During the next couple of days, nightmares and headaches haunted Sara constantly. The second night after the funeral she woke up terrified, “I wanted to help her; I didn’t know how,” she repeated feverishly. She was wet with perspiration, and her stomach pained her.
“If you could just have a good cry,” Ali said, “There’s got to be a way. Some day I’ll make you cry, then you’ll feel so much better!”
As the wound on her left arm healed, she forced herself return to normal. She wanted Ali to think she was happy.
The last days of school had rolled in. Her work had not been punctual, nor did it follow the rules all the time. Yet, it was original and she had earned grades above passing.
“This is fantastic, don’t you see?” Ali was saying. “You have been absent most of the year.”
She would have liked to have done better. Much better. Luther chose five pen and ink drawings among her work, matted them, and sent them in to the contest. Sara went along with the idea merely out of courtesy. Any form of creative work needed piece of mind, she felt. How did people follow their dreams when everyone was terrified of everyone else? Art to her had become some paradise fenced with barbed wire, and each time she moved in and out, she got caught by the spikes.
“We will work hard in September, as soon as I return from Germany,” Luther promised. “We are going to do this for both of you, Sara. It is important to Ali that you work at it.”
Lots of things were important to Ali, like Sara’s safety, the new house, and to keep anyone from hurting anyone else. Then another complexity about him had surfaced.
At first, Sara thought she was imagining it. As if he wanted to exorcise the very thought of Lamia, Ali didn’t want to talk about her at all. His behavior contradicted the sadness they had felt together over her death right after the murder. If Sara could put a date on this, it would have to be the day they went to Lamia’s apartment together.
Lamia’s apartment was another issue. Sara didn’t want to go back there and Ali never made the offer.
If someone could take over, sell Lamia’s furniture and rent the apartment, the rent money could help with the new house, but Sara knew that neither of them would want to touch that money. Even Lamia’s jewelry lay in a cloth bag in the corner of the broom closet. Ali had not bothered to hide it with the rest of their valuables. To the surprise of many people, in a city where rentals were very hard to come by, the apartment stayed empty throughout the summer.
Sara went through her mother’s books. All three books belonged to the time when Sara had started the business. Sara was sure there was a fourth book, because occasionally the vision of four books under Ali’s arm that day kept popping up. But Ali said no, they had brought only three books from the apartment. Since during that time her mind wasn’t quite right, she took his word for it.
Enver took over Lamia’s share of the business and sold it. Sara was worried about Enver coming into the good graces of the mob again.
“He won’t hurt us if he doesn’t feel threatened,” Ali told her. For the same reason he had stopped Sara from talking to the district attorney about the partnership agreement earlier.
“But you were the one who wanted to show it to him in the first place,” Ahmet said.
“It is not worth it,” Ali replied. “I made a mistake.”
‘It is not worth it... Or Mother was not worth it,' Sara thought. Ali was withholding something about Lamia, which had stunned him. Sara decided to confront him.
One day at supper she asked right out, “Is there something about Mother that you are not telling me?
Ali swallowed his bite and took a drink from his glass before answering her. “What gave you that idea?”
“It has been on my mind for quite some time. It’s the way you behave when her name comes up.”
“How do I behave, Honey?”
“It is as if you wish she never existed.”
“How could I wish that? You wouldn’t be here.” He stroked her arm.
She looked at him puzzled. “I thought we understood each other even without words. I tell you everything that comes to me. Sometimes you know it before I open my mouth. Now, how did I miss on this one?”
“Honey, don’t talk like that. Please don’t. You do not miss. You never did.”
He got up from his chair and crouched near her. She felt his lips on her skin and his hands on her thighs.
“Any time you want to talk about your mother, we will talk. All right?”
Suddenly the conversation lost its meaning. A scorching wave had risen from the depths of her. She closed her eyes and held him tight. She desperately wanted him to touch her more.
Sara worked full time in summer. Ali drove her back and forth. When he was on assignment, someone from the force brought her home. They had been advised not to let their guard down. The man Sara had shot had finally agreed to talk, but before he could, someone had broken into his hospital room and had stabbed him to death.
Sara did not go out often, even after everyone thought it safe. Once Ali took her to the bookstore to see Nimet and Taner. Couple of times they went to dinner at Ahmet’s house. Sara yearned to take a walk with Ali by the Shore Road or go to the theater like most couples did.
“Nobody does those things anymore,” Ayten told her. “Not one safe place is left in the whole country. We are in enough danger going to or from our houses.”
