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Authors: Mehmet Murat Somer

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A PENGUIN MYSTERY

The Serenity Murders

MEHMET MURAT SOMER
was born in Ankara in 1959. His
Turkish Delight
crime series hit number one on Turkey’s bestseller lists, where it remained for months, and has since been published in fourteen countries (UK, United States, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Egypt, and Turkey). He is a screenwriter for both film and television, and a classical music critic for various newspapers and magazines. He lives in Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and occasionally in other corners of the world, as long as there is enough sunlight.

The
Serenity
Murders

•  M E H M E T   M U R A T   S O M E R  •

PENGUIN BOOKS

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa), Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North 2193, South Africa • Penguin China, B7 Jiaming Center, 27 East Third Ring Road

North, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in Penguin Books 2012

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Copyright © Mehmet Murat Somer, 2004
Translation copyright © Amy Marie Spangler, 2012
All rights reserved

Originally published in Turkish under the title
Huzur Cimayetleri.

Publisher’s Note
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Somer, Mehmet Murat, 1959–
[Huzur cimayetleri. English]
The serenity murders / Mehmet Murat Somer.
p. cm.
ISBN: 978-1-101-60307-9
1. Transvestites—Turkey—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Turkey—Fiction.
3. Istanbul (Turkey)—Fiction. I. Title.
PL248.S557H8913 2013
894’.3534—dc23

2012030581

Printed in the United States of America
Set in Dante MT
Designed by Elke Sigal

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the authors’ rights is appreciated

ALWAYS LEARNING
PEARSON

Cast of Characters

Burçak Veral
The Turkish Delight protagonist
Sofya
Ex-stage star, retired but still impressive, has dark relations
Ponpon/Zekeriya
Transvestite drag star, best friend
Figen
Secretary in the office
Cüneyt
Bodyguard at the club
Hasan
Maitre’d of the club
Osman
DJ at the club
Şükrü
Barman at the club, loves twinks
Yavuz
Young man from suburbs, customer at the club, usually dancing topless
İpekten
Transvestite friend, very chic, elegant, out of Harper’s Bazaar
Selçuk Tayanç
Childhood friend, now a department director for the police
Hüseyin Talip Kozalak
Taxi driver at the neighborhood, has a crush on Burçak
Satı
Cleaning lady, maid
Refık Altın
Gay poet, lyricist
Ayla Tayanç
Childhood friend, once a nemesis, now wife of Selçuk
Belinda D.
Very famous and powerful DJ, music critic, guru of Turkish pop
Jihad2000/Kemal Barutçu
Computer hacker, doomed to wheelchair, with bizarre sexual drives
Cem Yegğenogğlu
Hypnotherapist
Ricardo
Drag star from Brazil
Hümeyra
Neighborhood woman who works at the bank
İsmail Kozalak
Hüseyin’s father, ironmonger
Kevser Kozalak
Hüseyin’s mother
Taık
Another taxi driver from the neighborhood, buddy of Hüseyin
Sermet Kiliç
Aikido and Tai chi master
Hilmi Kulogğlu
Square-faced commissar of the Homicide Department
Aykut Batur
Ex-chorister at the opera, now going onto pop
Alberto Maggıore
New York mortician, makeup master
Andelıp Turhan
Tarot master, always in queer dresses
Bahadır
Young and fresh lover of Gül
Bedirhan ender
Health food and diet master
Buket
TV programmer
Cavit Ate‚
Reiki master
Cemil Kazancı
Mafia head
Gazanfer
Grocery wholesaler, usually silent customer at the club
Gül Tamay
Reiki master
Hakan Akincı
Tantra master
Haydar Hocaev
Bioenergy master from Azerbaijan
Koral Kohen
Gossip columnist
Mehmet Murat Somer
Bestselling author
Morlu Kadın
The angelic woman
Nılgün Kutlu
Yoga and meditation master
Nımet Hanoğlu
Faruk’s wealthy widow
Süheyl Arkın
TV programmer
Vildan Karaca
Crystal and feng shui master, always in hurry
Yılmaz Karataş
Small and dark Mafia bodyguard
Wimpy Ferdı
Weird neighbor
Alı
Money-counter, freelance computing employer
Afet
Red-haired Reiki expert
Melek
Young girl from the Kozalaks’ neighborhood
Genteel Gönül
Tranvestite acquintance, lower class than most but tries hard to sound classy
Şırın Güney
Yoga and meditation specialist, girlfriend of Cavit Ateş

The Girls at the Club

Beyza (Dumptruck Beyza)
Overweight transvestite at the club
Demet Kıllı (Hairy Demet)
Transvestite at the club, no waxing, kind of kinky
Elvan
Ignorant transvestite at the club
Karakaş Lulu
Hot-tempered transvestite at the club
Mehtap
Tall and red-wigged transvestite at the club
Müjde
Chubby transvestite at the club
Pamir / Yahya
Aggressive transvestite at the club
Sakallı Barbi
(Bearded Barbie)
Transvestite at the club

“In order to commit murder with relative ease,
one must harbor an idyllic love, almost puritan in nature.”

