‘In war, truth is the first casualty.’ Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC)
‘Istanbul is a hall of mirrors where nothing is as it seems.’ Elif Safak
‘Democracy is like a train, you get off once you reach the station.’ Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President
The nation’s land is sacred. It cannot be left to fate.
He hardly recognised her this evening with silky black hair loosely falling against her pale shoulders, a scarf casually draped around her elegant neck. Her fragile body looked even more vulnerable in a sleeveless vest and skinny jeans. He balled his fists and a pulse beat visibly in the side of his neck. She lit a long slim cigarette poised between fine lips painted a shocking red. His breath quickened, his face felt red like her lips and smouldering hot like the cigarette.
The scrawny youth tucked in beside her on the park bench held her free hand in his. She pulled it away playfully, but let his fingers follow it to touch her hair. Allah askina, what did she think she was doing? Boys would be boys, but she should know better. She was an honest girl and what they were doing was sinful. Did she… he… they… have no modesty? The prophet, peace be upon him, said that modesty is part of faith. Did she have no faith?
The two of them had been sitting there for an hour more or less, ignoring the thousands of anti-government protesters milling about under the giant sycamore trees hanging over them. They had eyes only for each other. It made him sick to the stomach. To their left, a group of activists were gathering by a statue of Ataturk, planning some ungodly act of rebellion, whether it be to vandalize a government building or construct another barricade, they all needed to be stopped. Turkey needed to be saved from the evil of secularism, an imposition from the Western powers at the time when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
He had become distracted, but then the politics of Turkey had a natural way of causing distraction, being so unstable and irrational. Culture wars had been going on here for decades and there was still no clear winner. That’s what the protests were about now really, but he hoped that good would triumph over evil and that the government would win. The President was a pious Muslim, a good man with a clear vision for Turkey. Islam is the submission to God, he often said in his speeches and this was the only future that made sense.
Mist shrouded everything except for the Discovery’s skeletal masts pointing long bony fingers into the sky. It was an omen.
He had come to the right place.
There had been so many places since he had last been in Dundee, but he doubted anyone here would connect him with the skinny little lad ejected forcibly from his birthplace, and sent to a borstal far away. They were no longer known as borstals though, secure accommodation, that’s what they called them nowadays. As if the name made any difference. They were still the same brutal lockups they had always been.
Smiling grimly, he pulled his collar up and the brim of his hat forward until only his eyes showed. He turned his back on the glass frontage of the station and shuffled in the direction of the pedestrian bridge.
It was not there. Confused, he stopped and stared. Everything had changed. He did not like change, it unsettled, immobilized him. He turned in a slow circle. The Discovery was behind him, its masts now barely visible. Hazy lights from Tayside House’s tower building pierced the mist, over to his right, and in front of him the dual carriageway – but no pedestrian bridge.
He sent a silent plea to the voice asking him what he should do. But the voice had been silent for some time now, demonstrating its disapproval, because he had acted on his own initiative before he left Newcastle.
The voice had not told him to end the social worker’s life, nor had it instructed him to set fire to her office. But at the time he had been thinking clearly and, knowing he had to vanish, it had seemed sensible to leave no clues to where he had gone.
Letter from client
(Attached to front of sealed package of journals)
I always thought that guiding your children was a parent’s most important duty. I wanted to be able to offer advice to you as you grew, to try and steer you away from the things that would hurt you. It was very important to me that this happen, largely because my own mother never did this for me.
I saw myself at your side, whispering words of wisdom. I pictured you thanking me for warning you about the darker side of life, keeping you away from it, and safe. I wanted so very badly to be a good mother and to do this myself.
My recent diagnosis has made this unlikely.
The doctors have told me that I have between two and four years left on this Earth. I would like to live longer and would love them all to be very wrong in what they say but they all seem to be gloomily in agreement.
Despite the fact that I cannot now be by your side to keep you safe from harm, I am still determined to offer some guidance to you. My own mother never warned me about anything and the end result was that I went on to make almost exactly the same mistakes she made. If I can prevent my own children from following in my footsteps, then I will be content. I want – I need – to know that the circle will finally be broken and that I won’t have to look up from Hell and watch my children do what I did. I pray every night that you will be braver, cleverer or simply luckier than that.
I felt the best way to guide you was to tell you about my life and especially about Sean Tierney, the man I married.
One of the nurses here told me that many people afflicted with cancer try to put their life into perspective. Many will write about their past. For me, this was a very difficult thing to do. When I finally began to walk down the path I ultimately chose, I had to be able to completely cover up what I had done. I have a superb memory and could recollect names and numbers with ease. I never wrote anything down. In the straight world it would have been evidence against me. In my world it would have been a death sentence.
So, it seemed like a strange idea to write down, with complete honesty, the things I have done. At first I didn’t know myself why I was doing it but then I realised that I was writing for you.
Being so honest has been hard. The memories that were brought back have reduced me to tears on several occasions. However, if you are to avoid repeating the same mistakes, then you need the truth, the whole truth, about what I did and why.
You need to know about Sean Tierney.
As time passed, I have noticed that people’s memories can play tricks on them. They only remember the good things about a person, not the bad. I am quite sure that people will tell you about the man I married. His business partners, the ones who fronted the legitimate businesses anyway, will describe a charming man with a roguish sense of humour, a strong man who loved nothing more than his family. These same people are the ones Sean used to laugh at. He called them ‘weaklings’ and ‘maggots’. I doubt many of them even realised there was another side to my husband. Virtually no-one knew the real Sean Tierney. It was one of his gifts. But I did. I knew him completely and I need to pass on what I knew because I can think of no punishment worse than seeing one of my children end up a friend, business associate or, worst of all, wife to such a man.
