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Scents of murder - a short Turkish thriller

by Trudy (9/14/2008)

Scents of murder - a short Turkish thriller

She can smell the fragrances from a distance. Freshly baked bread, wafts of Eastern cultures express themselves by the many kinds of herbs and spices here on the market. Laura is delighted and although no-one is around, she says out loud ‘This will be my life, this will be my home, and this is the country where I want to stay for a long time.’ She stands on the balcony of her hotel room, while gazing at the city below her. She has never been in Turkey before but thanks to her previous experiences in foreign countries she never feels a stranger for a long time. Months of preparation were foregoing to this adventure, her moving to this strange country. Yes, a strange country that at the same time feels like ‘home’.

 

She is now thirty two, born and raised in a small village in the East of the Netherlands. After finishing high school she went to the university in a larger city for a teacher’s degree in English. She decides to live on her own, enjoying all the freedom that comes with that. After a short while she met her boyfriend, a man with dark eyes, black hair and a huge smile. Ahmet is his name and he works as a technical engineer.

 

He was born in the Netherlands, his mother Dutch and his father Algerian. He tells her he was raised as a Muslim but he is not practising that faith anymore now. A little less than six months later she moves in with him. Her friends and family warn her: ‘Beware, before you know he will force you to wear a scarf and you will be no more than his personal slave.’ Her irritated reactions to these prejudices cost her a few friendships. ‘Well, friends, people with those ideas are not really friends,’ she thinks and shrugs.

 

She carries on with her moving to Ahmet’s apartment. She is dreaming of a magnificent wedding, a child, a part-time job. He has other ideas. After only a few weeks it turns out that he sees her as his domestic help. He expects her to pick up his dirty underwear and socks he leaves throughout the apartment. And of course, he wants her to be his lover at night. In the beginning she does not mind, being a student she has more free time than he has, so it seems logical that she cleans more and cooks and irons for Ahmet. A year later she finds out she is not the only one for Ahmet. ‘Is Ahmet home,’ female voices ask by telephone. Than she finds a letter that reveals a lot, it is almost pornographic. She confronts Ahmet with it but he tells her it is an old letter, she is really the only love in his life. Her sadness and disappointment she tucks away in a corner of her mind, she forgives him. One evening he forgets to shut down his email account. Curious and a little ashamed she reads his mail. With every letter she reads her angriness increases. Not one, has he four other girlfriends according to these mails, if her conclusion is correct, all these women think they are the only one for Ahmet as well. While Ahmet takes a shower, she does something she never did before: she checks his mobile phone for sms and numbers. There also are several evidences of the unfaithfulness of Ahmet. Furious she tells Ahmet what she has discovered. His face is set and his only reaction is a gesture towards the door. Then he snaps: ‘If you don’t like it here and my life, then leave. Right now. I will not let a woman tell me what I can or should do. You are less than I am, you are just a second year student.’ Surprise about the harshness of his words is all over her face. He sees her despair and starts laughing scornfully. ‘Nice, Dutch women, they accept almost everything afraid as they are to discriminate. I can do what I want, I can even hit you if I like that.’ He raises his hand as if he wants to start hitting her right away. ‘That’s it,’ Laura thinks, ‘this is enough, I will not let a man hit me and I will not let him threaten me as well.’ She keeps silent, turns around and walks up the stairs. In the bedroom she takes a large suitcase and her backpack and starts packing. Not all her belongings will fit in these two, the rest she will pick up later if necessary.