MICHEL DEL CASTILLO,

La tunique d’infamie
(The Tunic of Disgrace)

The Serenity Murders

Table of Contents

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

26.

27.

28.

29.

30.

31.

32.

33.

34.

35.

36.

Glossary

1.

I’
ve always enjoyed being watched, but the idea of going on TV, talking in front of hundreds, maybe thousands of people, and playing the know-it-all expert, saying levelheaded, inoffensive things while discussing the reality of transvestitism without seeming to “promote” it—the prospect of which made the producer break out in a cold sweat—had put me on edge. I was dreadfully nervous.

The other guest on the show was the author Mehmet Murat Somer, who had artfully augmented my adventures, using them as fodder for his novels. We had been invited onto the most popular talk show of Turkey’s most prestigious TV channels. And it would be live!

I had prepared modestly. I looked neither too plain, that is to say ordinary, nor as decked out and fancy as I would have looked in, say, one of Ponpon’s stage costumes. Refined makeup, short but well-kept hair, slightly supported breasts, a pair of black leather trousers of the latest fashion, and a transparent shirt with a low neck that reached all the way down to my belly button, allowing me to display my lace bra and porcelain-like décolleté. Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly in my best Audrey Hepburn mode. But I could hardly be faulted. After all, it wasn’t every day that I hit the small screen. In fact, this was, officially, my first time; I mean, if I
had
appeared
before, if I had happened to be caught on camera accidentally at some point, well, I could no longer recall it.

“We’re going to raise hell in every sense of the word! Our ratings are going to rocket sky-high! But still, don’t go overboard. If things do start getting nasty, if anything inappropriate slips out of our mouths, my friend the director over there is going to cut to a commercial break. Still, let’s be careful…” the producer and presenter Süheyl Arkın cautioned us.

Nothing would slip out of
his
mouth, that’s for sure. The “us” was actually “us two”; in fact, it was really just me. The host was an old hand at this game; he was on-screen with different guests almost every day of the week. I was sure he fed the same “our ratings are going to rocket” cliché to all of his guests. As we were waiting for the show to begin, he had said only a few words to the author and had cautiously avoided addressing me directly. As for the red-bearded media consultant who also acted as Mehmet Murat Somer’s manager, with him Süheyl Arkın appeared to be engaged in a deep, meaningful conversation. It was obvious who was going to get preferential treatment here. Still, I kept my spirits high.

We were ushered into the studio. I immediately set my sights on the chair in the middle, the one that would be in the camera’s view from every possible angle. If I were to sit there, though, the coffee table with the silly vase on top would hide my legs, in which case my John Galliano–designed Dior “Swinging Bombay” shoes, which I’d spent a fortune on and purchased especially for the show, wouldn’t be visible. Well, in that case I’d just have to cross my legs and make sure to flash them at every possible opportunity. Otherwise I would surely regret having shelled out so much cash for such incredible footwear.

Süheyl Arkın seated himself behind the desk. Since his feet wouldn’t be seen, he wore comfortable sneakers; as for the rest of
him, he had smartened up with a blazer, a white high-collar shirt, and a dark tie.

After receiving his final orders from his media consultant, Mehmet Murat Somer walked over to me. “My right-side profile’s just dreadful,” he said. “I look twice my age and bald as an eagle.” Just when I had made myself comfortable, there he was, trying to usurp my seat!

Left or right—what did it matter? As if he would actually look the twenty-seven years he claimed to be if they shot him from the left. Did he think he was Tom Cruise from the left, and Woody Allen from the right? I didn’t want to escalate the tension by making a big deal out of a petty seat-swapping issue. I look good from every angle. I did as he asked.

And it was, ultimately, for the better, since my new position afforded the camera an unobstructed view of my Swinging Bombays, with their sequins, stones, tiny mirrors, and cashmere patterns, clearly displayed in all their glory, for all the world to see. Not to mention my six-inch heels…

Though most women and some of our girls claim to be perfectly comfortable in high heels, the same cannot be said of me. Far from it. As a child I would put on my mother’s high-heel slippers, which were normally reserved for when we had guests, and first try to keep my balance, before attempting small steps. It was hard! Later, when I unabashedly started shopping at women’s stores, I immediately bought myself a pair of high-heel shoes, and then promptly stuffed them into the wardrobe after wearing them only twice. If you ask me, such shoes are not for walking in or standing on; at best, they are for posing, as I was doing now.

