’s voice softened.
“Lamia, Baby. Nothing clears up by wishing.”
“Is that why you were talking of importing handguns with that mosquito-like character?”
“You did not hear that. You understand!” Enver sounded hoarse.
“Enver, tell them something. Make them understand. Buy time. I need to think. I understand your position, believe me.”
“Okay, think. But do not take too much time.” Sara heard Enver’s pacing up and down the living room. “Do you want me to stay tonight?”
“No, not tonight. I’m tired,” Lamia answered.
Sara heard the closing of the front door, and the clicking sound of the lock. Her back had started aching from the uncomfortable position behind the chair. So that’s what it was. Enver was putting pressure on Lamia to get to everything she owned. Afterwards, he could get rid of her. She waited until she heard her mother in the shower. Then she slipped out quietly.
The light of the photocopy machine swept over the document. “They probably have duplicates anyhow, but we must put it back to not let them suspect,” Ali's words echoed in her ears as Sara lifted the rubber lid and looked at it again.
The paper was warm and ironed out. It was just a sheet with print and a notary stamp, but it could destroy her mother's life even more than it had already been destroyed.