 

Half an hour later she leaves, without saying a word to Ahmet while she closes the door behind her. On the street, her face saddens, tears are all over her cheeks. ‘What do I do now?’ She walks to the station and buys a ticket to the town where her parents live now. In the train there are thousands of thoughts in her mind. ‘Were her friends right? Does Ahmet behave like this because he is half-Algerian? How can he be so different suddenly?’ She really did not notice any change in his behaviour the last couple of months. ‘No,’ she decides, ‘he turns out to be just an awful man, it must be his character.’ It is already half past eleven when she arrives at her parents house and there is no light in the house anymore, all windows are dark. She rings the doorbell and after a few minutes her father opens the front door. He is very surprised to see her at this time of night but when he sees the tears in her eyes, he picks up her suitcase and says in a soft tone: ‘Come in, do you want coffee? I will wake up your mother.’ They talk for hours and happily her parents do not blame her. They do not say ‘See, we warned you.’ They are just concerned, caring and sweet. It is almost dawn when they together decide that she will be living at home again. The university is not very far from her parents house even though she needs to get up a little earlier. About Ahmet they do not talk anymore.

 

Two years go by and Laura saves as much money as she can. She has a side job in administration in a neighbourhood centre. Plus two times a week she gives Dutch lessons to well-educated foreigners. The number of nationalities she can not count anymore but people from Morocco and Turkey are the vast majority. With some students she talks on a regular basis about their country. She is especially affected by the stories of the Turkish students which are filled with colour, with melancholy, she is already in love with the country without being there once. Filiz is one of these students, a twenty five year old woman from Izmir. She has now lived for six years in the Netherlands. She tells Laura she was married but got divorced when, while pregnant, she found out her husband was unfaithful to her too. Happily she just received her permit to stay so together with her now one year old daughter she does not have to leave the country. The resemblance in the stories of the two women creates a bond and soon they go shopping together. Filiz teaches Laura how to cook Turkish and vice versa Filiz now knows how to cook Dutch. In Izmir Filiz’ family owns a hotel and in two years time they will open another one in Kuşadası. Many Dutch tourists stay in that touristic place on the Aegean coast and the family could use some help, because they do not speak English very well. ‘That would be great,’ says Filiz, ‘you speak Dutch, you know the culture and you are almost graduated as an English teacher. You can teach them.’ The idea sounds good to Laura but she has not finished university yet, hardly any experience and she does not have enough money. ‘Besides,’ she says to an eager Filiz, I do not know a word of Turkish.’ ‘We still have plenty of time,’ Filiz answers, not at all put off, ‘you teach me more Dutch and I will teach you Turkish.’ The following months a blond and a dark head are bowed over study books, both complaining out loud about difficulties in the foreign languages.

 

After her graduation Laura teaches recalcitrant youngsters for two years until she is fed up with these stubborn kids. An ad in a nation wide newspaper gives her an idea. Working as a teacher for a NGO in far and strange countries is what she wants, to expand her horizon. Several job interviews later she has a new job. Her work starts with extensive training about culture, health care, handling conflicts and a series of lessons in self defence. For a woman alone it is absolutely essential to know how to defend herself in a strange country. There are enough people who like to take advantage of that being alone. First she goes for two years to South East Asia, teaching at a secondary school in a small village not far from Delhi. The three years after that she stays in Mali, in Africa. Her last post is in Romania. That was her life the last seven years. Due to this work in other countries her contact with Filiz has diluted and plans to teach in Turkey are in the background now. Laura rarely thinks of that idea, she is too busy trying to survive in the poor countries she stays in because the salary the NGO pays her is not high. All these years Laura stays single, apart from one short affair with a staff member of the British embassy in Delhi. Also this man does not know the meaning of the word faithful, so exit embassy guy. After these three posts her contract is over. Laura is not sorry for it, she would like to go back to her home country for a while. The NGO tells her that a new contract is very possible if she wants, a relief for the future.

 