My new chair was lower and less comfortable than the previous one, but I kept my mouth shut.

The set technician lad came up to me with a look in his eyes that shouted,
I know you and your kind
. He attached a microphone
onto my décolleté, careful to keep physical contact to a bare minimum. As if touching me would give him a
bad
name, or, I don’t know, as if he’d catch the incurable transvestitism bug, as if it would possess him, gradually taking over his entire being! I responded with a similarly patronizing, stern gaze. Once he had completed his task, I grabbed hold of his hand and thanked him. Of course he jumped back in a fright.

When the countdown for the live broadcast began, Süheyl Arkın, with his carefully mussed-up hair—each and every strand styled separately—put on that mask I was so accustomed to seeing on the screen: an expression that was equal parts Lothario and genuine curiosity.

I watched the monitor in front of me. After making his usual opening remarks and bidding his viewers a good evening, Süheyl Arkın introduced the topic and that day’s guests, which were us. He reminded viewers who might have questions of the studio’s telephone numbers and then turned to Mehmet, asking him for a definition of transvestitism. Mehmet proceeded to expound in his know-it-all tone. The camera had zoomed in on him, capturing only the left shoulder and knee of yours truly, who was sitting to his right.

I had meant to take one last look in the mirror before we went into the studio, but out of sheer nervousness I had forgotten. I wondered if my hair and everything else looked okay. I could feel the outer corner of the fake eyelash on my right eye rising a bit, but I didn’t dare touch it. The last thing I wanted was to get caught on camera like that; after all, one never knew when they might switch to a master shot, and then there I would be, for all the world to see, fussing with my makeup! I knew all the girls from my club would be glued to the television, on the prowl for the slightest imperfection, which they would then rattle on about for days. While I myself had gone to no great lengths to announce the event, my
photos, acquired from God knows where, had appeared in the television pages of the newspapers and all day long during ads for the show. Before I left the apartment my dearest friend Ponpon had called to wish me luck.


Ayolcuğum
,” she said, “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you! I believe with all my heart that you’ll represent us in the best possible way.”

My right-hand man Hasan, the headwaiter at the club I ran, had offered to come with me, an offer which I had politely declined. I thought it best not to arrive with a crowded entourage.

And then all of a sudden Süheyl Arkın turned to me and asked, “So, Burçak Veral, how did you become a transvestite? Would you like to share your story with us?”

This question wasn’t among those we had discussed backstage. I was caught completely off guard. Over the previous two days I had rehearsed, albeit surreptitiously, everything I was going to say, thoroughly preparing myself for what was to come. But I was not prepared for this! The camera was on me. I smiled, blinking my eyes like Audrey Hepburn.

“I am sure you do not mean in terms of sexual development, Süheyl,” I said, wondering if I should have addressed him by his first and last names. But wouldn’t that have been a bit too
cool
? Besides, by addressing him as I did, I had, in my own way, expressed a kind of reserved intimacy. “If you like, I could tell you about my influences, and about how I find inner peace despite so many problems in the world.”

I told them everything—from Reiki, which I had recently taken an interest in, to Thai boxing and aikido, which I had already mastered, to my high school days when I insisted on becoming an actor and made my parents hire a private tutor to give me acting lessons. But what I told them was really more about the things that had made me who I was than about how I achieved inner peace. I
think I was talking a bit too fast, and had forgotten all about the lessons I’d learned from Alberto, a New Yorker who had taught me the fine points of makeup application, and from that mysterious woman, the marvelous Sofya, whom I followed slavishly back when I was filled with ambition to become a TV star.

The three of us talked about the crime novels penned by Mehmet, about how much of what was described in them was really true, and how none of the crimes in question could have been solved without the help of the police, and so on and so forth. It was smooth sailing, as we passed the ball to one another without a hitch.

“Of course, I get support from the police when I need it,” I said.

“So you have a police connection,” Süheyl responded, trying to corner me. The fake expression of surprise on his face must have looked more sincere on-screen, because close up it wasn’t in the least.

“You could say that, but I wouldn’t want to make his name public.”

“Oh, look, we have an incoming call,” he said, wearing a naughty smirk. “Hello?”

The caller was my childhood friend, my man, my police connection: Selçuk Tayanç, who never denied me his help, and who always showed great concern for my silly caprices. In complete disregard for his position as a member of the force, he proudly announced on national television that, yes, he was my friend. Although, in order to keep his name clean, a couple of times he highlighted our relationship as that of “childhood friends.” I felt my eyes well up. I was already grateful for all he had done, for all I had made him do, and now this. Selçuk’s courage, the way he proudly stood by me, warmed the cockles of my heart.

