Mehmet Kilic glanced doubtfully at his young wife. He couldn’t quite get rid of the idea that living with her was like living with a teenage sister, not a wife. At least this wasn’t how he had assumed having a wife would be.
She listened to pop music, wore little scrunchies in her hair, and danced by herself in the afternoons. While she never showed any reluctance to fulfil her martial obligations, she also never once showed any enthusiasm about seeing him.
Mehmet felt he had done his best for her. He’d done his duty, not only as a son and now a son-in-law, but also as a husband. Even so, something was missing. And he didn’t even feel all that aroused by the slight, girlish shape underneath him.
It was about six in the morning, and the girl was still asleep. He always tried hard not to wake her and if he did, she pretended not to have been disturbed. There was no way of knowing if she considered it her duty to behave that way, or if she simply didn’t care enough about him.
In any case, the whole marriage thing had been strangely unsatisfying. He was missing something and he wasn’t even sure what that was.
Silently, he sneaked out, into the bathroom, then into the kitchen. He’d made her breakfast a few times, but she never got up with him. Not sure whether that was a relief or not, he hastily made coffee and considered making toast as well, but didn’t feel up to it, at this hour.
As always, he half dreaded getting into the car with Sylvia Henke, his partner. Ever since they’d first started working together, Sylvia had acted provocatively and seductively. At first he’d merely found it flattering, but after a while, a hint of a doubt had set in. Was she really that attracted to him, or was it just some sort of game to her? Or – this was more disturbing than his other thoughts on the matter – was it simply out of spite – because she grudged his young wife her marital state?
In any case, Mehmet wasn’t quite sure how to deal with Sylvia’s attention.
The day turned out to be a disaster. He had no idea how things could go so wrong. At the end of the day, a teenage boy lay dead on the street below the building where they had cornered him. To Mehmet’s relief, he wasn’t the one who had had to shoot the kid. It was his older colleague, Haroska. Even so, every member of their shift was uneasy.
Kristin Bender was one of the people who hinted that Haroska might have been using more force than necessary. According to Mehmet’s colleagues who had been longer on the job, he’d always been aggressive and his current sober state did nothing to change that.
It was getting late and no one really felt up to returning home, to dwell on the day’s failures. After a while, Sylvia suggested they go out for drinks. She seemed to be the one least affected by the shooting, so it was easy enough for her to suggest something like that, but everyone agreed that it was a good idea. Anything would be better than staring at their desks or their computer screen or going home to empty apartments and empty beds.
But Kristin Bender, the older female cop, who Mehmet had heard was a lesbian, shook her head.
“I can’t. Enes is at home alone. I have to go.”
No one seemed to mind. If Kristin wanted to leave, it was her business.
Their young colleague, Leo Falckenstein, seemed doubtful, but in the end, he agreed. To their surprise, their boss, Helmut Enders, who had recently lost his daughter, agreed to come. It was unexpected. After all, he had a bereaved wife and daughter waiting at home.
Haroska’s indecently young girlfriend, Maria Hernandez, tagged along. That didn’t surprise anyone. In the past week or two Haroska and Hernandez had been inseparable. Mehmet could easily see the reason for Haroska’s interest, but what was Hernandez getting out of the relationship? An easy way to a promotion? He couldn’t see that there was any real feeling between them. Haroska was just a dirty old man getting his kicks, and Hernandez – the typical gold digger? Or did she have a kind of father complex?
Mehmet gave a mental shrug. It was none of his business and frankly, he couldn’t care less. Other people’s relationships were their business. Nothing to do with him.
He knew he ought to call home and tell his wife that he’d be late, but somehow, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. She would only say, fine, I understand in a voice that didn’t tell him anything about how she really felt. If she felt anything in the matter. For all he knew, she might prefer to have the place to herself.
Two hours later, Haroska and Hernandez had left, walking so closely, it didn’t take a genius to figure out their relationship, even if you didn’t know already. The boss eventually got up and left, after a phone call that must have come from his wife.
Sylvia remained sitting in her corner, letting her eyes wander speculatively across Mehmet’s face, then glancing slyly at Leo, who was looking a little – awkward. Suddenly, Mehmet had an idea Sylvia had tried it on with him too. The question was, how had it ended? Judging by Leo’s reaction, they’d probably ended up in bed.
Mehmet felt a stab of jealousy, which immediately died again. He should be pleased Sylvia was no longer interested. Except she was still making eyes at him, looking as if she was daring him to make the first move. But he wouldn’t. The Germans might not think much of his people, the Turks, but he was going to remain faithful to his wife, even if he didn’t love her the way he believed others loved their wives.
Eventually, Sylvia checked the display of her phone, then got up to leave. Apparently, it was getting a little late for her, or her child.
That left Leo and Mehmet. The two men didn’t speak. They merely finished their last beers, but were in no hurry to leave.
Finally, Mehmet decided he’d have to go. Staying out all night, wouldn’t look good. Even if his wife gave no indication of objecting to his working hours, there was no telling if she’d tell her parents or his about his behavior.
He almost began to walk away, then stopped in mid-step, hesitating. Just one more beer wouldn’t do any harm, and –
Leo glanced at him, inquiringly.
“So you’re leaving? I’d better get going too. It’s getting late.”
Mehmet still hesitated. He didn’t want to go home, yet he couldn’t spend the night at a bar. It was too undignified. He almost wished he’d get a call about a case. Working was preferable to returning home to an apartment that might as well have been empty, for all the only other occupant cared.
Leo reflectively studied his colleague’s face. It was clear that Mehmet didn’t want to go home. Had he had a fight with his wife already? Or wasn’t the arranged marriage working out? Leo knew of the ragging Mehmet had had to put up with before his marriage, though Leo himself hadn’t participated. Maybe Mehmet himself wasn’t too keen on his new life.
“If you like you could come along to my place for another drink. I have some beer in the fridge.”
Mehmet took another look at his colleague. Until now, he and Leo had never really socialized, at least not on their own. He knew that Leo was a soft touch. Always eager to help someone in need, even when the person supposedly in need of help was just trying to con him. The suspicion that Leo was merely asking him out of pity stung, but Mehmet found himself ready to accept anyway.
Ten minutes later they were heading back to Leo’s place. Mehmet had never been there before. It was a much less expensive place than his own. He found it odd that the son of a wealthy man would purposely choose to live this way, but clearly Leo had his reasons. Mehmet wasn’t very curious, so he dismissed the thought.
“Help yourself. They’re in the fridge. I’ll just -”
He indicated a door on the right, that Mehmet correctly assumed led to the bathroom. Leo left the door slightly ajar. The apartment was so small that when Mehmet had found the beer in the fridge, he caught a glance of Leo standing in front of the toilet, clearly relieving himself. A slight flush spread across Mehmet’s face and he looked away.
There was only one other room in the apartment and Mehmet wasn’t sure where his host intended for them to sit down, so he remained awkwardly standing in the kitchen, until Leo returned.
“Hey – let’s go into the other room. I have a couch.”
So they sat down on the edge of the couch, which apparently doubled as a bed. It made Mehmet feel even more awkward. Sitting like this felt too intimate. After all, they hardly knew each other.
He was tired, but not a bit sleepy, so he looked around, searching for a topic of discussion.
Before he’d thought of anything to say.
“You won’t mind if I – ”
Without waiting for a reply, Leo removed his jacket. Underneath it, he was only wearing a t-shirt. Mehmet’s eyes caught sight of his arms. The other guy didn’t look particularly muscular, but his arms looked in great shape.
Leo went to bang on what seemed to be a cheap, old-fashioned electric fan. Eventually, it began to flap lazily, but did very little to dispel the clinging heat of the end of the summer.
Leo seemed to tire of the old piece of machinery and with a gesture of defeat, he pulled off his t-shirt too.
Again, Mehmet’s cheeks heated up. Even so, he couldn’t take his eyes off the other man’s naked chest. It was the first time he’d even noticed Leo. They had different partners and though they saw each other at the station, they hadn’t really had reason to interact beyond the most superficial.
It really was hot. Mehmet felt a trickle of sweat run down his back. The nights were trying enough, without having his young wife lying there as if he was some kind of rapist she was too scared to deny sexual favors. It had been at least three weeks since the last time. Now that he thought about it, it was probably more like five weeks.