Toward the end of July, a unified workers’ strike hit the country, in retaliation for the assassination of the Metalworkers’ Union leader. The people who worked on Sara and Ali’s house stopped also. But since the forty days of respect period after Lamia’s death was over, Ali and Sara started the marriage procedure.
“Finally, we are getting to it,” Ali was saying. “Of course we were instantly married the minute I saw you. But that one was in Heaven, now we can take care of the earth business.”
They considered themselves lucky. Despite the fact that the country was at the brink of a civil war, they had had a good summer. Sara’s arm was healing with no threat to the bone. Enver and the mob were keeping their distance. Neither of them was hurt at the moment, nor did they think much about the existence of any danger. They were together; that was sufficient.
Kenan came to see them with Ahmet or Ayten every two weeks on Sundays. His mother felt better about sending him after she had learned about Sara and Ali.
“She can’t be too bad,” Sara reasoned. “Someone else would have resented me.”
“She wouldn’t. She is not a bad person at all,” Ali said. “She was as unlucky a victim as I was.”
Sara looked forward to her wedding. The outside walls of their house were completed, but they did not expect it to be finished by the time they would be married. They had decided not to wait for the house and they had set the wedding date at the fourth week of August. Enough time had been wasted already.
“The inside will go much faster, without the material being stolen,“ the builder told them.
Sara’s boss, who was replacing Hamdi temporarily in the department, suffered from the illusion that he was a mastermind. He constantly sent her into a wild goose chase with a name totally unrelated to his case.
“You have to think around it. The most unlikely is the one you’re looking for,” he lectured her.
One day he came with the name of the neighbor of a murder victim. He wanted Sara to check him up from the computer. The name had never been entered. Sara searched through the files and found nothing.
“There is nothing I can do,” she told him. “It just doesn’t exist around here.”
“Hmmm!” He looked at her. “Say it again. Your last sentence.”
“It just doesn’t exist around here.” Sara wanted to scream. She felt that she was being badly paid to be working with him.
“Now the last two words.”
“Around here.” Her patience was getting taxed.
“That means it is somewhere else."
“Or the man never had a record.”
“That is our very last option, so we will forget that one for the time being.”
“What do you want me to do?” Sara asked wearily.
She too should have called in sick this morning. Ali was home with an intestinal virus.
“The old archives, where they store the out-of-use material. They weren’t entered into the computer. You can come up with goodies there.”
“The archives? They are for the dead.”
“And those who pay their way into the dead. There are lots you could learn from me, Little Girl! But they are at the other end of town. I’ll send you with escort, don’t worry.”
Dust, mold, semi-darkness, and creaking file cabinets. These were the archives that took them more than an hour to get to. The name given to her was Ay Karal. She searched for it. Kar. Kara, Karac... Something hit her instantly. She went back. There! Kara, such a popular name for some people of a certain kind. Why, she almost didn’t believe it! Kara, Enver. Birthdate: 1940. The name and the age were right. Shouldn’t this be in the computer? ‘Those who paid their way into the dead’ she recalled. Crime: rape, three counts. Forgery. She took the file out; then went ahead and pulled out Karal, Aydin. The first name was a little different but she’d better have something for the boss if she were to use the photocopy machine upstairs.
“I have great respect for your work, Sir,” she said to the man when she was back and she meant every word of it.
“My, how nice! Here’s a girl who appreciates wisdom...”
Sara ran upstairs in one breath. Ali had probably heard her, but he did not get up. He was lying on the divan.
“How are you feeling?”
“I prefer the bullets, in general.”
“Don’t say that!” She kissed him. “You’ll feel great once you look at what I have for you.”
“I feel great looking at you.” He sat up. “What’s this? Oh, Sara! Where did you get that?”
“Old archives. Don’t worry; I was escorted. You-know-who wanted someone named Karal. Imagine the rest.”
“Would you believe it? He was a kid then. Look here! They tried to escape, four of them. The jail buddy-system! Remember this name? Halil Cenk?”
“How could I forget? One of the first things you trusted me with.” Her cheeks glowed.
“I trusted you with everything from the start,” he kissed her. “We should call Ahmet. We might have a whole bunch of them all wrapped up right here.”
“How come we never looked him up?” Ahmet said, sipping his coffee.
“I did,” Ali said, “inside the wrong files where only a couple of his antics showed.”
Enver’s first rape belonged to the time when he must have been fourteen. His files were reopened by an unproven rape charge but closed again eleven years later. He served a prison sentence between 1958 and 1960. A note said the subject had fully reformed, and the files were made inactive in 1968, the same year, he had married his wife.
