Out From The Shadows
(The First Five Chapters)
The meeting was in Kadiköy at an outdoor table on a rooftop restaurant. The Greek nodded to the two bodyguards who nodded back before turning their attention elsewhere. He then found Ivan pensively smoking a cigarette while gazing out at the Bosporus. Ivan rose quickly, though, when he realized The Greek was standing next to his table and kissed both of his cheeks Turkish style. “Ah, you’ve come,” he said and motioned to a chair opposite him.
The Greek sat and took the cigarette Ivan offered him, let him light it, and smoked in silence while he watched Ivan watch him. Finally Ivan said, “I need you to do me a favor.”
The Greek nodded. It was understood, after all, that if Ivan asked for a favor, The Greek would do it, but Ivan also understood that he must ask first.
“I am having some trouble with my shipments coming in from Georgia,” he said. “There seems to be someone there who is causing delays, causing unnecessary expenses for me which are not reasonable.” He looked deeply into The Greek’s eyes. “I need you to go and bring in my next shipment and correct this for me.”
“Correct it,” The Greek asked, “or correct him?”
“Whichever is necessary,” Ivan said. “I trust your judgment in the matter.”
“When do you want me to go?”
“As soon as you are able.”
The Greek nodded again. “I’ll go tomorrow.”
Ivan smiled and signaled to the waiter. “Some raki for my friend here and some vodka for me.”
They waited in silence, each gazing out at the Bosporus, until the waiter set the drinks down in front of them. They then touched glasses and drank.
“My nephew Andrei will give you the details,” Ivan said. “You had better take some people who are reliable with you.”
The Greek nodded again.
“And be careful,” Ivan said. “These people do not honor agreements and thus will not honor you.”
Andrei was a handsome young man in his twenties who, as Ivan’s nephew and heir apparent, was the man who handled all the details of his uncle’s business. He didn’t say any more than was necessary, though, and this suited The Greek fine. He just told him where he was to pick up the goods, arms this time, and where to deliver them. And he also said to be wary of the people in Georgia. “His name is Alexi and he will demand a fee for doing nothing.”
“Nothing?” The Greek asked.
“It is his tariff, he will say,” Andrei said, his lip curling slightly in disdain. “It is as if he were a border guard. You will see,” and he handed him a slip of paper with an address. “This is where you pick up the guns.”
The Greek found Baris in Tophane at a café offering nargile, sitting at a table nibbling on strawberries while smoking apple flavored tobacco from the water pipe. The waiter produced a nipple for The Greek and the two old friends sat and smoked together without speaking for a long time. Finally The Greek said, “We will leave tomorrow for Georgia.”
Baris nodded. Puffed some more before asking, “Are we picking up or delivering?”
“Picking up to bring here,” The Greek said. “But this isn’t about the delivery. We are doing a favor for Ivan.”
Baris nodded. “We go alone?”
“I will also ask Sergei and Gokhan to be with us.”
“Trouble?” Baris asked.
“I’m sure of it,” The Greek said.
Baris shrugged. “When do we leave?”
“You should pick me up at six. Have Sergei with you. Gokhan will meet us at my place”
Baris nodded and went back to the pipe. The Greek popped one last strawberry into his mouth, got up, and left.
Sergei was in Moda at an outdoor table at a café. He was drinking a coffee and staring out toward the sea. A cigarette burned in an ashtray that he seemed to have forgotten. It was only when he saw The Greek that his eyes seemed to come alive. “Ah,” he said. “You’ve come.”
“Yes,” The Greek said and sat down next to him so he could look out at the sea, too. The waiter, who seemed to know them both, brought over a glass of cay without being asked. The two friends sat in silence for a long time while The Greek took a cigarette that Sergei offered and thoughtfully smoked it . Finally he said, “I have work.”
“We leave tomorrow.”
“How shall I pack?”
“A small bag,” The Greek said, “but dress warmly.”
Sergei nodded. “What time?”
“Baris will get you at four in the morning.”
Sergei nodded again. Then The Greek finished his cigarette, stood up, and, after they embraced, left.
Gokhan was waiting for The Greek at the statue of Ataturk near the ferry to Eminönü. The younger man rose as The Greek came within speaking distance and they embraced. “Shall we go for a drink?” Gokhan asked.