Again, he glanced at Leo’s chest, then up to his face. That mouth – it looked – To his embarrassment, Mehmet felt a stirring in his pants. This really was the most inconvenient time for his phsyical needs to assert themsselves.
But on the other hand – he had grown up in a culture that offically condemned all sexual contact between men, but because of the difficulty in meeting women, in reality, many such contacts took place and most people took it in stride.
It wouldn’t be the first time and Mehmet doubted it would be the last either, despite the young woman lying in his bed at home, curled up, wearing some ridiculous pink Disney nightie. She made him feel like a paedophile. Leo, on the other hand, was close to his own age.
Normally, he’d never hit on a colleague, Sylvia included, but at the moment, the alcohol got in the way of his common sense.
Resolutely, he put the empty beer can down on the table and turned to face Leo. His colleague looked tired. The fatigue made his eyes look slightly unfocused and the tousled hair reminded Mehmet of someone newly awakened, still lying in bed. Somehow, the combination was a turn-on.
He moved closer to Leo who had got up too, to put away the empty beer can. When he noticed that Mehmet wasn’t going to do anything, he turned and face him.
“Is anything -”
Mehmet normally wasn’t this reckless, but suddenly he felt he’d suffocate if his physical needs weren’t satisfied. Grabbing Leo and crushing his lips beneath his own, he silenced any objections the other man might have.
Leo began to struggle, but Mehmet persisted and suddenly all the fight went out of the other guy, then, to Mehmet’s surprise, Leo began to return the kiss. A moment later, his hand slid in between Mehmet’s thighs, rubbing against the growing bulge, which felt almost painfully hard. Leo’s surprisingly skillful hands pushed Mehmet over the edge.
Afterwards, Leo vanished into the bathroom so suddenly, that it was a while until Mehmet realized that not once had Leo shown any inclination to encourage him to reciprocate. He’d merely used his handiwork, then left.
The moments went by but Leo didn’t return. Mehmet’s conscience struck him and he got up again, found his jacket, then stole away.
On his way home, his initial reaction was modified. It might have been a bad idea to try it with one of his colleagues, but the outcome had been successful. After all these weeks without release, Mehmet knew he’d built up a lot of tension. Now, he felt fine. Finally, he was able to relax.
If he felt the need to repeat the experience, there was no reason why he shouldn’t. After all, Leo was readily available and seemed willing enough.
He’d never known it would get so – habit-forming. The first couple of weeks, guilt towards his wife made Mehmet shower the enigmatic child-woman with gifts. He made a point of coming home early as many nights a week as he possibly could. Which, in all honesty was only two or three nights at the most.
Warily, he watched Leo out of the corner of his eyes, but detected nothing out of the ordinary. If he hadn’t known better, he would have said the strangely haunting experience had never happened. As if it had all been a figment of his imagination, or an unusually vivid wet dream.
After a week or two, his guilt faded a little. His wife never gave any indication of appreciating his attention any more than his absence. He couldn’t read anything in her eyes or her seemingly demure body language.
Then another night, after working on a murder case for so long his entire body ached and his mind felt as if it was about to shut down, permanently, he joined the others for a bar round, sure he wouldn’t last much longer than his first drink. However, most of the others began to disappear by themselves or with someone, and once again, he found himself alone with Leo. Mehmet wondered if his colleague would invite him over to his place again, but this time, some of their colleagues mentioned another place, where they could continue drinking until morning, if they chose to.
It was Friday night and that offer seemed far more appealing, than returning home to an innocently sleeping girl. He was sure it was unintentional on her part, but the way she turned her back against him in sleep made him feel like an unwelcome and brutal intruder, rather than a husband joining his wife in bed.
Leo accepted the offer too and all five of them set out for the other place. It turned out to be pleasant enough. The tables almost vanished in the mix of cigarette smoke and beadwork curtains. For the time being, Mehmet chose to forget his parents’ attitude to drinking.
Once again, their colleagues began to drift away and he and Leo ended up alone together. Though the club wasn’t about to close, they felt they’d had enough. Leo was the first to get up. He vanished in the direction of the men’s rooms. Mehmet followed, not sure what his own intentions were. Inside, he found that his colleague was merely using the facilities, then meticulously washing his hands, before making for the exit.
Hastily, he followed Leo’s example. Outside he stopped, momentarily indecisive. If Leo had vanished already, it might be for the best. What they’d done was unwise for a number of reasons. Even considering the alcohol he’d ingested, Mehmet sensed that. Again, he hesitated to take his own advice. There was something about the encounter that had attracted him even more than the brief incident between him and Sylvia.
Startled out of his thoughts, he looked up and found that Leo was standing a few feet away.
“Are you still here?”
“It’s almost three. I’d better go. There’s a shortcut around the back. When I worked for -”
Leo’s account of his earlier police work was drowned out in the noise from a passing car. Mehmet followed him around the corner, through a partially open doorway into a backyard. It was poorly lit, but despite that, Mehmet could just about make out a fence at the other end of the yard and beyond that, another alley and possibly a way out. If Leo said so, there had to be a way to get back to the main road. This time neither of them had their cars.
Mehmet frowned in concentration. Even if he did get to the main road, the night buses would have stopped going now, or most of them. Getting to his part of the city would be hard, if not impossible. Leo on the other hand, lived a little closer by, but even his place was too far for a walk. When did the first morning bus leave? Around four thirty? Perhaps it might be best if he returned to the station. There was always the abandoned basement, where he’d celebrated his wedding. It wouldn’t be very comfortable but at least the station was within reasonable walking distance.
“Aren’t you coming? It’s through here and up towards -”
The street names meant little to Mehmet. He wasn’t familiar with this part of the city, at least not this neighborhood, but he followed Leo. About halfway to the fence, a dumpster blocked part of their way and Leo stepped aside. Again, Mehmet followed.
On the other side of the dumpster Leo waited, making sure his colleague didn’t fall behind. The moon came out from behind a cloud and lit up Leo’s face revealing the partial smile and the slightly parted lips. He looked so –
Mehmet felt a stab at the pit of his stomach and suddenly, he forgot every argument against this course of action. He slammed Leo up against the wall, shoving his tongue down his throat. Again, there was a breathless moment when it seemed as if Leo was going to resist, then all the fight left him, his mouth relaxed and he slumped down against Mehmet. Mehmet began to rub his crotch against Leo’s. Leo moved aside a little. As he did so, he let his hand slide into Mehmet’s pants.
The pounding of the pulse in his ears drowned out the city noises and even if someone had stepped up right behind them, Mehmet wouldn’t have noticed. Fumbling with Leo’s shirt, he began to touch his skin. Leo smelled clean and faintly of what must have been his aftershave.
Mehmet tried to reach for Leo’s zipper, but again, the other man slid out of his reach. Too aroused by now for any coherent thought, Mehmet gave up the attempt and surrendered himself to Leo’s hand that seemed to know exactly how to touch him.
Afterwards, Mehmet leaned into Leo’s pliant body, eyes closed, content and satiated, letting out a sigh of relief. To his surprise, Leo avoided meeting his gaze and without a word, he turned and left, through the gate in the fence. Mehmet saw him rounding the corner to the left and followed.
He picked up his pace. and almost broke into a run. When he came out on the main street, there was no sign of Leo, but he could see a bus stop a little further ahead. He glanced in all directions, but Leo had vanished. Mehmet shook himself then slowed down. He sat down on the bench and prepared himself for a long wait.
From then on, he made a point of seeking excuses to spend the evening with Leo. What puzzled him, was that at work, Leo seemed utterly indifferent to their shared experiences. In fact, which was even odder, the other man seemed unaware of what was going on between them. It was frustrating, but Mehmet had to agree it might be wise not risk discovery at work.
Kristin’s relationship had become common knowledge at the station, though most of the colleagues didn’t discuss it openly. Despite that, Mehmet had overheard some disrespectful comments around the men’s locker room and dreaded finding himself the target of such talk.
But by now, he was honest enough to admit to himself that he couldn’t get enough of the stolen moments with Leo. Three times now, they’d had sex in Leo’s apartment and once, foolishly, in the basement at work, apart from that time in the back alley.