As soon as we cut to a commercial break, I quickly pulled a mirror out of my bag and checked whether my mascara had smudged. No, it hadn’t. And the fake eyelash was still in place too.

Then we spoke of metrosexuals, of David Beckham, who paints his finger-and toenails, the new feminine trend in men’s fashion clothing, flower prints, transparent tops, and facial skin-care products, which Süheyl announced that he used too. We talked about how transvestites aren’t necessarily homosexual, explaining that sometimes transvestitism might simply be due to a particular fondness for women’s clothing.

There was an incoming call from a lady, a psychologist who offered up scientific explanations. Everything she said confirmed all that I had already said.

We talked about the Ottoman tradition of male belly dancers and boy dancers, about the fact that men had worn dresses in the past, about how the jewelry we saw in sultans’ portraits from centuries ago wasn’t worn by even the most over-the-top homosexuals of today. A painting of Yavuz Sultan Selim wearing a pearl earring popped up on the monitor. This was followed by a discussion of famous transvestites, and then images from the RuPaul and Elton John video clip “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” A couple of Boy George photos, famous Turks, movie scenes in which men were disguised as women…the stunning Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in
Some Like It Hot
, Kemal Sunal in Şabaniye, Ali Poyrazoğ˘lu in the Turkish theater production of
La Cage aux Folles
, and the final scene in the Hollywood version of the latter,
The Birdcage
, when Gene Hackman moans, “No one will dance with me. It’s this dress. I told them white would make me look fat.” We smiled as we watched. Clearly they had conducted extensive archival research to come up with a short, fast, effective series of clips. I was truly impressed. Jihad2000 and Ponpon were both recording the program, so it was nice to know that I would possess a copy of such a fine documentary. Süheyl Arkın punctuated the conversation with pleasant yet prudent comments.

Now it was time for viewer phone calls. I had finally gotten
used to the atmosphere and loosened up a bit. There was a call from the father of a young transvestite. He told us the heart-wrenching story of how difficult it had been for the family to accept their son as a transvestite, given the humiliating gaze of the neighbors. He said that he knew his son wasn’t doing anything wrong; he wasn’t selling drugs, he wasn’t stealing from the state, he wasn’t a murderer, he just had different preferences when it came to clothing. Once again, my eyes grew damp.

“I can’t wear what I want here,” said a lass calling from the countryside. “Do you think I should come to Istanbul? Could I wear whatever I wanted there? If I came, could you help me out?” Her frantic questions set my teeth on edge.

A woman caller, her voice vibrating with tension, remarked, “You could actually be quite an attractive man. Women would be interested in you”; and finally posed the question, “Are you afraid of women?”

Another caller asked, “Do you see yourself as superior to women?”

Censoring my true feelings about those who ask such questions, I responded with polite, noncontroversial answers.

The next viewer’s question was for both me and the author. “You snobs, you look down on everyone. Who the hell do you think you are?” he said, in a perfectly calm voice. “You don’t have an ounce of respect for society, or for the values of the Turkish people. Living in a society that you’re not even really a part of, whose values you hold in complete disdain, that’s how you find inner peace? It’s time somebody put you in your place. You’re a total disgrace, the both of you, nothing but threats to society.”

We were stunned into silence. The director had cut to the ads as soon as the first sentence was out of the caller’s mouth, but the phone connection inside the studio hadn’t been cut, so we were still listening.

“Who are you?” Süheyl said, the tone of his voice reminding us just who was in charge around here.

“And you, watch your step! You’re promoting these assholes!”

“Find out where he is and cut that line!”

Süheyl’s command wasn’t carried out immediately. The abusive caller made his final threat just before the line was cut.

“I dare you to find me! And until you do, each week I’m going to kill someone near and dear to you, until I’ve put an end to your precious ‘inner peace’ once and for all!”

We froze, staring at each other with wide eyes.

“Who was that?” asked Süheyl. There was some commotion in the glass soundproof management room opposite us.

“Who was it?”

A worried look on his face, Süheyl listened to the voice transmitted through his earphones. Unable to hear what was being said, naturally, both my author and I watched him with keen curiosity. We waited for an explanation.

“We have to go back on air,” he said finally, as if nothing had happened. “Just some sick psycho.”

“I’ve been threatened before,” said Mehmet. “At first I panicked a bit, but they turned out to be empty threats. Anyone able to dig up my phone number or e-mail address thinks they can say or write whatever they want. It really isn’t worth worrying about.”