“Not tonight,” The Greek said. “You must be alert tomorrow. We leave early.”
“One drink won’t hurt,” Gokhan said and smiled that mischievous smile of his.
“You or me?” The Greek asked.
“Neither one of us.”
The Greek smiled at his young protégé and sighed. “One drink, but not two. I am, after all, not as young as you and still like to get a few hours sleep each evening.”
Gokhan laughed. “I promise not to keep my teacher out too late tonight,” he said.
“If I was really your teacher, a good one anyway, I would set a better example.”
“There is nothing wrong with your example, hoca. It is the failing of this poor pupil that is the problem,” and he gave that grin that endeared him to The Greek’s heart.
The Greek shook his head and laughed again, then put his hand on Gokhan’s shoulder and pointed the way toward the throbbing city streets across the main thoroughfare where bars and restaurants lay waiting for them.
The shipment was fifty cases of guns and they were being held by a local gangster in Georgia named Alexi. It seemed he wanted more money than was first agreed upon and more than Ivan was willing to pay which is why Ivan sent The Greek. And The Greek knew there was only one solution.
They arrived at a storefront on a dark, deserted side street in what could only loosely be called a village. There were two men sitting outside in the cold, their thick bodies covered only by leather overcoats and fur hats. One frisked The Greek and then Baris before letting them pass inside where two more beefy men in shirt sleeves and shoulder holsters let them pass through another door which led to the storage area where Alexi sat at a table flanked by two body guards that looked like identical twins to the two positioned outside wearing similar shirt sleeves and shoulder holsters. Alexi himself wore a navy blue three piece business suit, shiny black, pointed shoes, and a red tie. His hair was black, wavy, and recently cut. The Greek could smell his aftershave from halfway across the floor. When he smiled, which was often, The Greek could see a small piece of meat caught in the gap between his teeth.
“You have come for your guns?” Alexi asked.
The Greek nodded.
“So you have brought the fee,” Alexi said.
“Actually we came to discuss the fee,” The Greek said.
“There is no discussion,” Alexi laughed. “You pay, these crates are yours. You don’t pay, they’re mine. Simple, yes?”
The Greek stared at him for a second, staring rather intently at his face, then focused on the knot of his tie, before lowering his eyes, sighing, and then rubbing those seemingly tired eyes with the fingers of his right hand. Those fingers moved up to wipe sweat perhaps, or the beginning of a headache, from his forehead, then swept back across his scalp and down the back of his head where they turned ever so slightly to grasp the handle of a knife that lay just below his collar. Then with the speed and accuracy of years of training, the knife flew straight to a spot just a few millimeters above the knot of Alexi’s tie and plunged into his neck with such force as to pin him back against the wall. But before his body could slid off his chair, both Baris and The Greek were on top of his bodyguards, wrestling them for their guns that were still in their shoulder holsters.
Baris was the first to pull the gun out and away from his man, being just as heavily built as the bodyguard but far stronger, and he quickly emptied a bullet into his man’s head, then turned to empty another into the head of the man wrestling frantically with The Greek. The Greek then slipped the gun out of the dead man’s shoulder holster and put a bullet between the eyes of Alexi for luck, then the two friends turned and leveled their guns at the door just seconds before the two guards outside came rushing in only to die in the rain of bullets that met them.
The Greek was the first to reach their bodies and he rolled one over to take his gun from his lifeless hand while Baris did the same with the other. Then with guns pointed in front of them, they came out into the front of the storefront only to find Sergei standing by the open door, the two outside guards both lying dead at his feet, a sawed off shotgun held loosely in his hands, a grin on his face. Gokhan, meanwhile, had removed the guns from the dead men and was getting ready to drag their bodies inside.
They all helped him drag the dead bodies back into the storeroom, loaded the fifty cases into the van they arrived in, and drove off.
Ivan was very happy to see The Greek again. “You have solved a most annoying problem for me,” he said as they sat next to each other at an outdoor table overlooking the Marmara Sea in Fenerbahçe Park. His bodyguards sat behind them at a discreet distance watching the walkways as mostly couples strolled by. “For this, I am very grateful.”
The Greek nodded, saying nothing, just slowly sipping his glass of cay. His eyes kept being drawn to the water, to the ships as they sailed by, to the gulls that swooped down in such graceful arcs. Though he didn’t think it consciously, he envied those gulls, so alone, so free.