He was wondering why they didn’t simply decide to spend the night together at Leo’s. After all, regardless of what his parents would say and his marriage aside – they weren’t doing anything wrong. Two consenting adults and all that. Still, there was something about Leo’s attitude that held Mehmet back.
One night, Sylvia asked Mehmet to a bar and he accepted, not wanting to arouse suspicions. They were partners. He couldn’t keep avoiding her, or she’d form the impression he’d been seriously offended by her making a pass at him, on the day of his marriage.
He had been offended, because he knew that Sylvia didn’t feel anything for him other than what a partner usually felt for another. She’d merely seen something that wasn’t hers and she’d wanted it. Forbidden fruit always tasted sweeter. If only she’d known what kind he was sampling now.
She took him to a fancy place uptown, very upscale and trendy, or at least it seemed that way to Mehmet, who had believed himself well versed in the clublife of his city.
Halfway through the evening, they were invited to a private party in a penthouse suite in one of the new skyscrapers. Who lived there, Mehmet never really found out, but whoever it was, it had to be someone extremely wealthy. He – or she – occupied the entire twenty-sixth floor.
Most of the people Mehmet ran into he didn’t even know. Once he caught sight of a member of the government and once a famous tv personality, but he was sure some of the others were prominent people as well.
Just as he stood by a panorama window, displaying a breathtaking vista of the cityscape, his mobile phone rang. Another dead body waited for him in another part of the city center. He couldn’t see Sylvia anywhere, but he assumed she’d make her own way to the crime scene.
When he arrived on the scene, he met Leo’s partner, Jan Haroska, but not his own. Sylvia must have turned off her mobile phone. Mehmet caught sight of Haroska’s young girlfriend. He guessed that they had been together when they got the call. In fact, he was sure of it. Hernandez wasn’t in uniform. She was wearing a flimsy top and a skirt that barely covered her buttocks. Mehmet frowned. He suspected there was a rule against such relations between colleagues.
After the formailities were done with, Haroska, who was the first on the scene, as well as the senior officer, gave Mehmet permission to take the rest of the night off. Mehmet politely thanked him and glanced around. He oriented himself and decided it was time he returned home. Enough partying for tonight.
When he passed a club he used to go to before his marriage, he changed his mind. It was a trendy and popular place, mostly with a slightly younger age group, but there were enough men his age not to make him feel out of place.
He ordered another drink, then looked around, to see if anyone looked familiar. There didn’t seem to be anyone he knew. Perhaps the people he used to meet virtually every weekend, had moved on to somewhere else.
The music was fine, but he didn’t feel the usual exhilaration. Maybe he was getting older. Or maybe – he was missing Leo. Increasingly, he found himself thinking about his – why did the word lover stick in his throat? His part-time lover Leo. As long as no one else knew, he was fine with that. And he missed Leo, why shouldn’t he?
Reluctantly, Mehmet put his glass away and began to look for the men’s room. Another door led out of it, into what had to be the backyard. The door was standing slightly ajar, most likely to get a little fresh air into the stuffy room.
It was time to go home. He decided to leave by the side door. It was more convenient than shoving his way through the crowds inside. As he put his hand on the door to push it open, he thought he heard someone right outside. The door opened easily enough, so whoever it was, wasn’t blocking the doorway.
He stepped outside into the slightly fresher air. Two people were standing up against the wall. Embarrassed, Mehmet looked away, then caught by something unusual about the couple, then surreptitiously glanced at them.
One of them, the slighter of the two, was facing the wall. It took Mehmet a few seconds to realize that both parties were male. Again, he was about to avert his face, when the guy who had looked away, suddenly faced in his direction.
Mehmet blinked in confusion, at first more baffled than anything else. Surely it was just someone who resembled – but enough light came through the open door to reveal the other man’s features. It was Leo. Leo was –
It took Mehmet a few seconds to feel the full impact of the betrayal. Leo. But he had begun to consider Leo – The pulse began to hammer in his ears again, this time, not from arousal, but in rage. So that was it. Leo was – the word that exploded inside his brain wasn’t in German, it was in Turkish, and it took him a while to translate. Whore. That was it. He’d let himself be tempted by a common whore. Again.
Momentarily, he was glad he belonged to a people who took relationships more seriously than these faithless Germans.
Filled with such fury he was afraid he’d physically attack someone, he turned and walked away. The filthy slut. There he was, letting himself be used like – Unconsciously, Mehmet clenched his fists and scowled at the image of his – of Leo – No. He would waste no more time or emotion on that – For a while, he’d been mad, but he’d returned to his senses and he wouldn’t betray his wife again, even if he might never love her the way he imagined other men loved their wives.
Gradually, he became aware of lying on a hard surface. He was lying face down and his back and other parts of his body hurt. His head felt heavy and he had a vile taste in his mouth. As his consciousness returned, so did the panic. It had happened again.
He managed to get his eyes open and was partly reassured. This time, he wasn’t lying in some back alley, not knowing how he’d ended up there or what had happened. He got up, heart pounding almost painfully in his chest. How had he ended up like this? The last thing he recalled was having a beer in a bar. Just an ordinary evening, winding down after work. There had been nothing to celebrate and no reason to drown their sorrows.
A few of his colleagues had been there. Or was he remembering that wrong? Suddenly, Leo became confused. Refusing to dwell further on the enigma, he fled into the bathroom to clean up and get ready for work, like every other morning.
Pushing the thoughts of what might have occurred last night, to the back of his mind, he anxiously searched his pockets for his mobile phone and the rest of his belongings. To his relief, they were all there. His wallet with his ID, the gun and of course the phone. He scanned the display, first for the time. Not too late, after all. Then for messages and missed calls. Of the latter there were none, but he had a few non-urgent messages, which he made a mental note to reply to later on.
Now that he’d managed to return to normal or close enough, his mind got to work, making up excuses. So he’d had a another drink or two, then returned late, too tired to undress and go to bed. He had been working hard lately, or rather, as usual. When he finally got off work, he was always tired. Tired or exhausted. Maybe there was no great mystery behind his blackouts after all. Stress and fatigue. That was it. Nothing to get worked up about.
By the time he arrived at work, he’d managed to convince himself, again, that he had nothing to worry about. He didn’t have a drinking problem. It would be fine. Besides, he had very little time left to ponder his personal life, once Haroska showed up again, waving impatiently at him to follow. Another case, another day at work.
It wasn’t until he sat at his desk, typing out the report about the day’s work, that his mind touched on the blackouts again. He knew that it wasn’t the first time. How many times it had happened, he wasn’t sure, but he thought it had been going on for years. But again, his mind shied away from the disquieting thoughts and he forced himself to focus on finishing the report.
Tonight, he’d go straight home. That was what he always did after something like this morning’s incident occurred.
For a week or so, he stuck to his plan. With the affair with Hernandez keeping him busy, Haroska almost never asked him out for a drink these days. It was only if the entire shift decided to go out together, that Leo went along. As the days went by, he thought less and less on the odd blackouts and when Sylvia suggested he come along to bar, he agreed. Her partner, Mehmet Kilic, came too, which was hardly surprising.
Something about him made Leo uneasy. It might have been simple jealousy. After all, it was clear that Sylvia preferred him, over Leo, but his wariness of the other guy seemed a bit out of proportion, if that had been all. If Mehmet hadn’t been married, there was no reason why he shouldn’t get involved with his partner. Other than department policy, naturally. But that was their business. In any case, Leo didn’t feel too upset about Sylvia’s preferences. She was an attractive woman, sure, but there were others, as attractive or even more so.
From time to time, Leo caught Mehmet studying him out of the corner of his eyes. Why? Was he jealous too? If so, he was blowing the whole thing out of proportion. He was welcome to Sylvia. Leo wasn’t prepared to get into any brawls over a woman he was merely attracted to, not seriously in love with.
Sylvia got up to go to the ladies’ room. In her absence, the conversation died. Leo finished his beer and put it down on the table, then happened to look up into Mehmet’s eyes and was startled by the icy stare. What? He couldn’t understand why the guy suddenly seemed to hate his guts. Was he missing something or was Mehmet merely having a lousy day – or rather night? Leo searched his mind for anything peaceable to say, but couldn’t think of anything.
When Sylvia returned, Mehmet excused himself and left, presumably to return to his wife.