“It must be his wife’s father who got rid of the earlier files,” Sara said, “Because Enver managed his business, and then he married his daughter. The man died a year later in a car crash.”
“I wonder about that,” Ahmet said. “About it being an accident.”
“We can’t go into that. We’ll steer off course,” Ali said. “We have these three names to look up. Halil Cenk, we know about. These two, Ejder namli, Yakup Dursun, you have to check them up, Sara.”
“As long as you take care of my boss. Since Hamdi went into hospital, I have hated to go to work. Let alone that his mind works in a maze, every second he comes up with another crazy assignment.”
“Hamdi is due back next week,” Ali told her.
“We are grateful to him, Sara. Don’t forget. At worst, this file could lead the way to reopen your mother’s murder,” Ahmet said.
“That is secondary,” Ali said with a frown. Sara looked at him with astonishment.
“Watch it!” Ahmet murmured.
That made Sara become sure of it. She knew there was something thick and unsolved between Ali and Ahmet. To top it off, they were hiding it from her.
“What is it?” She faced both of them. “About Mother?”
“What about her?”
Ahmet looked surprised. Sara didn’t know if he was acting it. She was not tuned in to him as she was to Ali, and Ali was looking down at the sheet in his hand.
“We can show malicious intent better in her case, if we concentrate on the mob first,” Ali said, his finger rubbing his chin.
Sara could not argue with that, but what about the deeper pitch and the dry tone of his voice? Those kinds of things one noticed, yet they were too intangible to bring up to prove a point.
“Isn’t it strange? Me and Ali thought Enver was only a pawn at the hands of the terrorists in the beginning,” Ahmet addressed Sara. ‘He’s saying this to shift my attention. He’s covering up for him,’ Sara thought.
“That was understandable,” Sara said, pushing away from the table. “I think I’ll go put the kettle on.”
Before she left the room, she suddenly turned around to catch the exchange of a long concerned gaze between Ali and Ahmet.
She checked on the names the next day as soon as her boss was called out of the office for the afternoon. She could not find anything on Ejder Namli. But Yakup Dursun had a rather lengthy file. In 1974, he had belonged to a group of troublemakers who called themselves the Leftist Dragon or the Red Dragon. He had disappeared for a couple of years; then arrested during a bloody demonstration in the Southeast. False identification and a forged passport had been found on him. He had used several aliases and was convicted several times, once of murder. Each time he had escaped from jail. At this time his whereabouts were unknown.
There were other names, the names of people Enver was connected to or arrested with, attached to Dursun’s file. She made copies of all papers on him before the boss came back. Then, she started looking up each name. Almost every single one had something to do with the 1974 group, the Red Dragon. Then each one had more names connected to his. Sara realized that she had her work cut out for her.
Ali stayed home another day. His face had drooped and he looked worn out. He had withstood all kinds of physical blows and bullet wounds. Strange, how a tiny unimportant virus had knocked him out.
“Am I glad to see you!” He embraced her at the door. “Home is not home when you’re out.”
“That virus shook you, didn’t it?”
“Yes, but it is gone. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to work.”
“You might be working earlier than you bargained for, like tonight,” Sara said, handing him the large envelope. He shuffled the papers in it back and forth; then sat at the table and started reading them.
“The Red Dragon. Damn!”
The shape of his mouth changed to a thin straight line like a stab wound across his face. He inhaled hard a few times and sheltered his eyes by his hand. Sara rushed to circle her arms around him. He stayed motionless as if he didn’t feel her presence.
“It was one of them at that camp who killed my brother.”
“How do you know that?”
“I was the one who was supposed to go. He took my place.” He pulled his hand off his eyes. Sara expected tears but she only saw anger. “Someone else, who saw what happened and escaped, was with him.”
“Who runs these camps and for what?”
“Our neighbors North and South, to promote terrorism for their brand of idealism.”
A poison of a sort had gripped him; Sara had never seen him so bitter.
“Those governments should do away with those places. They are inhuman,” she said.
“It isn’t just my brother, you see. Soon this is going to spread to the entire world, and no one will be able to set foot outside his door with ease.”
The intensity of his feeling frightened Sara. She worried he would go to any length to carry out his combat.
“I should have seen this yesterday.”
“What?” Sara asked.
“Ejder Namli. Think what ejder means.”
Sara shrugged, “Dragon,” she said. “It might be a coincidence. What would it have to do with the whole mob?”