Back in the Netherlands she stays at her parents house again, she does not have a place of her own yet. On an autumnal Wednesday afternoon she goes into town, shopping for a new pair of jeans when suddenly someone calls her name. ‘Laura, is that you?’ She turns around and looks in the happy face of Filiz. ‘Great to see you again, I have missed you,’ Filiz says. They decide to have a drink and dinner together and they talk for hours about the past years. Filiz tells she has a job now at a large company of lawyers. ‘I am the office manager there, I am in charge of eight secretaries,’ she says full of pride. Laura reports about her ups and downs from the last seven years. ‘I have no job at the moment, but I do not worry, I will get one soon,’ she says. ‘That is wonderful,’ Filiz exclaims, ‘you must know that in the hotel of my family many Dutch workers came and went. They could not adjust themselves, they got homesick. But I think that will not happen to you. Right now they are looking for a new staff member for next summer season.’ Laura smiles, the enthusiasm of Filiz is catching but her experience has taught her that good preparation for a foreign stay is very important. Filiz is excited. ‘I am going to call my parents right away, take care that you can come, that they will arrange your working permit and find accommodation for you. Soon I have a two week leave and I will go with you. Then I can show you a part of my country. Meanwhile you can fill in the gaps in your Turkish.’ She smiles broadly. Laura nods, she will see what will happen.

 

Five months later Laura gets on the airplane that will bring her to Izmir. One of Filiz’ many cousins will pick her up. Filiz can not come along, her daughter is in the hospital with appendicitis. The cousin that is waiting for her at Adnan Menderes Airport is named Ahmet. For a moment Laura feels a little sad, memories flash in her mind. Then she shrugs and thinks ‘there are many Ahmets in this world.’ Ahmet takes her to Kuşadası, to hotel Büyük Liman, Big Harbour, a five star hotel with eight floors. He helps her with her luggage and takes her to her hotel room. One of the things she arranged with the family is that she has a double room with a balcony. She will stay here for at least seven months so a place of her own for some privacy is nice. Also her salary has been settled, it is not much but enough to live here. She will be working as a contact person for tourists from several European countries and in addition to that she will give English lessons to the hotel staff. The days that follow are long and busy. Many tourists soon get to know who she is and come with a load of questions and some complaints as well. The hotel staff stands in line for lessons, some do speak quite good English already and some only know the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

 

On one of her few afternoons off duty, Laura lies down on a sun bed on her balcony. She has just eaten a fruit salad, the leftovers from the fruit and the knife she used are next to her on a small table. Already some insects found the fruit as well. ‘I will clean it up later,’ Laura thinks, ‘for now I am just a bit lazy and I want to read for a while.’ Her room is a corner room, very well masked from other rooms or the swimming pool so she decides to sunbath topless. There is nobody who can see her, so why not? A knock on the door and without thinking of her half-naked body Laura says ‘Come in.’ The door opens and closes again and she hears footsteps coming towards her. ‘Ahmet,’ Laura says surprised, grabbing a towel to cover herself, ‘wait please, I will get dressed.’ ‘No,’ Ahmet replies, ‘I was hoping to see you like this, I am crazy about you, I want to have sex with you.’ He grabs her, starts stroking her while pushing his mouth to hers. Laura resists and says ‘Ahmet, stop, I do not want this.’ He does not listen and his hand goes further down her body. A fight is what follows, Laura tries everything to free herself from Ahmet’s grip. Her self defence techniques are not enough, she can not release herself from his hands. She panics and screams, but she knows no-one will hear her because of the loud music next to the swimming pool. Suddenly her fingers feel the knife next to her on the table. Before she knows what she is doing, she grabs it and stabs several times in Ahmet’s back. The knife disappears in his body up to the handle. Ahmet releases her, his eyes wide open with surprise and then he falls on the floor. Even when he is laying there she keeps stabbing him, she can not stop, her anger is too big and she thinks: ‘What does this man think he was doing – treating me like this?’

 

Thirty minutes later the hotel swarms with police men. Laura is questioned and than brought to the police station. There she is locked up in a single cell. As long as she has not been to court, she has some privileges being a foreigner. Three months later there is a verdict. ‘You stabbed the victim several times, even when he was already laying on the floor and thus no threat anymore to you, so there is no way we can see it as self defence,’ is the harsh verdict of the judges at Izmir court house. Lawyers from Turkey and the Netherlands have defended her case without success. The verdict is fifteen years in jail. When after a short ride from the court house to the prison a guard takes Laura to her cell, she thinks sarcastically: ‘Yes, this will be my life, this will be my home, and this is the country where I have to stay for a long time.’





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