Sylvia caught sight of Haroska and Hernandez, entering the room. She got up and waved at them to join them. After only ten minutes or so, she excused herself and left too.
“My daughter – you understand. See you tomorrow.”
Haroska smiled stolidly and nodded to his colleague. It wasn’t long until Haroska and Hernandez forgot all about Leo’s presence and boredom made Leo too, get up to leave. He went to the men’s room, then outside into the street to make his way home.
Haroska leaned over and whispered something in Hernandez’ ear. She smiled and pressed even closer to him, then regretfully shook her head.
“No. Sorry. I’ll have to get home.”
“I have to testify in court tomorrow. But after that -”
“Oh, alright. Looking forward to it. See you later, babe.”
“Mm. Will you miss me, big boy?”
In reply, Haroska leaned closer and again whispered something in her ear, which was really just an excuse for what he wanted to do with his hands, out of sight of the other customers.
Contentedly, if a little disappointed, he studied her rear end as she walked outside, swaying her hips in a way he knew she did just for him. Maybe he’d better get home too, just as soon as his erection had abated. In the meantime, he finished his beer.
Outside, he remembered that he’d left his car at the first bar. He swore under his breath. Now he’d have to walk several blocks to get it, or leave it, and run the risk of having it vandalized. No, he’d better get to it.
Determinedly, he set out, and before long, the cool night air cleared his head. He was making good time and was about to turn onto the street he was heading for, when he noticed what might be the beginning of a bar brawl. For a moment, he hesitated, tempted to leave it for some unlucky uniformed colleague on late night duty, then decided he might as well take a look.
The potential brawl died down before he’d managed to get properly inside, but his bladder began to protest again. It was just the beers he’d downed, he told himself, no reason to suspect prostate problems. Not for him.
He relieved himself, then continued on his way. Only a few hundred feet from where he’d parked his car, he caught a noise coming from a nearby alley. Again he almost walked by, then decided to just glance around the corner. If it was just a couple making out, he’d pretend he hadn’t seen it.
The corners of his mouth were already twitching a little, when he realized with a start that the couple consisted of two males. Revulsed he looked away, but he must have made a faint sound himself, because the one standing pushed the one on his knees away and made a run for it.
The young man on the ground got up, looking a little disoriented. He rubbed the back of his hand against his lips and turned to go. When the streetlight fell on his face, Haroska had his second shock that night. He took another look, just to be sure. No. He must have made a mistake. Not that he had a problem with his night vision. It couldn’t be –
But the young man walked so close by him, it was impossible to mistake him for anyone else. It was his colleague – his partner, for crying out loud – Leo Falckenstein. The bloody pansy was parading himself around the city, preforming such vile acts –
And he had the nerve to pretend he hadn’t even seen his partner. Haroska spat on the ground and muffled the expletive that was on his tongue. Of all the – He’d trusted the guy with his life. Recalling how they’d all cheerfully showered and changed together made bile rise in his throat. Clenching his fists, he vowed to make the pup pay for playing him for a fool like that.
Times had changed, but he wasn’t going to accept having one of those on his station. Enders would see it the same way, he was sure of that. They’d show him what they thought of his kind at their station. Bender was one thing. Two women together – that was an entirely different story. Besides, all they needed was a good fuck and they’d play on the right team again. But a man –
Haroska coughed and spat again, before hurriedly making his way back to his car. Suddenly, he felt stone sober. Tomorrow he’d talk to Enders and then they’d see.
Leo fought to catch his breath. He tried to scream but his mouth was dry and he could get no air. Someone was pinning him down. No, not again. The pleas bubbled up inside his mind, but he wasn’t sure if he spoke them out loud or not. Please, daddy, no. No. Leave me alone. Please. Daddy – Finally, he came awake, realizing that all that was pinning him down was his sheet. Somehow, he’d got that twisted around his torso. And he could breathe just fine. That had just been part of the nightmare.
It had been close to a year since the last time. He sat up, pulled his legs up and hugged himself, pressing his cheek to his knees. It had been – seventeen, eighteen years and he still hadn’t been able to shake those nightmarish years, when his mother had passed away and his father had developed a drinking problem and and obsession with his son.
Daylight was coming through the window and he became aware that it was getting late. He had to pull himself together and get to work. Being late wouldn’t help. For a moment, he sat on the edge of the bed, trying to find the energy to get started. There were days, like this one, when he barely managed to see more than minutes ahead, when it all felt so pointless. Why did he even bother? He’d never be able to outrun those years.
Only fear of being forced to explain himself to someone – Kristin – or Enders – or Haroska, made him get up and walk into the bathroom. Brushing his teeth without facing himself in the mirror was easy, it was shaving that was tricky.
When he ran into the reception area at the station, he thought his colleagues were staring at him. Haroska – well, he wasn’t that late, was he? Sylvia – Leo self-consciously fingered the bandaid he’d put on the cut in his chin. And Mehmet – that gaze filled with loathing – why? But it was too much for him to focus on so he decided to just get on with his work.
He sank down in his chair behind his desk, nodding to Haroska, who subjected him to a penetrating stare, then finally nodded too. Haroska looked preoccupied somehow and Leo was going to ask him about it in a minute, but right now, all he could do was sit down, get his breathing under control and try to get his mind back to normal again.
He could do this. It was something he was good at. That was one reason he’d left his law studies. A cop did much more for the people in need than a money-grabbing attorney.
With a start, Leo realized that Haroska had said something and he had no idea what it was.
“Sorry. I – You were saying – ”
“I said, I have some things to take care of. Why don’t you just finish up that case from yesterday? You know the drill. I’ll be in after lunch.”
“Ok. No problem.”
He tried to make his voice sound normal, but he didn’t think he succeeded. Not that it mattered. Haroska was already on his way out. No, not outside, he was heading into Enders’ office. For a while, only Haroska spoke, gesticulating, even pounding the desk with his fists. Oddly, at one point Enders stared out at Leo, or maybe simply at a spot beyond his head. In any case, Leo had enough on his plate, trying not to fall apart front of the colleagues.
Enes, Kristin’s – foster kid – for want of a better word – was behind the computer as usual. Leo suspected the kid knew more about technology than the department’s entire tech team. No wonder. After stealing so many gadgets, he’d know exactly how to work each one of them.
The kid caught his glance and grinned cheerfully. Leo couldn’t help returning the smile. If Kristin hadn’t come forward, maybe he would have. But a woman looking after a kid looked better, even when the kid was this comparatively grown.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. Some time after lunch, Haroska returned. Leo assumed he’d stolen a few moments with his young girlfriend, but didn’t have any energy to have an opinion about that.
“Hey. Falckenstein. Come on. Let’s go. I have something to show you.”
Leo reached for his jacket, but Haroska gestured impatiently at him.
“You won’t need that. We’re just going downstairs.”
Puzzled, Leo nodded, wondering what his partner wanted to show him downstairs. Without thinking, he hastily put the jacket on anyway. As he did so, he glanced around the room. Kristin was busy behind the counter, as usual, even this late in the day. At the moment, Sylvia and Mehmet were nowhere to be seen and Enders seemed to have left early. In any case he wasn’t in his office anymore.
Leo didn’t know where the rest of the day had gone. It seemed like less than an hour ago, that he’d rushed in and sunk down on his chair. With a start, he realized he hadn’t managed to type more than a few words. Too late now. He’d better see what Haroska wanted and then he’d go home. Even if his place felt suffocating on the days the memories resurfaced, at least it was his home. A place where he could lock the door against the outside world and feel as close to safe as he ever could.
Haroska waited for him to catch up, then let him walk ahead.
“What is it?”
Leo couldn’t even guess what Haroska had to show him down there. It was just a run down former bar. Sure they’d managed to fix it up in time for Mehmet’s wedding, but that had only been superficial. Maybe Haroska wanted to convert it into a gym or – the fact was, Leo didn’t really care either way. All he wanted was for his partner to get to the point so he could get home.
He stepped inside and waited for Haroska to join him. The door slammed shut behind them and Leo looked up to face Haroska. Did he have something personal to discuss? If so, Leo had no idea what it might be.
“Go on. It’s over there.”
Bewilderedly, Leo did as his partner told him. Suddenly, Enders stepped out from behind one of the pillars. He looked – odd. His face was tense and his eyes mere slits. He was holding a nightstick in his hand.