“You always are efficient in every job I give you,” Ivan said. He studied The Greek then, admiring the detached professionalism that was so much a part of his character.
The Greek shrugged. “I have a good team,” he said, as if that was all that was necessary.
“I have good teams working in my family, too,” Ivan said, “but the reason I employ you on occasion is I can always rely on your skills in completing an assignment quickly and cleanly.”
Again, The Greek said nothing for he never knew how to respond to praise, especially when it came to praise for killing a man. He would have much preferred to bring the goods in without resorting to killing, but he knew that was what Ivan wanted him to do, and Ivan was too big, too powerful, for an independent operator like himself to ignore. Besides, The Greek found that Ivan was, despite his power, honorable in his dealings with him, and The Greek never had to worry about a betrayal of trust.
“I have decided," Ivan said, “that this job deserves a special bonus for you. Because you have placed yourself in a bad way with our Georgian friends, which was something I could not afford to do personally, and since it would be wise now for you to take a short vacation while I smooth things over, I have decided to give you that vacation as a bonus.”
“That is not necessary,” The Greek said.
“Maybe not,” Ivan said, and smiled. “But I am the one who put you in this difficult position so I should be the one who pays for your little vacation while I sort it out.”
The Greek nodded. “If you insist,” he said.
“I do,” Ivan said. “I know a nice little island, fairly remote and very quiet. You will like it there.” Then his smile grew broader, more magnanimous. “And to help you pass the time besides fishing, I am giving you a companion to make those nights less lonely.”
“A companion?” and The Greek looked at him almost as if the word were foreign to his ears.
“Yes,” and Ivan laughed. “A little something to pass the time. A girl from one of our stables. You’ll like her. She’s very beautiful and she will do whatever is required to make even you smile.”
Irina was being punished, or at least that was the way she saw it. Punished by sweating factory workers, truck drivers, assistant store managers too homely or poor to afford a wife but who could scrap together enough loose change each week to buy her and punish her hourly by banging her body unmercifully into a mattress at the house. And when it wasn’t one of these customers, it was Vitaly, that arrogant, cruel wannabe boss who took special pleasure in punishing her, too, whenever it looked like she might have a moment of peace. Punish her for being naïve and stupid to think that she was actually going to France to be a waitress in a new restaurant and allowing them to trick her into getting a passport, which they took upon her arrival in Bulgaria, with the excuse it was purely to transfer planes. Only the transfer was to this house after she was purchased in a slave auction where for the last eight months she lost her virginity eight to ten times a day and watched whatever youth she had recede quickly into this mattress and these soiled sheets.
Her only consolation was the friendships she made with some of the other girls, who like her, were captives here. But now, Vitaly punished her even more fiercely for an hour or so in her little room before losing his manhood in the condom they were all forced to wear, the girls’ only safeguard, and then getting up to wipe himself and sneer at her.
“You’re going on a little trip,” he said. “The big boss is giving you a vacation.”
She stared at him dully, too tired to even speak, with only enough energy left to cover herself from his vicious eyes.
“Will you miss me, eh, while you’re gone?” he asked and sneered some more. “Miss my big cock?” And he wagged it at her, limp as it was, as if it were some prize in a contest that she had won.
And Irina wondered just what punishment awaited her wherever it was they were sending her, and for just how long she would have to endure it before returning here to more misery and shame.
The Greek didn’t know what to make of this arrangement but he knew he couldn’t refuse any gift Ivan gave. So he stared at the girl as if she were just some more goods to bring across yet another border and wondered how long this assignment would last.
“You are to take a boat we have just for you two to the island,” Andrei said. “We will drop you off and pick you up when Ivan thinks it will be safe for you to return.”
The Greek looked at him and though he wanted to ask how long they thought that would be, he didn’t, for he knew they really couldn’t answer that. A week, a month, maybe a little longer. He didn’t know how valuable Alexi was to those Ivan did trade with and so he had no idea just how long it would take to soothe their loss. This inconvenient vacation was just an occupational hazard, he knew, and he also knew the girl was Ivan’s idea of compensation.
“At least you won’t be lonely there,” Andrei said indicating the girl. “There really won’t be very many people living there to keep you company, or…” and he smiled slightly, “…amused.”