I’m not the type to be outdone.

“I’ve been threatened before too,” I said. It was true. And in every way you could possibly imagine.

At last we finished the program. I was almost glued to my seat, so profusely had I sweat. Süheyl thanked me by kissing my hand. The looks, the moves…there was something about this guy…One had to hand it to him, he certainly hid it well. Either that or he hadn’t yet gotten the memo himself.

I have years of experience and observation. Rarely am I wrong.

2.

W
hen the program was over I went home and relieved my feet of my Swinging Bombays, which had the appearance of miniature Eiffel Towers covered in Christmas decorations. I’d listen to the congratulatory messages on the answering machine later. I took a quick shower and put on a white knee-length dress with a petticoat skirt and strapless ornate top adorned with thin ribbons of the same color. It was one of my fabulous, flamboyant, elegant 1950s costumes, identical to that worn by Audrey Hepburn in
Roman Holiday
. I headed off to the club, where I would accept congratulations in the flesh. I looked like a true princess.

My always reliable, ever ready taxi driver Hüseyin had already arrived and was waiting at the door. And my nosy neighbor, Wimpy Ferdı, was peering out his window. I was beginning to feel annoyed at how he appeared at the window and watched me every time I entered and exited the apartment.

When he saw me step out of the apartment, Hüseyin got out of his car and opened the door for me. I was shocked. I wasn’t used to such behavior coming from him. He had never displayed such habits, such courtesy before.

“I saw you on TV, ma’am. You’re pretty much famous now.”

I thanked him.

“Your breasts looked fuller, ma’am,” he said.

Yes, my La Perla bra had needed a little support to fill it out, but I needn’t explain that to him. Once upon a time, we’d accidentally slept together. He had told me then that he disliked big breasts, and that he loved my masculine contours.

Gathering my layered skirt, I got in the car without responding.

“You haven’t had silicone implants or anything, have you?”

There you go, he had dropped the ma’am,
and
he was asking the most private of questions. A big no-no in my book!

I didn’t want us to get stuck on how he addressed me, or the size of my tits. Once Hüseyin got stuck on something, he refused to drop it, and even if he was made to drop it, he’d grow sour, and when he grew sour, he caused trouble, and so on and so forth. Plus God only knows what stories Ferdı was inventing as he watched us. I was in the car, and nosy Ferdı couldn’t see me, even through his Coke-bottle glasses. I grabbed my elastic strapless top and pulled it down to reveal my breasts. There they were: flat, muscular even.

I could see him staring, aroused. I pulled my top back up.

“Nice,” he said, with a twitch of the lip he must have mistaken for sexy.

The club wasn’t packed but there was a crowd. The congratulations started pouring in as soon as I arrived. Our security guard, bodybuilder Cüneyt, bowed down before me, almost kissing the floor.

“You were magnificent, boss! Can we have a picture taken together? I’ll show it to the guys at the gym.”

I didn’t ask him whom he’d want to show a picture of the two of us to at his local gym, or why. If he were to show them and boast,
This is my girl, lads
, he knew I’d tear him to pieces if ever I caught wind of it. He’d probably tell them that he worked with me, or that he was my bodyguard. Cüneyt, who never feels in the least
embarrassed to be working in a transvestite club, and who, unable to resist the girls’ pleas, every now and then ends up going to the cinema or shopping with them during the day, is one of the purest souls I know. He lives in that delicate balance between naïveté and imbecility. And it is to his naïveté that he owes his sincere and cheerful nature.

DJ Osman had the trumpet-led opening music ready for my grand entrance. At first I paused, and, smiling, gave my community the once-over. And they did the same to me. There they were, all standing before me: Hasan, who had made a habit of exaggerating the whole concept of low-rise jeans to the point that he barely concealed his crotch anymore, stood there clapping. The bartender Şükrü, who had climbed up on something behind the bar so that he could see me over the crowd, gazed upon me as if seeing me for the first time in his life. Chubby Müjde, Elvan the queen of ignorance, Hairy Demet, Dump Truck Beyza, Mehtap with her tomato-red wig, flashy Pamir, Çise displaying her newly installed porcelain teeth, which were two sizes too big for her mouth, numb Lulu with the bushy black eyebrows, Sırma, who never missed an opportunity to show off the gold hoop piercing on her right nipple…There they were, my girls, standing before me.

“Oh, you were so striking…”; “You were wonderful,
abla…
”; “I loved it, dear, I hope I get to go on TV someday too…”; “Your shoes were fabulous, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. In fact, I couldn’t really concentrate on you, I was so busy staring at them.” That last sentence could have come from none other than bushy-brows Lulu. It suited her perfectly: a woman of spite and envy, yet smart enough to cover her insults with pleasant ingratiation.