Leo glanced over his shoulder at Haroska and realized with a start, that Haroska too, seemed to have armed himself. His mind was a blank. Why were his boss and his partner acting like this? Was it a joke? Leo could see no purpose to the confrontation, but there was a part of him that was beginning to feel the first stirrings of terror.
“Hey. What are you -”
“Shut up, pervert. We’ll do the talking here.”
Enders had moved closer now and the scowl on his face had deepened.
Still, only Haroska was talking.
“Times might be changing, but that’s no reason for us to accept the likes of you in our department. This is a good, clean station and we’d like it stay that way. People like you disgust me.”
“What are you talking about, Jan?”
There was a sob in Leo’s voice.
“I’ll tell you what I’m talking about, but don’t act so surprised. You must have seen me last night. Let me remind you. That’s the night you were out, sucking cock behind a bar. Ring a bell? Or do you do that all the time?”
Leo glanced back at his boss. There wasn’t a trace of feeling there.
“Sir. Jan – I don’t know what you’re talking about -”
Haroska spoke between gritted teeth, spitting the words out.
“Don’t. Lie. To. Me.”
“But it’s the truth. I never -”
“Shut up. I saw you. Just shut the fuck up and take your medicine.”
They moved in and began to herd Leo further away from the door. There didn’t seem to be any way he could evade them.
Mehmet and Sylvia returned after questioning a man about a missing girl. Their interview had been without results and at least for the time being, it looked as if the man might be innocent. In any case he had a good, solid alibi.
It was getting late and Mehmet was already looking forward to a nice cool drink down at his favorite bar, with or without Sylvia. Out of habit, he glanced around the room for Leo, before he remembered and his face settled into a frown.
Sylvia smiled tauntingly.
“What’s eating you?”
Mehmet didn’t reply and in the end Sylvia merely shrugged and got to work on her report.
Things were beginning to slow down around the reception desk. Mehmet noticed that Kristin was sitting down at her own desk for a change. He wondered where the kid was. At the moment, he couldn’t see him anywhere.
The door opened and closed and he glanced uncuriously in that direction. It was Hernandez, smiling happily. It was unbelievable that a woman that young should be so attracted to an ugly old sod like Haroska.
Hernandez walked across the room and waved to Kristin.
“Hey. Have you seen Jan?”
“He was here a while ago. I don’t think he’s left yet. If you’ll wait, I’ll try to -”
“Thanks. It’s nothing urgent. I just wanted to -”
Kristin nodded. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what the girl wanted. She supposed Haroska was lucky, but even she, who was into women as much as he was, would find that girl way too young.
But she didn’t have time to wonder. She looked into her boss’ office, not finding him there. Maybe Enders had left early. But Haroska – His jacket was hanging over his chair. And the lights were on inside Enders’ office, so maybe he was still here too.
She was about to ring Haroska’s mobile, when her unofficial foster son walked in, looking ill at ease. He searched the room and his eyes settled on her.
“There you are, Enes. Getting hungry? I’ll just -”
“Not now. I have a few things to finish up before -”
“No, you have to come now.”
Kristin studied the boy intently. Something appeared to have spooked him badly. She couldn’t imagine what it was, unless he’d been getting into trouble again. That would have to stop if he wanted to stay with her.
He was so agitated, she decided to humor him, just this once.
“Take it easy. Alright. I’m coming. What’s the rush?”
She followed him out through the door and down the stairs. Had someone managed to get in down there? A transient? Something more serious?
The boy didn’t stop to see if she was catching up. She opened her mouth to ask him to slow down, but changed her mind.
It wasn’t that far and she wasn’t that out of shape yet.
Wide-eyed, he stopped in front of the door to the makeshift bar downstairs. Mystified, she reached out a hand and pushed it open. She walked a few steps inside before she caught sight of –
For a second, she didn’t even recognize the two men who were moving around a third, who seemed to be lying curled up on the floor.
The men turned and faced her and she froze to the spot.
Her boss and Haroska – and the man coughing and retching on the floor – Leo.
“What are you doing?”
“Get out of here, Bender, if you know what’s good for you. For now, we’re tolerating you, but just take a look at the other pervert here. Take a good long look, because that’s what will happen to you, if you blab about this. Didn’t you hear me, dyke?”
“But – that’s Leo -”
“Yes. Thank you. Now get out.”
Kristin made eye contact with her boss.
“You heard Haroska, les. Just walk away. This doesn’t concern you. Unless you want some of this -?”
Haroska took a step closer to her, waving a stick at her. Kristin couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. Her boss and Haroska – who she had been working with for years – suddenly, they were strangers. But there was no doubt they were serious. She took one step backwards, then another. Her nerve broke and she almost stumbled. She couldn’t get her feet to move fast enough.
There should be something she could do. She couldn’t just leave Leo like that. He was bleeding and – Kristin had to smother a sob. His pants were down and –
Stumbling up the stairs, shouting at Enes to go ahead, she didn’t stop until she was in the corridor outside their floor.
Enes watched her with a mix of concern and disbelief.
“Are you ok? Did they hurt you too?”
“No. Did they see you?”
He nodded to himself, then shot her a look that seemed to say ‘I understand. It’s alright. I still like you.’ She hated herself for her cowardice. Even the boy could see that. It wasn’t right. There should be something she could do, but the threat aimed at herself had spooked her so badly she couldn’t bring herself to act. She knew she’d regret it, but at the moment, she was frozen with fear.
Enes walked her to the ladies’ room and made sure she had a glass of water and sat down.
“Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
“Don’t go down there again.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I’ll be right back.”
In the doorway he met Hernandez. Hot babe, but what was she doing with that ancient fat old guy? Oh, well, there was no accounting for taste, even Enes knew that.
Hernandez shot Enes an odd glance.
“Is Kristin in there?”
Hernandez nodded and entered. Enes hurried out into the main room of the station.
The young policewoman wondered what was going on. Bender looked –
“Are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
Hernandez studied the older police officer a moment, then nodded, not quite convinced.
“Did you find Jan?”
Bender’s reaction aroused Hernandez’ suspicions.
“Is he alright? Where is he?”
Kristin swallowed, not knowing what to tell the younger woman.
“Never mind. I’ll find out.”
Hernandez ran outside. Bender and her kid had come from downstairs. That was where Jan had to be. She didn’t stop to ask any more questions. A few times when she and Jan had made love, he’d had some pretty weird attacks. They had turned out to be nothing but gas, but at his age, you couldn’t be too careful. What if he’d had a heart attack?
She ran down the stairs and opened the door. Once inside, she stopped in her tracks. A frown was forming on her face. Why was Jan and Enders beating and kicking – Leo. That was his name. Falckenstein.
Her lover turned to face her, an impatient look on his face.
“Maria – you shouldn’t be here. Go on, upstairs now. I’ll explain later. Off you go.”
She hesitated. Jan usually had a good reason for what he did, but this – On the other hand, one of the things that made her feel so attracted to him was the fact that he was so forceful. Part of her got off on obeying his orders.
Haroska returned to what he was doing, not bothering to check if his girlfriend had done as he told her.
She closed the door behind her, puzzled and still not completely convinced. What could Falckenstein have done to deserve such a treatment?
Sylvia had observed the comings and goings of the last ten minutes or so with interest, but still not much wiser about the reason for them. She’d finished her report and there was no reason why she shouldn’t satisfy her curiosity.
Out on the landing, she stopped and listened. Unless whatever it was was going on outside, it had to be downstairs. She ran down the stairs, wondering what it was. Probably nothing, she decided. Other than work, nothing ever happened here. Except that once when she almost had sex with Mehmet in the men’s room.
She smiled cynically. Why should she feel guilty? The guy wasn’t even in love with that kid he was married to. It wasn’t as if she was trying to lure him away from the girl he loved, like Angelina Jolie had done with Brad Pitt.
She almost ran into Hernandez, who was standing there dreaming.
Sylvia stepped around the other woman and opened the door and glanced inside, still half convinced it would be empty and silent in there. When she realized what was going on, she walked closer and studied the scene with interest. She was wondering what Leo could have done to deserve such a treatment, but was distracted by the grandeur of the spectacle. That wasn’t something you saw every day. Or rather, in her line of work you did, but somehow this was different.