The Greek still said nothing and though he did not look at the girl directly, he perceived a shadow flickering across her very lovely face. She was, he reckoned, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, but those eyes of hers were much older. Older than he was, he thought. Ancient eyes. Eyes of a conquered people. Eyes with no amusement left in their world.
Andrei then gave some final instructions to the boat’s captain and one of the hands on board tried to help the girl on board, but she did not take the offered hand and climbed in herself. The Greek followed and they both found themselves sitting opposite each other in the small cabin below. They were given mugs of hot tea and some simit and pohaça were placed on two plates for them to share. The Greek nibbled on a simit. The girl, he noticed, looked at the plates furtively and only took one hesitatantly when he slid them toward her. He wasn’t sure if she took one because she was hungry or if she took one because she was afraid not to take what was offered. He suddenly felt an immense sorrow in his heart.
Irina, for her part, did not know how exactly to behave. He did not look like what she expected, though she really didn’t know what she expected at all. She just knew this man was not it. He did not look like the men she serviced at the house, nor like the men at the private parties she was occasionally taken to, young men all buffed up and drunk on vodka or guzzling brandy from the bottle and leering at her and the other girls brought in for their amusement. Nor did he look like the overfed older men in suits and loosen ties who despite the expensive cut of their clothes, would often tie her up and beat her or ejaculate on her breasts or face and laugh as she was made to lick it off. No, he was different. More like one of these sailors, a sea captain maybe, with his tanned, lined face and trimmed beard that was turning mostly white. His jeans were almost tailored, his sweater looked cashmere, his leather jacket soft lambskin. And his eyes were sad, but there was a glimmer of kindness in them that he seemed to mask. She did not know what to think of him yet, since her experience has taught her that no man was kind in this world she had been tricked into. But he was not like the others, she knew that. And that could mean he was worse. She just did not know.
There was a small makeshift landıng in a secluded cove on the island where, The Greek surmissed, other fugitives waiting for clearance and permission to return to their lives had disembarked before. From the landing, which now held his suitcase and duffel bag and the girl’s one rather small suitcase, a path led up to the top of a small hill on which a cabin stood.
“Your new home,” Andrei said, pointing to it. Then he waved good-bye as the boat took him back out to sea and left The Greek and the girl standing a bit forlornly on the dock.
He turned to her and said, “Do you speak Turkish?”
She nodded and said, “A little,” though the little was enough to satisfy the men she had to deal with.
“Well at least that’s something,” he said. “But don’t worry. I speak Russian,” he added and then picked up his bags and started up the hill. Irina took hold of her suitcase and followed.
The cabin consisted of two rooms: a living room area with a small kitchen attached and a separate bedroom that had one queen sized bed, a bureau, a closet that ran the length of one wall, and a mirror hanging over the bureau. A bathroom with shower stall, an old enamal tub, sink, and toilet was off to the side of the bedroom but could also be entered from a door in the living room. All in all, it wasn’t quite as rustic as he imagined, but was, in a surprising way, quite cozy. There was a large couch and two easy chairs in the living room area, one of which was a recliner, and a small wooden table with three cane back chairs that served as the kitchen table. The kitchen area was well stocked with plates, glasses, silverware, pots and pans, and the shelves had at least two weeks’ supply of canned goods. The refrigerator was also well stocked with fruit, vegetables, and meats and a fishing rod sat in a corner for, The Greek assumed, their use to supplement their diet with fish from the sea. He had noticed a row boat beached near the dock so this was obviously carefully provisioned by Andrei. And it was just as obvious to The Greek that this was planned well in advance of his assignment.
The Greek put his suitcase and duffel bag on the bed and began to unpack. He put his clothes in the drawers on one side of the bureau and hung his shirts and another light jacket in the closet along the wall. Then he lifted the mattress and stored his empty bags under the bed in the storage compartment and returned the mattress to its original position. He put his toilet articles in the bathroom and then looked at her. “The other side,” he said indicating the bureau, “is for you.” Then he left the bedroom and went out to the kitchen to take stock of the provisions left for them and to think about what to cook for dinner.