The few early bird customers applauded, even though they had no idea what was going on. They probably thought it was my birthday or something. Yavuz, who loved taking his shirt off and showing
off his ripped muscles once he was up on the floor dancing, but who was so broke the girls only slept with him for fun, came over and gave me a big hug. He was sweaty. I politely distanced him from me. He must have thought sweat was something pleasant, arousing even. I, however, am not of that opinion. He’d had a tattoo done on his right shoulder since I’d last seen him. It appeared to consist of Japanese letters.

As Şükrü slipped me a Virgin Mary, DJ Osman started playing “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. He knows it’s my favorite dance song. So I cut the greetings and good wishes short and quickly got on the floor and danced a little, displaying polite moves that befit my costume.

It was almost time for customers to start invading the club.

The first to arrive: a mixed group, among them my Reiki master Gül Tamay; Cavit Ateş from the same Reiki group; Cavit’s relaxed lover, a yoga and meditation expert named şirin Güney; Haydar Hocaev, a new arrival from Azerbaijan whom they introduced as a bioenergy expert; and a young man called Bahadır, who dazzled me with his good looks, and whose area of expertise I couldn’t have cared about in the least. He had a bony face, strong fingers that grasped tightly as we shook hands, and shiny, pitch-dark eyes. His plump lips were enticing.

“How do you like my new boyfriend?” Gül whispered into my ear as we touched cheeks. It was pretty obvious monobrow Haydar wasn’t the new boyfriend. I felt like a child whose toy has been taken away.

“Careful, I might steal him from you,” I told her, laughing it off.

Even though she has a grown son from her first marriage, Gül has maintained a slim figure; with her sleek blond hair and her finger always on the pulse of the latest fashion, she is one elegant, attractive woman. Besides that, she’s funny. She laughed, quite sincerely, at the idea of me stealing her lover.

Our regulars, those with a perpetual sweet tooth for our girls, were slowly filling up the club. There, cozily perched between two girls he had invited to his table, was the literary critic with the bushy mustache. Initially he only came to the club with the poet Refik Altın, but later he became a frequent visitor on his own, after Refik stopped coming following some minor disagreements between us. Once, out of curiosity, I had tried reading his poems, but they were so insufferably boring that I gave up. When such a mass of cultural knowledge remains undigested, it leads not to refinement but to tedious constipation. From what the girls told me, he wasn’t bad in bed, but he did have fantasies that even they qualified as weird, such as having cigar smoke blown up his ass.

As usual the fruit and vegetable dealer Gazanfer was trying to pass off his quietness as politeness, occasionally lifting his
rakı
glass to greet the girls. He’s a good customer, generous with his tips, reserved in his demands. He tries each girl one by one. The girls like him. His record is spotless.

At one point, şirin Güney, the yoga expert, walked up to me in a panic and asked, “Where’s the ladies’ room?” The truth is, we have no ladies’ room; we have only one single restroom. In protest against sexual discrimination, we had not separated the toilets. Besides, it saves us space.

She giggled upon hearing my reply, as if I had said something funny. “Well, let’s give it a go, then,” she said. I’ve always found her to be a bit shallow, and although I’ve known her for years, I’ve preferred to keep my distance.

She caught up with me again on her way back from the toilet. She was still giggling. It seemed she’d had a generous helping of alcohol.

“What a fabulous idea to have mirrors fitted behind the urinals! And no screens either…”

What she thought was a mirror was actually stainless steel, but it served the same purpose. After all, ours was a venue that, striving to be
cool
, bore the marks of a designer’s touch. We deserved that extra bit of quality. She had clearly found it difficult to take her eyes off of what she had seen, and had immediately begun comparing it to her boyfriend, Cavit Ateş. Cavit was a man who not only had a big build, but was overweight with a fat belly to boot. No matter what size it was, it was going to look small in proportion to his body. For God’s sake, didn’t these women ever watch porn, look at pictures, buy a
Playgirl
magazine? Even when you’re buying tomatoes from the market you look, touch, compare, and
then
choose.

As I walked about conducting my managerial duties, my gaze frequently landed upon Bahadır, and each time it did, our eyes met. Sure, he was holding Gül’s hand, stroking her long blond hair, but he emitted a covert signal that did not escape my attention. Best not to give it a name. I had utmost love and respect for Gül. But I just could not keep my eyes off the lad.