Haroska turned and faced her with a hostile look on his face. Enders didn’t even pay attention.
Sylvia suddenly noticed that Leo’s pants were down and – ouch. That had to hurt. One of the older men had shoved a nightstick up his –
Sylvia knew she ought to be outraged. She knew she should try to interfere, but somehow the scene before her was exhilerating in its brutality. Not only exhilarating, but positively exciting. The violence and the degradation of the man she’d once slept with was making her feel aroused.
The door opened and closed again and a look of rage flew over Haroska’s features, then he relaxed again and returned to what he was doing.
Sylvia sensed that Hernandez was getting turned on as well. She shot her a insolent grin, which the younger woman seemed to miss.
“Why are you doing that?”
“‘Get out of here, Henke. This is nothing to do with you. And you – Maria – I thought I told you to go away.”
Hernandez instantly obeyed, but Sylvia still hesitated, then decided that it might be wiser of her to leave as well. Haroska, not to mention the boss, seemed really worked up. Either she’d have to do something about it, or walk away and pretend nothing had happened. In the end, she did the latter. Why should she put her career on the line for Leo’s sake? He hadn’t even managed to perform to her satisfaction. She had expected more from a guy his age.
Upstairs, Enes decided to approach the only remaining police officer he knew even a little bit. He didn’t like to be around the Turk. Once the guy had more or less pushed him to the floor. But he liked Leo and since his friend Kristin hadn’t been able to help him, someone else would have to. He’d just have to hope that Kilic would be willing to do it.
“Please. You have to come.”
Mehmet looked up, a frosty look on his face.
“Please. Hurry. They’ll kill him.”
There was a hint of panic in the boy’s voice which made Mehmet take a closer look. The boy seemed frantic with worry about something. Mehmet hesitated. He didn’t think much of this urchin, but his colleague Kristin obviously felt otherwise. Maybe she had a point.
The boy made one last plea, with such desperation in his voice, Mehmet decided to give in.
“In the name of Allah, I beg you.”
He started. The boy had used formal Arabic, like at the mosque. Clearly, he felt this was a serious enough occasion to warrant such a plea.
Shamefacedly, Mehmet mumbled a few remembered words from his long forgotten Koran classes, which seemed to calm the boy slightly.
Whatever it was, Mehmet reasoned, it couldn’t be very serious. A kid that age couldn’t be expected to report anything accurately. Besides, he probably spent his evenings playing computer games and had a vivid imagination.
The boy took him as far as the door to the basement, then retreated up the stairs again. Mehmet didn’t pay much attention. So it was in the basement rooms whatever it was was going on. Fine. He’d take a look, then –
The door noiselessly swung open a crack, just enough to allow Mehmet a glimpse of what was going on inside. He felt cold. A few snatches of what the older men were shouting at Leo reached his ears as if from far away.
“pervert… teach you a lesson… someone like you… not here…”
Suddenly, Mehmet realized that he couldn’t let them hurt Leo like this. Now, when it was almost too late, he knew that what he’d felt for Leo hadn’t just been physical attraction, or nothing more than a physical need – he loved him and he wasn’t going to stand by, while those two old self-appointed judges in there beat Leo to death.
With a hand that was perfectly steady, Mehmet reached into his shoulder holster and pulled out his gun, making sure it was loaded, then releasing the safety. He was fully aware of what he was about to do, but he didn’t care. They wouldn’t be allowed to hurt Leo anymore.
Mehmet pushed the door open with his left hand, and stepped inside, his gun pointing at the two standing men.
Too intent on what they were doing, they failed to detect his approach until he’d covered about half the distance from the door. At this range, he simply couldn’t miss.
“Stop it. Move away from him. Now.”
Enders looked up and faced him, staring imperiously. It was as if he couldn’t even contemplate the idea that a man under his command might fail to obey him.
“What’s this, Kilic? Pulling a gun on a superior? Are you out of your mind? Drop the gun now, and I might not press charges.”
“I said, move away from him.”
“Or what? You’re going to shoot me? Haroska, too, maybe?”
“Step back. Away from him. Slowly. Drop those sticks. Now.”
With a house full of colleagues, Mehmet knew he couldn’t afford to draw attention to himself, and of course Haroska and Enders knew that too. On the other hand, those two weren’t just going to walk away either. He had to startle them into backing off long enough for him to get to Leo and – There were toilets in the back. Windowless toilets. If he could get them inside one of them and – somehow barricade the door –
Mehmet kept advancing on his colleague and boss, but took care not to get too close. To his relief, both men were retreating slightly, but he knew they were both far too cunning not to have some kind of trick up their sleeves. He had to move so fast they didn’t see what was coming, until it was too late.
With his left hand, he swept up a chair and threw it at Haroska’s feet. It wouldn’t keep him away for long, but at least it made him retreat a few more steps, and Enders, who was behind him, was forced to retreat even further.
One of the doors to the toilets was standing open and by unexpectedly shoving a table towards them, he managed to herd them inside. He couldn’t believe his luck. Using the table to prop the door shut, he tried to think of what else there was – Yes. He was remembering correctly. There was a packing crate, containing old dumbbells and other workout paraphernalia, left over from earlier. He managed to push it up against the table. That wouldn’t hold those two for long, just maybe long enough to get Leo out of there.
A sudden noise made Mehmet whirl around, still brandishing his gun. Someone had knocked on the window. When he realized it was the boy, Enes, he felt weak with relief.
The boy was gesturing for him to open the window.
“Here. Pass him to me. Quickly.”
Doubtfully, Mehmet eyed the boy. What was he? Fourteen? No more than that, he was sure. Could he handle Leo’s weight until he, Mehmet, could get up there? Leo was slim, but –
“You’re wasting time. I can hold him. Just lift him up.”
Again, Mehmet hesitated. If Leo’s injuries were as bad as they looked, moving him would kill him. It might be better if he just called an ambulance and took the consequences. On the other hand, he had a feeling Enders and Haroska would find a way to finish what they’d started. Those two were real nazis. The way Enders had bullied him about his marriage proved that.
Enes was gesturing wildly for him to get moving and Mehmet decided he might as well. It was Leo’s only chance. And after what he’d done, his too.
Hastily, he lifted Leo up, as gently as he could. To begin with, Leo had seemed to be conscious, but his unmoving weight told Mehmet otherwise. All he could do was hope that it wasn’t too late already.
To his surprise, the boy seemed perfectly capable of holding the grown man in his arms. On this side of the building, there weren’t any cars parked and it faced away from the street. The courtyard was blind, no windows facing this way, except for the basement windows and a few on the top floor, which wasn’t used much these days.
As soon as Leo was safely there, Mehmet swung himself up and outside. He took Leo from Enes then stood irresolutely wondering where to go.
“Come on. This way.”
The boy led him through the side door and out into another yard, also belonging to the police station. Mehmet only vaguely wondered how the boy had come to know the premises this intimately. Over there, they kept the cars not in use at the moment as well as equipment for the SWAT teams. At this time of the evening, there wouldn’t be anyone around.
The boy was right. This was the only way. Mehmet noted that the boy did something to the lock, indicating he was skilled at breaking and entering as well as shoplifting, but at the moment, it was too convenient for him to question his luck.
“Do you have the keys to one of those?”
Enes pointed at the half dozen or so cars parked inside.
“No, but they’re kept over there. In that -”
He indicated at a small locker.
Enes tried the door to that, then again did his neat little trick. He grabbed one at random.
“Read the tag.”
“It says nr 8.”
Mehmet glanded around wildly, painfully aware they were running out of time.
“Thank you, Enes. Now go. Beat it. If they catch you with us -”
“No, I have to come with you. You see, I know some people. They can get you out of the country.”
Mehmet hadn’t thought that far ahead. Of course Enes was right. After what he’d just done, he’d burned his bridges and would have no future in this country anymore. He was surprised to find that he didn’t regret a thing. Leo meant more to him than a career or a new country that only half accepted him, and even that grudgingly.
“Can he get us to Turkey?”
“How much? I don’t have that much on me.”
“Give me your bank card.”
At first Mehmet was going to refuse, then shrugged.
“It’s in my inside pocket. On the left side.”
Enes took the wallet and began to go through it. Mehmet placed Leo in the backseat, then got into the driver’s seat.