“We have to have more information on him.” Ali was answering his inward thoughts only.
“There isn’t any. There are papers on others who were with Yakup Dursun. I’ll get them as soon as I can.”
“Sara, I need information on Ejder Namli.”
“Old archives,” she said, “That is the place to look first. But I don’t have authority on my own unless they send me.”
“I’ll do it.” He pulled the papers together and stuck them into the envelope.
It occurred to Sara that they didn’t have a long thought out plan. But then, they had never had any. They had moved from their personal grievances, joined forces, and collected evidence. What guarantee did they have that any of this would be of use, supposing they had all the information on The Red Dragon?
“I’m not sure of all of this,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Even if we had everything on them, how could you stop them? Besides, they aren’t the only terrorist organization.”
“You and I have personal scores to settle with them. I do have hope in the turn of events, and in that someday when the right road will be taken.”
It was what had attracted her to him in the beginning, which was scaring her now. Like a woman possessed, she had encouraged his boundless determination for justice. ‘What is justice?’ she thought. ‘Isn’t it a form of revenge?’
“Are we doing this for revenge?” she asked him.
“Yes and no. Yes, revenge, and I want it. I want it for both of us. I also want to do it because it is duty. I chose my job, no one pushed me.”
“Didn’t you want to quit the force?”
She was searching his face. For a time, he had acted with caution, measured his steps, and even tried to slow her down. Maybe he had not foreseen how much they could accomplish. Their recent successes had whipped him to dash forward. Sara knew that there could be no stopping or delaying. She wanted it as badly as he did, but she was afraid of what might happen to him. On the other hand, he was possessed, distanced, and his anger deepened . There would be nothing he wouldn’t do because his dream now flickered, ready to turn real.
“I get discouraged. But it is not the force, it is the country, the way things are.” He sat near her. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No not at all. I worry sometimes. We have so much together and...” She couldn’t utter the rest.
“Nobody can touch what we have.” He held her hand and raised it to his lips. “What we have just happened. It cannot be changed; don’t you see? As to the safety factor, I’m extra careful, more than I have ever been.”
He loved her. She knew it. Yet, the look she caught between him and Ahmet, the way he sometimes quieted when Lamia’s name was mentioned, and worse yet, the way he tried to seem casual about it tormented her.
“I think Ali knows something he is not telling me about my mother,” Sara told Ayten one day.
“Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. But Ahmet knows it; maybe you do, too.”
Ayten looked down at the carpet as if she was noticing it for the first time. She was trying to come up with an answer.
“I wish to know,” Sara said. “I think that I’m doubting him for nothing, and this is hurting me. I am not asking you to break his confidence. Just tell me if there’s such a thing or not.”
Ayten talked in a low soft voice. “Sara, if it were up to me, I would tell you the entire thing, right now. If I just said yes now, you would feel hurt and miss on the fact that Ali cares for you so deeply.”
“Tell me as much as you can.”
“Then, it is yes, but let me say one thing. If my husband ever held something back from me for the same reason, I would be the luckiest woman on earth. It is not a matter of trust either. It hurts him inside to keep this from you, especially after you’ve questioned him.”
“I knew it,” Sara let out her breath. “I won’t question him again. I don’t want to know if he didn’t want me to know.”
“He might tell you himself much later. Right now, you’ve been through so much.”
“Then, it is something bad about Mother.”
Ayten looked away.
The workings of the mob were unraveling like a hand-knitted sweater. A knot here and a wrong stitch there did not make much of a difference. Sara had tracked them.
Ali found Ejder Namli’s file in the old archives, but most of the papers in it had disappeared.
“We have to fill in the gaps. We have to find more on him, where a few of them are, and if there are others with no previous records. Some addresses are missing.”
“How are you going to do that?” Sara asked.
He raised his eyes to her. His lips moved but no sound came out of them.
“What we have now is enough to make them harmless,” Sara echoed into his stillness.
“I don’t want to leave anything incomplete. But that’s a concern for later,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll marry you first. No more delays on that.”
It was close to the end of the second week of August. They were to be married on the twenty-seventh, Wednesday. On her way home from work, Sara tried to chase away the thoughts of what Enver could do. Instead she reflected how her life had changed after she had met Ali. It was as if she didn’t live before. She wanted to marry him because he wanted it. He wanted to lean on her and to love her. She smiled to herself with pleasure.