Irina stared at the bureau for a moment before opening her small suitcase and removing what little was in there. She didn’t have clothes to wear so much as clothes to take off and she was almost ashamed to put them in a bureau as if they were hers. Two sheer nightgowns, some thigh high black stockings, three mini dresses, some bras and tong underwear, a pair of high heels, a very brief bikini, some toilet articles for the bathroom to put next to his. It was really quite simple. The only real clothing she was allowed to own was the pair of jeans she wore, the light sweater she had on, and the pair of sandals on her feet. She wasn’t sure just when he would throw her on the bed and so she hesitated slipping into something more provocative. Then she heard him rustling around in the kitchen and ventured out to see what he was doing.
Irina found The Greek slicing tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions and making what she was to discover was a çoban salad. He was also sautéing chicken and peppers in a skillet and sprinkling red pepper on it as it cooked. “There’s no fresh bread,” he said, almost apologetically, “but I can bake some tomorrow. This, though, with some cheese and olives, should serve as dinner.”
And so Irina had perhaps her first real surprise that day when she not only discovered he could cook, but that he also was treating her cordially. She wondered, though, how long this would last and just when she would become his amusement.
After they ate, The Greek made cay and they drank it in the living room area, each seated on one of the arm chairs, The Greek tilted back slightly in the one that was also a recliner, and nibbled on fruit: some cherries, apricots, and peaches. “Someone was thoughtful enough to leave us a full refrigerator. Tomorrow I’ll defrost some of the beef in the freezer and grill kofte.” Irina just stared at him, not knowing what to say. The Greek seemed to sense her awkwardness but chose to pretend he did not feel slightly awkward himself. “There is a note on the refrigerator that tells us where there is a local market. There is a small community here,” he said. “Though evidently very small.”
Irina did not know exactly how to respond but thought some response was necessary so she said, “Do you want me to go there?”
“We’ll go together,” The Greek said. “Tomorrow after breakfast, we will go exploring.”
She then understood that tomorrow was planned. Soon, she thought, I will find out what he plans for tonight. And she sighed thinking she would be what he explored this evening.
But after a few glasses of cay, some more fruit, he just sat peacefully smoking his pipe. He looked at her then and said, “You may go to bed now if you want.”
This, she thought, was his signal, so she rose, went into the bedroom and took one of the nightgowns with her into the bathroom, showered, perfumed her body, and came out into the doorway and stood looking at him, her young body visible through the sheer fabric of the nightgown.
He looked at her standing there, waiting for him to say or do something, but he just stared at her, then said softly, “You go on to sleep,” he said. “I will sit up a while longer.”
Irina was confused for a moment, not knowing exactly what he meant, or what his intensions were, but then she turned and went back into the bedroom, climbed into bed and eased herself under the covers, and lay there, waiting expectantly for him. But he did not come, and her eyes grew heavy, and sleep overtook her gradually. And she drifted off to sleep in that big bed alone for the first time in a long time. And though she didn’t realize it until the next morning when she woke alone in the bed unmolested, this was the second surprise of the day.
Irina found the cabin empty when she woke but could tell that he had not come into the bed during the night. Instead, when she crept out into the living room area, she saw a folded blanket and pillow on the couch, and then heard what sounded like someone chopping wood outside. She looked out the window and saw him outside, splitting logs. He was dressed as he was the day before, except his sweater was off and he wore only a t-shirt with his jeans. He was lean, she could see, but there was muscle there, and his strokes with the axe were long and masterful. She watched for a while, then went back to the bathroom, brushed her teeth, washed her face, changed back into her clothes from the day before and went outside.
He seemed to sense her there, and turned after splitting another log, and smiled at her. “Good morning,” he said.
“Good morning,” she answered.
“Yes,” she said, and then wondered if that was the right answer. If she wasn’t supposed to say no, because he had not joined her.
“Hungry?” he asked.
This also seemed like a trick question so she just nodded.
“Good,” he said, and stuck the axe in a log. “So am I.” And he strode up to the cabin and she thought that this was it, sex in the morning to make up for what he missed in the night. But she found she was wrong once again, because he marched past her into the cabin and began cracking open eggs in a bowl. “Can you make the cay?” he asked and then stopped beating the eggs as he saw the look of total confusion, almost panic, on her face. “Do you know how to make Turkish tea?”
“We don’t cook in the house,” she said finally. “They don’t let us.”