“Sit with him. And – if they come after us, keep your head down. Say I forced you to come along. That I was holding you hostage.”
The boy flashed him one of his typical smiles, as if he was way ahead of Mehmet. Mehmet turned the key in the ignition, then pressed the clutch, putting the car into gear. The gate swung open automatically and let him out. There didn’t seem to be anyone around. So far, so good. Now it was all in Allah’s hands.
The people Enes claimed to know, turned out to be extremely reluctant to reveal themselves openly. Enes had to go back and forth between Mehmet and those shadowy characters, all night and well into the morning, until finally a deal was reached.
In the meantime, Mehmet counted the cash in his wallet, trying to calculate how much the Euros would get him in lira and more importantly, what they would get them, once they were there. Fortunately, he had withdrawn rather a large sum of money to pay some bills, so he estimated they’d be able to get by modestly for a few weeks at least, depending on where they’d go.
Leo himself might have something on him as well, but Mehmet wasn’t going to rifle his pockets. He’d have to wait and see.
Naturally, the money would go further in central Turkey, far from the major urban centers, but for a variety of reasons, that was the last place Mehmet wanted to go. It would have to be the liberal, southwestern part, more oriented towards the west.
Despite everything, Mehmet didn’t like having to abandon his wife, not only because of the position it would place him and his family in, but because he’d taken on a responsibility when he agreed to marry her. He couldn’t leave her with nothing.
On the other hand, he and Leo wouldn’t get far without the money in his wallet. He decided on a compromise, hoping he’d be able to trust the street urchin. The boy was curled up on the floor, his jacket bunched up under his head. It seemed a shame to wake him, but Mehmet had no idea how long the trip would take to arrange.
Before he shook the boy’s shoulder, he glanced worriedly at Leo. He seemed to have regained consciousness some time ago, but his condition hadn’t improved. It was as if he had retreated inside himself, but there was nothing Mehmet could do about that at the moment, so resignedly he looked away.
“Enes – Hey.”
The boy opened his eyes so quickly, Mehmet knew he hadn’t been asleep.
“I’ll give you a number. Do you think you could memorize it?”
Judging by the look on the kid’s face he felit it was child’s play and didn’t even warrant a reply. So Mehmet went on, assuming the reply had been positive.
“It would be best if you could call from a phone box or an unregistered mobile phone. Do you think you could -”
Enes grinned smugly.
“Of course. Leave it to me. What’s the number?”
Mehmet told him. He repeated it three times, watching the boy closely.
“Ok. Who should I ask for?”
Mehmet gave him his father’s name.
“Tell him -”
He hesitated. What should he tell his father? What could he possibly tell him to justify what he was about to do? He knew he’d shame the family and that was the last thing he wanted, but he didn’t see how he could have acted differently, given the circumstances.
“Tell him that I will be away for a long time and that they will need to make arrangements for my wife. Can you do that?”
“Sure. No problem. Anything else?”
After all, what was there to say?
“Just that I’m sorry, and that there was nothing else I could do. Don’t tell him anything else. You don’t know. Tell him that if he asks.”
The door opened and a man looked inside. Enes got up, facing the man who stayed in the shadows outside.
Mehmet bent over Leo and studied him closely. As far as he could tell, the injuries didn’t seem to be life threatening. Even so, he’d need to do something about the worst cuts. He might have to get a doctor, and the money he had wouldn’t be nearly enough for that. But that had to be a concern for later.
To his relief, Leo was awake and seemed to sense that he was supposed to come along, even though he’d resisted Mehmet’s touch whenever he’d been conscious. Limping badly, he hobbled along after Mehmet and Enes.
They were taken to a van, and it was clear that Enes wasn’t expected to join them. Aware that he’d never treated the boy particularly well and that he now owed him a great debt, Mehmet stood indecisively, trying to think of something to say.
“Enes – thank you. I owe you. If we ever meet again -”
“Yeah, yeah. No problem. We’re even. You – and the other cops made me feel welcome. Besides, people should help each other.”
“Yes, you’re right. Don’t forget now. Do as I asked you.”
“Consider it done. Stay safe and look after him.”
Mehmet nodded gravely, then solemnly shook Enes hand.
The man who had come to get them did his best to hurry them along. He looked as if he was from Eastern Europe somewhere, maybe the Balkans. Mehmet hadn’t heard him speak for long enough to be able to tell.
He waited until Leo was in the van, then followed him inside. The drive took about an hour. He guessed they were heading for a port. It would be far too expensive and difficult to hide them on a plane, but he didn’t rule out the possibility that they’d be traveling inside a trailer.
It turned out to be the latter. At least this leg of the journey. Unlike in the other direction, there were no crowds of desperate refugees hiding inside the trailer. It seemed he and Leo would be traveling alone. There were a few not very clean blankets lying in the mineral wool on the floor. That seemed to be the extent of the facilities, unless you counted a stinking bucket tucked away in a corner.
Mehmet wasn’t normally given to worrying, but he couldn’t help wondering if these people were to be trusted and if they even intended to take them all the way home, if the trailer was safe. Would there be enough air? But he’d done all he could. Now all that remaiend, was to wait and hope. Pray if he’d been so inclined, but he concluded that it was a little late in the day for that.
There was no food provided, but after some investigation, he uncovered a thermos containing some stale water. He managed to get Leo to take a few sips, then did the same. Before long, Leo dozed off. Mehmet tried to make himself comfortable, but found that his mind was still racing ahead, trying to foresee any difficulties they might encounter.
Eventually, his thought processes became sluggish and he must have faded out too. He woke up to the sounds of shouting in a language he guessed was Italian, though it was no dialect he’d ever heard. For all he knew, it might equally well be Romanian.
He helped Leo to his feet and followed the men who looked edgy and tense. Had something gone wrong or was this just their normal behavior? He couldn’t tell and his questions in German and English were greeted with silence and blank stares.
They were herded into a smaller truck. This time the trip only took about half an hour. Again, they were being transferred to another means of transportation. Just as Mehmet had suspected all along, it was a freighter. They were being hurried down stairs so steep and rickety Mehmet had to grab Leo’s arms and keep him steady on the way down. It saddened him to feel how tense the other man’s muscles felt under his touch.
After the stairs, came a long series of narrow, poorly lit corridors, until finally they found themselves in a tiny room, too small to really be considered a cabin. Despite that, someone had squeezed in two narrow bunks. That was more or less all that fit into the cramped space. At least there was a lamp casting a flickering cold light.
After making sure Leo was comfortable, Mehmet stretched out on his side. He assumed this would be their home for the next few days. Since there wasn’t anything else to do, he did his best to return to sleep.
Once during their passage, a boy only a year or so older than Enes brought a tray for them. The food was simple but edible and there was fresh water as well as wine. It resembled retsina, at least that was Mehmet’s impression. Leo drank a little but barely touched the food.
Mehmet made a face. Maybe this was as good a time as any, to bring up certain awkward facts.
“Why don’t you try to eat something? It must have been days since your last proper meal.”
The expression in Leo’s eyes didn’t change and Mehmet hadn’t really expected a reply, but he felt he had to try. Besides, talking about food would postpone the more tricky part of the conversation. To his surprise, there was a reply of a sort, if not in words. He shrugged indifferently. Right. So much for small talk.
“I – can you tell me how badly you’re injured?”
Again, it seemed as if Leo was miles away. He didn’t meet Mehmet’s eyes and looked as if he was more than half asleep, though his eyes were open.
In the end, he shrugged again, as if he didn’t know or didn’t care. But Mehmet couldn’t accept that.
“Come on. Let me -”
At first, Leo cowered away from Mehmet’s hands, then appeared to resign himself to his fate and slumped down.
Hastily, Mehmet made a visual inspection of the torso. Since Leo let him open the shirt and pull up his undershirt, he did. To his relief, Haroska and Enders seemed to have been out to make an example of Leo, rather than seriously injure him. Well, after all, serious could be relative.
After a while, Mehmet ventured to press lightly on the most obvious bruises. Most of them seemed to be on the arms and thighs. Leo was extremely wary of his touch, especially when he lightly touched the abdominal area. It seemed tender, but not alarmingly so. The trouble was, Mehmet was no expert.