Later that night Belinda D. and her husband Naim arrived. Belinda D. was an indisputable authority on Turkish pop music, and her most recent book, her most comprehensive to date, was titled
Superstar
. It was she who decreed which songs sank and which songs swam. Some called her the Herodotus of Turkish pop, others a reaper, due to her fine, highly selective taste. My personal favorite nickname for her was Hammurabi, which she was awarded owing to her declaration of the standards and rules of Turkish pop. The singers, composers, and production companies that feared Belinda D.’s malice had their books kept by her invisible husband, and rumor had it that he earned his keep solely from those who’d been touched by the magic wand of his wife.

I rushed over to greet them.

Belinda D., always high in spirits, was nervous. She gasped for breath as she spoke.

“Darling, I just found out, I don’t know what to say. Someone shot Süheyl.”

Yes, Süheyl, the very same Süheyl Arkın whose program I had been on that night.

3.

I
t was quite natural for Süheyl, who made a habit of probing controversial topics, to have lots of enemies. But it certainly wasn’t natural for him to have been shot. He wasn’t dead, but he was seriously wounded. He had been taken to the hospital, and the shooter had of course fled without leaving a trace.

I would go visit him with a huge bunch of flowers first thing in the morning. In my mind, I quickly struck a bargain and decided to buy carnations if they were cheap, and if not, anemones.

I was alone when I woke up. Bahadır had accompanied me in all my dreams. We ran together hand in hand in the countryside, squabbled over games of Scrabble, lit fires on the beach and watched the sunset in each other’s arms, animated
Kama Sutra
positions, sloppily ate spaghetti bolognese out of the same bowl; in brief, we did everything that lovers do together. The strange thing was, I couldn’t recall his face or other important attributes.

I sat at the computer, coffee in hand. I hadn’t yet pulled myself together, even though it was already past midday. I’d received a slew of messages, as per usual. The group of hackers called the Web-Guerrillas, of which I was an active member, had wasted no time posting messages, half of which were filled with useless clues; the other half, however, were promising.

My eternal fan and rival, Jihad2000, who had recently become
my friend as well, had sent me three messages, the last of which was clearly marked “urgent” in the subject field. I read that one first.

“What’s going on? What are all these threatening messages pouring in for you? If there’s anything I can do, I’m at your disposal,” it read. What threatening messages was he talking about? What was pouring in? I knew he liked reading my messages. Although he had promised several times never to do it again, he was incapable of controlling himself, or of reining in his curiosity, or of restraining his sense of rivalry. And so he hacked into my account and logged in to read my messages before I had a chance to do so myself. Although this did give me a sense of protection, it also annoyed the living daylights out of me. I had a few addresses he still hadn’t managed to access, but with his talent and patience, he’d access those too soon enough. Of that I was certain.

Jihad2000’s other messages pointed to the source of the threat. The psycho viewer who had called the show had found my e-mail address and sent me a threatening message every hour. Apparently there was no room on this earth for me and my kind. He was going to wipe us out. Those who influenced me, those who had made it possible for me to achieve inner peace (this bit he had typed in capital letters and put in quotation marks), would get their due too. He had copied all the names I had published on my Web site, and heralded the fabulous news that he would murder someone each week until I found him.

The one sent at 3:16 in the morning was a notification of his accomplishment.

“Strike one! I shot Süheyl Arkın, the closet-case faggot who flaunts you and your kind in front of the public as if you were some kind of hot shit. I’ll have more news for you soon!”

A cramp gripped my stomach as I read his words. What a truly wonderful start to the day. I headed straight for the shower. By the time I got out, my remaining coffee was cold.

Still wearing my bathrobe, I sat back down at the computer. My stomach was growling, but my curiosity outweighed my hunger. First, using classic hacking methods, I tried finding his address, his connecting computer. Our psycho was smart. He had connected from a different area, with a different computer, each time. Clearly, he was using Internet cafés. That’s what I’d do if I were him: the best way not to leave a trace. The messages had been sent from providers such as Yahoo, Hotmail, Freemail, and so on, where you could create an account easily without providing any sort of personal information whatsoever.

“Let’s see if you have the guts to find some ‘inner peace’ now,” it said. He addressed me as an “enemy of peace,” which I didn’t believe I deserved at all. “It’s you and your kind that disturb the peace.”

My head had started to ache. I looked at the list of names; it was a veritable who’s who of my illustrious life. On my Web site, besides those whose names I had mentioned on the program, I had listed the names of people I didn’t know, of whom I was just an admirer or whom I held in high regard. Instead of taking the easy route and simply copied and pasted the list, he had actually examined it and copied one by one only those names he deemed appropriate targets for his cause.