I do deserve to be punished and have no qualms about accepting some pain in the next life for what I’ve done in this one but I pray every night that my children will be spared that. That is the one thing I could not bear.
In leaving you my journals, I ask for you to understand why I did what I did. I am not asking for your forgiveness. I know that I have done evil things and I know that God will punish me for them. I will endure whatever fate he decrees is mine. I have never gone to confess my sins and, when I am on my deathbed, I will not ask for forgiveness even then because if I have any regrets, it is that I did not act sooner.
I am convinced the cancer in my lung is part of God’s punishment. I was raised a good Christian and I could quote the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments by heart. The doctors (most of them atheists, I have discovered) tell me that the cancer is caused by heavy smoking from an early age. I know better though. I’ve broken most of the Commandments and this is the result. The strange thing is that I don’t really mind. Don’t misunderstand, I hate the pain and the fear that I have not got long to live but it seems only fair and just. I have done bad things and must accept the consequences. As long as my children do not share my fate, I can endure almost anything.
Read my journals. I’ve tried to include everything I can remember and my memory is still excellent. I hope my words will keep you safe.
I have always and always will love you.
Why was there hardly anyone else on Il Molo? The pier extended out from the concrete walkway that wound down from the eastern edge of the village. The pier’s elongated rectangular shape jutted out fifty meters from Varigotti’s beach, the last village before the tunnel on the Via Aurelia leading to Noli and Spotorno.
About halfway down its length the pier angled forty degrees to the right. It rose up roughly three meters above the Mediterranean and measured about two meters in width. The floor was grey concrete and the pier was bordered with a knee high barrier sixty centimeters in width and covered with reddish square terracotta tiles. The barrier was perfectly suitable for sitting on and gazing out to sea or at the passersby.
Martha walked toward the end of the Molo, unsuccessfully trying to avoid the water being whipped by the wind onto the pier. She had wandered out alone tonight because she was restless. She and her husband were leaving in three days and Martha wanted to look at the sea from the vantage point of the Molo. She wanted to smell the salty air carried by the strong winds and feel the occasional cold droplets of sea water that splashed onto her skin as the waves bashed against the boulders. She shivered a bit. Her light sweater and shorts were not enough protection against the chilly night air.
They had been coming here for almost ten years together and he even longer. This was the ideal place for a summer vacation – the sea, the beach, the people, and of course the Ligurian cuisine. This past year had been complicated and there were some decisions she had to make about the future. Her husband seemed to have not noticed that she had become a bit distant. Or was she just imagining it? Was he too wrapped up in his own world? In his own career? In his own enjoyment?
In the middle of her thoughts, Martha turned around quickly. She just now heard the faint steps behind her. The Molo was empty except for her and the two men coming toward her. She breathed a sigh of relief and looked up at the tall men who now stood before her. One was dark and the other one was blond, but both were well tanned. Martha greeted them, “Oh, you all scared me. What brings you out here tonight?
No one spoke at first, the only sound to be heard was from dripping water which echoed loudly against the otherwise, silence. It was like something from a movie scene, except this was real and, happening to him. No one was likely to be allowed in, so they would miss their shower, big deal, there would be no arguments about it most inmates had enough savvy to steer clear; if only he had done the same.
‘There’s a good lad, get your “North” round that sink and bite down like your life depended on it. Now.’
The young inmate was terrified, the reputation of the man stood in front of him was well known, and he realised now big time that he should have kept out of his business.
He had been arrogant in thinking he wouldn’t be found out, in fact he had been promised as much, and, like the almighty Pratt that he was he had one hundred percent believed it. He had been totally convinced that he could get away with it, plus he was on to a right good little earner; fucking stupid or what? All he had to do was keep his head down, but no he was sucked right in and stitched up like a kipper.
He was out-numbered four against one, but he would have been shitting a brick even if it had just been Cusack – the bloke was a maniac, and he was a fucking tool for ever thinking he could have got away with it.
I was walking along the bay, searching for serenity, when the first body was discovered.
It was a cold December day—especially for North Florida, and the breeze blowing in off St. Ann’s Bay stung my face and brought tears to my eyes. The sun was out, and though it was bright enough to make me squint, the day was dull and had a grayish quality I associated with the muted colorlessness of winter.
Taking a break from the demanding duties of prison chaplaincy at a maximum security facility, I had come to the small coastal town of Bridgeport following the second breakup of my marriage, which had come on the heels of two homicide investigations that had taken more out of me than I had realized.
Raised in a law-enforcement household and working as a cop to pay for seminary, I found myself continually getting involved in investigations.
Though chaplaincy was draining enough, it was dealing with crime day after day as an investigator that had left me depleted and depressed, unable to deal with the second death of my marriage.
I had been fighting a losing battle against a powerful undertow, but rather than drown I had washed up on the shores of St. Ann’s Abbey, a secluded retreat center among the ubiquitous slash pines of the Florida Panhandle.
Now, it was no longer just my pride or career or even my marriage, but my very soul I was trying to save.
A crime scene was the last place I needed to go, but from the moment I saw the flashing lights near the marina, I found myself moving toward them—irresistibly drawn, like an addict, to that which threatened to destroy me.