And the worst part was the nightstick they’d shoved up Leo’s rectum. To begin with, Mehmet found it hard to believe that Leo would submit to being examined there, and secondly, there could be no doubt the stick had caused serious injuries inside. The question was how serious.
“Ok. That – stick – could you – do you have any idea how bad -”
No. It was useless. That was as far as he could bring himself to go. To his surprise, Leo didn’t seem to be more bothered by this than any of the rest of it.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt that much.”
“What about bleeding?”
“Yeah, some, I think.”
“Right. Well, I don’t know how – I think we’ll be out here for a few days. Do you think you could hold on until we can get to a doctor?”
“I’ll have to, won’t I? Never mind. How did you -”
“Find out what was going on? Enes, of course.”
“Oh. Right. Why? I mean, why did you feel you had to – I remember, you know. You pulled a gun on – Jan and Enders.”
This was the awkward part. If Leo didn’t get it, how could he explain?
Self-consciously, Mehmet looked away.
“Well, I could hardly let you die, could I?”
“If that was what they wanted. I just don’t – I have no idea why he suddenly turned against me like that.”
Recalling some of the words he’d overheard down there, Mehmet was amazed that Leo hadn’t heard or guessed. He could hardly have forgotten about what had happened between them, now could he? Mehmet assumed Haroska or Enders had got wind of some of Leo’s other –
“You don’t think it’s to do with – maybe one of them found out.”
Leo kept looking at him as if he hadn’t heard a word he said, then he frowned, clearly puzzled.
“Found out about what?”
Mehmet sank down onto his bunk again. This was simply – was Leo really naive enough to think he’d – no. It had to be something else. Amnesia? It was eerie. As if the memories he, Mehmet, had of the two of them – having sex – had been nothing but a dream.
He was about to give up, then decided that he might as well finish what he’d started. If Leo still didn’t see what he was getting at, he’d leave it. It wouldn’t change anything. The situation would still be the same whether or not they managed to unravel the mystery.
“Are you saying you don’t remember?”
“You’re serious, aren’t you? You really don’t remember about -”
“No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I see. Well, then I suppose it’s no use -”
Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation struck Mehmet and he began to laugh. His mirth bordered on hysteria, but knowing that didn’t help. Here he was, far away from home, from Germany, having thrown everything away for the man he loved, a man who had no recollection of anything ever having occurred between them.
“I caught you with a guy, out behind a club, so I assume one of them did the same.”
“With a guy?”
This time, there was a touch of panic in Leo’s voice, rather than bewilderment.
“You mean -”
“You were – having – you were up against the wall and – but you looked straight at me. I can’t believe you don’t remember anything.”
It was no use. His explanation had sent Leo further into a kind of catatonic state. He retreated inside himself again and began to shiver uncontrollably. It was painful to watch. Mehmet gingerly tossed his blanket across to the other bunk, where it lay unnoticed around Leo’s knees, dragging onto the floor.
By the time Mehmet began to doze off again, not so much from exhaustion this time, as from boredom and lack of fresh air, Leo suddenly began to speak, sounding more normal again, but noticeably shaken.
“I – had no idea. Sometimes, I’ve woken up on the floor at home or even in an alley, feeling disoriented and – but always alone. I – at times I had a vague suspicion something had happened, but – it was too weird and -”
“So you’re saying you don’t remember -”
Mehmet smiled ironically. So much for true love.
“About you and me.”
“You and me as in -”
“I – didn’t even know you were -”
“Me neither. I mean, that you were. And I’m not really – I mean – I don’t know. We were drunk and -”
It felt humiliating to sit here telling Leo about what they’d done and even more so why. On the other hand, he might as well know. It seemed he’d been ignorant of the true state of affairs for far too long.
“My wife – I don’t know – you’ve seen her. She’s a kid. We don’t understand each other. When she’s lying in bed next to me, I feel like a rapist. I could hardly bear to – and -”
“That’s right, you saw that. She’s not my type, but -”
“Tell me about it.”
“So you and Sylvia -?”
Leo shrugged. It was getting to be a habit, it seemed.
“Not my idea. Well, to begin with I was as jealous as hell, but – then -”
“So you’re not -”
“Not that I knew of, but apparently I’ve been doing things I didn’t even know about.”
Again, Mehmet began to laugh, and this time, astonishingly, Leo joined him. This time too, there was an edge of hysteria in the brittle sound, but afterwards, at least Mehmet felt a little better. His feelings for Leo hadn’t changed, but he still felt attracted to women. He couldn’t figure it out and besides, it was only of academic interest now, judging by Leo’s reaction.
“So – this amnesia – forgive me for asking, but were you taking drugs?”
“Of course not – well, not that I was aware of. Alcohol, but not that much. You’ve seen me. When we – how many -”
Mehmet considered. He’d been drunk, but Leo hadn’t seemed all that intoxicated.
“Now that I think about it, I was drunk, you weren’t. Not particularly. I – acted like a fool and that was why I was so baffled when you -”
Leo looked away. This openness clearly only went so far.
“We – it happened a few times after that, then – I caught you with that man behind the alley. And -”
Leo faced him and studied him closely, then his features seemed to relax a little.
“I see. I’m sorry.”
“No. I’m sorry. If I’d known – I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have -”
“But that’s not why you did this for me, is it?”
Mehmet felt his face heat up uncomfortably. Damn. Leo was far too perceptive.
“Forget it. Like I said, I could hardly let them kill you.”
Leo nodded as if deciding to let the matter go, instead beginning to worry at something else, that must have been at the back of his mind all along.
“I still don’t get it. Jan – We were partners.”
“The sick old bastard. And Enders – I didn’t like to say so before, but they’ve always struck me as a couple of nazis.”
“Not Jan -”
Leo’s voice faltered.
“No, I guess you’re right.”
Leo nodded sadly.
“I guess you never know. Even when you work together for so long.”
“It’s odd, though, this amnesia – You were looking straight at me, all those times, including when I -”
Again Leo nodded, pensively. He appeared to be struggling with something, then his gaze sought out Mehmet’s. There was a desperate determination there, mixed with pleading, that made Mehmet’s heart go out to him.
“Actually, I think I have an idea about that. There’s something I’ve been trying to forget and most of the time, I was successful, at least I thought I was. For a while, in my teens, I was – My father – It was after my mother died and -”
Suddenly, Mehmet saw what Leo was hinting at. Of course. That would explain the behavior, if not the memory loss. Or maybe it explained that too. In any case, he was still glad he’d done what he had. Somehow, learning about what Leo had gone through changed things a bit.
Now, trying to take advantage of Leo would make him feel just as much of a creep, as he’d felt with his wife. Maybe it was for the best. Living with a secret like that, a relationship of that kind, couldn’t be easy where they were going, even in Istanbul.
As if reading his mind Leo turned his attention to something else, eagerly changing the topic.
“Where are we going?”
“To Turkey. Somewhere in the southwest. At least I hope so. Enes told me he knew some people and I gave them my bank card.”
“I see. Great. It will be like a vacation. Mehmet – I – I’ll never be able to thank you for this, so I’ll just -”
“Never mind. It got me away from my wife and all that – so – like you say, it’s almost like a vacation.”
“You’ll have to teach me some Turkish.”
“That might take a while.”
“Good. It seems that’s all we have. Oh. I’m not sure what I have on me, but naturally, I’ll contribute as much money as I can.”
Mehmet nodded, then for an hour or so, he tried his best to teach Leo a few basic words and phrases. Leo seemed to have a good ear for languages and his pronunciation was actually quite good, for someone learning at his age.
Eventually, they stretched out on their bunks.
Leo lay awake, staring up into the darkness, wondering how he could have behaved the way Mehmet had hinted at, without even knowing about it. Most of all he dwelled on the look in Mehmet’s eyes when he’d confronted him about his motives for rescuing him. That was something Leo would never have been able to guess.
In a way, the whole thing terrified him, but even so, the thought of Mehmet’s sacrifice touched him. It made him feel a little less lost. And – though he still found it impossible to imagine himself having sex with a man, voluntarily, he realized he felt a strong affection for his colleague. Colleague and friend.
Mehmet too, found it hard to get any sleep. Things hadn’t turned out the way he’d imagined, but it didn’t really matter. He knew they’d be alright now. In a way, it would be good to get back home. If only he hadn’t loved Leo so.FIN