He looked at her for a second, then he smiled and said, “Well then I’ll teach you.”
And he did. He also had her slicing cucumbers and tomatoes as side dishes for their breakfast. “We’ll go to the market later to see what they have in way of fresh vegetables and fruit. And if the fish is fresh, we’ll buy it there rather than go fishing today.” Then he gazed out the window at the sun and the heat rising and added, “Though it might be nice to go out in that row boat and swim while we fish.” He looked at her with clear, kind eyes and asked, “Would you like to go for a swim?”
She did not know how to answer him because she wasn’t sure just what he wanted from her, what he expected, but it had been such a long time since she had gone swimming, so long since she had had the luxury of immerging herself in water and washing away the dirt and shame of her life that she nodded yes.
“Then after the market, we will go out in the boat.” And they ate their breakfast without any further dialogue, for she could not speak, she was so excited, and he had nothing further to say.
The market was in the center of what could only loosely be called a village. But even though it was small, there was ample variety of both vegetables and fruit, and some beef, lamb, and poultry. The Greek handled the produce like an expert, Irina thought, touching, prodding, squeezing, smelling, until he was satisfied enough to put them in a basket and move to the meat and poultry. He also looked at the fish, but did not buy any because, after all, they were going out in the boat as soon as they were finished here.
Irina had been told to pack a bikini but it was really just the g-string and tiny bra, her uniform for the dance parties she and some of the other girls were taken to where they would dance on tables for drunken men before being pulled off and dragged into bedrooms for gang sex. And though she wore this outfit often enough not to be self-conscious in it, for some reason she felt almost shy when she slipped off her jeans and t-shirt in the boat in front of The Greek. Perhaps it was because she still did not know what to expect from him, or maybe because he did not look at her with those hungry, lecherous eyes of other men. She didn’t exactly know what he thought when he did look at her, but she felt guilty and dirty somehow in his eyes.
But once she was in the water, all of her shyness melted away and she laughed out of sheer joy for the first time in almost a year.
The Greek didn’t join her in the water, but sat instead with the fishing rod in his hand peacefully smoking his pipe. He had his cap pulled down to shade his eyes and even though he wore dark sunglasses, she could tell from the way his mouth turned that he was smiling at her.
She swam over to the boat and looked up at him. “Am I scaring away all the fish?” she asked.
“Probably,” he said.
“Then you want me to stop?”
“No,” he said. “We can always buy fish at the market. Besides,” and he grinned, “I’m not fishing to really catch any fish. I’m just fishing to sit here in this boat, enjoy the breeze on the water, smoke my pipe, and watch you swim.”
There would be a hint of sex in that coming from any other men she encountered these past eight months, but somehow, with him, it was devoid of any innuendo and she was suddenly overcome with gratitude for this kindness, this day in the water for her. And she laughed again, rolled over in the water and began to float lazily in the sea. And The Greek continued to sit back, hold the fishing rod loosely in his hand, smoking his pipe contentedly, and closed his eyes.
When she was finally tired and had climbed into the boat, weary from the water, but feeling so completely at ease, he gave her a towel to dry herself but she just patted her long blonde hair to dry it a bit and lay back in the boat letting the sun do the rest. She thought she should comb out her hair otherwise there would be hell to pay with all the knots, but she felt so lazy, so utterly at peace in her body for once, that she did not care how long it would take her later to untangle the knots, to brush out her long hair which would surely curl naturally now from the water, the sun, she just did not care. It felt too good to lie there, letting the sun bake her, and not have, at least for this moment, a care in the world. And the only other emotion she felt was gratitude to this man, this man who had given her at least this one afternoon when she felt normal. A gift, she thought, that no one else had given her in these long eight months since she got off the plane and unknowingly surrendered her freedom and lost her life.
Later, they rowed back to the island for a late lunch of cheese, olives, salami, bread, honey, and apricot preservatives. The water, drawn from a well by the cabin, was refreshingly cold and The Greek sliced a lemon and squeezed it into the pitcher. Irina thought it was the best lunch she had had in a very long time. He, meanwhile, baked more bread and fashioned the little meat patties, the kofte, that he would later grill for their dinner. She wanted to help so he taught her how to make the dough for the next batch of bread they would bake and though she still did not understand exactly what was happening here, in this seemingly domestic holiday, she began to feel more comfortable in his presence. She just wondered when he would finally want to be serviced, because she knew that all men ultimately wanted just one thing from women like her, the Natasha’s of their fantasies, and so knew there was a price she would have to pay for this little respite from the work she was enslaved to perform. But until then, she would enjoy this, this little bit of normalcy allowed her in this life.