First, Sara heard Ali’s voice, rising and falling in excitement as she walked up the stairs. Yet when she entered the living room, she found him talking calmly to Ayten and Ahmet. This made little sense. Had they changed the subject upon hearing her come in?
Then, maybe things were getting to her. On her way to work in the morning, she had witnessed another killing, and a demonstration during her lunch hour. Since the gunman’s death, she came and went freely on her own, although somewhat feeling on edge about Enver. One thing she hadn’t quite understood was how easily Ali had agreed to it. ‘It is the information he’s not telling me.’ Later she scolded herself for thinking that.
As she was setting the table for supper, Sara felt a different concern in Ayten’s stare. It could be her imagination. She was getting suspicious of everyone. Maybe she needed a cooling down period, a vacation.
“I think you should stay home during the next week,” Ali said as he sipped his soup. Sara looked at him puzzled. Was he a mind reader?
“I already applied for the last ten days of August off,” she said.
“Hamdi’s idea. He thinks you need rest before the wedding,” Ahmed said, reaching for the salad plate.
“It’s going to be a very small ceremony,” Sara said.
“I’ll feel better if you are home. It is getting real hectic out there, and I am being sent to Ankara for a few days,” Ali said as he stuffed his mouth with bread.
“What for? Don’t they have enough work for you around here?” What was this sinking feeling at the base of her stomach? It felt almost like an omen.
“Honey, what I have to do is to be done. That’s all. It is only a two to three day job.”
“It’s all right with me if Hamdi lets it,” Sara shrugged. She hadn’t enjoyed filing in the first place but still... She didn’t like this trip one bit.
Ayten came everyday while Ali was away, and Ahmet stopped by as often as he could. At other times when Ali had been out of town, neither had shown this much interest. She knew she was being watched over but she didn’t want to think about it.
Ali did not fumble with words. He came straight out and said it, as soon as they were seated. “I found out about Ejder Namli. He’s dead, but he was the founder; you were right about the rest. I also know where their headquarters is, and their operation plans for the coming year.”
“There was only one way, to infiltrate. Incidentally, Enver was not the only financier who helped them. There were others. Those were blackmailed with threats to their families. But Enver was different. He helped them from the start.” His hands were all over her as he talked. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”
“What did you mean by infiltrate?”
Something was rising shakily in Sara toward her face. Million shards of emotion trembled inside her like broken glass.
“Honey, I couldn’t tell you. You wouldn’t let me go. I enlisted in their operation and stayed with them.”
The broken glass was melting and the heat was too much. She couldn’t stand it. His face was behind a blur, like under the waves. Or maybe she was the one on the bottom and was looking at him through the water. Salty drops, squeezed and condensed, piped up through a sob, and escaped from the sea of melted glass. She felt the cool streams running down her cheeks. They were going the wrong direction. Her tears were flowing out.
“Sara... You are crying...”
His fingers were stroking her cheeks, her eyes, and her mouth. She could not talk. Her sobs were reaching into unimaginable distances within her. An ominous grief and fear started dripping intravenously, filling her up.
“It is all right; it is all right.” He held her tightly and rocked her. “When you do something, you really do it, don’t you?”
She trembled with an unerring instinct. She knew he had walked into the fire and there was no getting out. She sobbed for hours without being able to say a word.
“What brought this on?” he asked when she stopped.
She felt so tired she was about to collapse. Already her eyes were closing.
“Why? Tell me why?”
“You walked into it; they’ll track you down. They’ll get you.”
“I used a different identity. There is no way.”
“Even so? Most of them are using different names.”
“Not you. You are a cop.”
“There are cops among them, Honey. Very few, but there are. I had to do it. Ahmet has three children, besides he’s clashed with quite a few of them. They know his face, his habits. At least, I had some leftist days in my youth.” He made her lie down. “I’ll get us supper,” he said.
For the next couple of days, her emotional performance went awry. She laughed when she cut her finger and cried at the way Ali put his socks on. Everything was out of proportion and she herself felt meaningless and trivial. It was a good thing she had stayed home. Ali acted with sensitivity as if he did not have any expectations from her.
“People anticipate that you’ll be nervous; you’re getting married,” he said.
“We are already married; we’re just getting it on paper,” Sara said.
The house was nearly finished now. It only needed painting. Then they could move in.
“At the end of September,” Ali said. “We should let the paint dry.”
Sara saddened when she thought of moving. This place had been her real home, where she first really loved, first smiled, first cried, where she was kept hidden, and where Ali had lived. She had come the distance and she would go for some more. Only one thing was certain. She was bound to move on.