My site was actually dedicated to Audrey Hepburn. It had her photographs, biography, filmography, in short, everything about her. John Pruitt was also prominently featured as the ideal man. Besides these two, there was of course my Reiki master Gül Tamay; my aikido tutor, the tai-chi master Sermet Kılıç; my gushing fount of love and joie de vivre, Zekeriya “Ponpon” Güney; and the one and only hypnotherapist in the country, NLP
1
expert Cem Yeğenoğlu, who was only on there because he had insisted.
From the list in his threatening message my menace had specifically excluded foreigners like the mortician from New York, my makeup master Alberto Maggiore, and my personal development guru Will Schutz.

I checked the program that tracked visitors to my Web site. There had been visitors whom I knew; but for the most part, it revealed dozens of anonymous addresses. Scanning all these from start to finish, tracking them, would be enough to make one lose one’s wits.

When Jihad2000 failed to respond in his chat room, I decided to give him a call. I was sure he would have thought of everything I had, and done even more than I had already done. His private line, the one his mother didn’t answer, rang and rang. He was probably in the bath or using the toilet. I sent him a message coded “urgent urgent urgent” which read, “Call me,” and got off the computer.

I suddenly realized why I’d been feeling empty all morning: There was no music! Wimpy Ferdı downstairs hadn’t yet begun blasting his music yet. He may have been a nosy neighbor, but devoid of manners he was not. I’d had a run-in with him once when he moved in the previous year, and that had done the trick. He does not commence with his roaring, wall-shaking rock music until he’s heard noises coming from my apartment first.

Silence wasn’t doing me any good. I quickly reached out to the Handel shelf and pulled out the
Athalia
oratorio. The beauty of baroque music filled my home like sunlight. Emma Kirkby’s angelic tone, Joan Sutherland’s nightingale soprano, little Aled Jones’s hair-raising, prepubescent soprano together with Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s tenor; it was simply perfection. The conductor Christopher Hogwood, the man responsible for launching the authentic instruments movement, had once again made a recording that would be a milestone in classical music.

Accompanied by this angelic group, I could now sit and think, and begin making plans.

If this psycho was serious, I mean, if he really was the one who shot Süheyl Arkın, then we were in deep shit. As Süheyl Arkın had considered it his duty to turn over stones that were not meant to be touched, there was of course the possibility that he had been shot by some other offended soul, in which case my psycho would be taking credit for someone else’s work.

When someone like Süheyl Arkın, the apple of the media’s eye, was shot, the police would waste no time in finding a suspect.

I answered the ringing phone thinking it would be Jihad2000, but it wasn’t; it was Ponpon.


Ayolcuğum
, darling…You can’t possibly imagine how proud I felt as I watched you. You spoke just as fluently as myself. I just watched the video recording again and, believe me, I couldn’t find a single flaw.”

“Stop exaggerating,
ayol
,” I said. “For one, the lights were completely wrong. Whenever I turned my head you could see the sagging skin on my neck. Plus, I was nervous, and so I spoke in a rush. What’s more, the shadow of my eyelashes fell on my face.”

The girls had told me all this one by one last night. I hadn’t forgotten, and was now reporting it all to Ponpon.

“Oh, you’re exaggerating,” she said. “Come on, get up and get yourself over here. You can pick up your cassette and we can eat together. I made delicious courgette
börek
. It’ll be out of the oven in a short while. I put yogurt…”

Ponpon sure knew how to make a girl’s mouth water. The way she described courgette
börek

“I’m expecting a phone call.”

“Just redirect it,
ayolcuğum
…”

“And then I have to go to the hospital. You know they shot the program host, Süheyl Arkın.”

I was doing my best to bid that courgette
börek
a tearless farewell.

“All right, you have no intention of coming. It’s up to you, cream puff. I’m not going to insist. Come if you want, don’t if you don’t. I’ve issued my invitation.”

And slam, she hangs up on me. You can never tell when or at what Ponpon will be offended. My hand reached out to the phone to call and try to make it up to her, the smell of courgette
börek
filled my nostrils, and my stomach growled, but my distress over what to do about the threat hurling psycho outweighed all else.

I called Mehmet and suggested we go to the hospital together. After all, he too was one of the three people to be threatened.

“I’d like to, but unfortunately, I don’t have time,” he said. “I’m flying to Rio de Janeiro tonight.”

I knew he lived there six months a year.

“It won’t take long, just fifteen, twenty minutes.”

“Still, I can’t.”

“But you’ve been threatened too…”

“Exactly, that’s why I’m leaving. There’s no need for me to walk around here like a target. I was going to leave anyway, now I’m just leaving two days earlier than planned. Write to me if you find anything. I’ll be checking my e-mail. I’m sure you’ll have solved the case and tracked down the psycho by the time I’m back.”