The Greek, though, had his own dilemma to consider. He did not know how long they would be here or if anyone else from Ivan’s family would come here to check up on them. Someone might come and exchange her for another “companion” and so he did not want to become too familiar with her, to learn too much about her, because she was, after all, their property and they could reclaim her at any moment. He just knew that these young girls were ubiquitous in their shared world, all nameless, all dressed and taught to act the same, to have one purpose in their short, sad lives: to service nameless men until they were used up and then discarded, and it was best for a man in his position, a man who worked on occasion for, but always in connection with, these gangs who owned these girls, to not know too much about them, for he could not alter her destiny in any way. They were just occupying the same space for a brief moment, and all he could do was act true to his principles and not add to her burden, but he could not lift it. So though he could be kind, he must be careful not to be too kind, or get too involved, for ultimately she would return to the life she was trapped in now. It could not be altered by him or anyone else. And though he taught her how to bake bread, he knew it was a skill she would not get to practice once they left here again.
After their lunch, they took the long walk to the village and true to his word, they bought some fish, two small mackerel, and some eggplants, and more fruit. Then they sat at the local tavern and he had a glass of beer and Irina had a lemonade. They watched the life of the village unfold before their eyes as the villagers watched them out of the corners of their eyes. Irina knew they were curious about them: this older Turk who was at least middle-aged and his young, obviously Russian female companion, young enough, they supposed, to be his daughter, but from the difference in physical appearance, most probably not. Irina almost found this amusing, these respectful, surreptitious glances, and she noticed that The Greek didn’t even seem to be aware of them. He just seemed so complacent sitting there, savoring the cold glass of beer, and enjoying the breeze that fanned them, that she began to think this was the most natural thing for him and that dispelled any self-consciousness she might have ordinarily felt. She almost felt normal, but, of course, she was not that deluded and knew this was far from the normal life she was leading now. And so even though she enjoyed the lemonade, the shade they were sitting in at this outdoor table, the dog rolling over in the grass nearby as the youngster of perhaps six bent down to pet him, the way the local women at the market joked and gossiped with each other, and the way The Greek stretched out his long legs and casually smoked a cigarette after first offering her one, she knew this was not her world and she could not let herself be lulled into thinking it ever could be.
Back at the cabin, The Greek grilled the fish and the kofte while he instructed Irina on how to make a çoban salad. It was pretty easy, she thought, but still felt some satisfaction in actually preparing food. It seemed so long ago that she helped her mother with the cooking and helped feed her baby sister while her mother helped her sick father to bed. It had been a hard life but she missed it anyway, because hard as it was, and as poor as they were, it was better than the life she lived now. But here, slicing tomatoes and cucumbers for their evening meal, at least she could pretend that there was no other life beyond this cabin waiting for her.
And The Greek brought the grilled food inside, squeezed lemon on the fish, poured them both large glasses of water, and filled one of the slender glasses they all used for raki with half raki, half water before settling down to eat. Irina looked at the glass of raki and thought that tonight, after he had enough to eat and especially to drink, he would take her back to the bedroom and have enough of her. She knew this would come eventually, so she was not surprised that it would happen this night. At least she had the day, she thought. No matter what he did now, he couldn’t take that away from her.
But he surprised her again, because he did not drink the whole bottle, but only had two glasses of raki before putting it away. Then he helped her clear the table, wash the dishes, and he asked her if she wanted tea or coffee.
“Cay,” she said, and he smiled and he waved her to the kitchen.
“Let’s see if you remember how to make it,” he said.
“Do I look that simple?” she asked.
“You never can tell,” he said. “Looks can be deceiving.”
So she made a pot of tea while he brewed some Turkish coffee and laid out some baklava that he had bought that day. “You don’t want cay?” she asked.
“Later,” he said. “But first I’d like a cup of coffee. Do you want one?”
She shook her head. “Just cay for me.”
And they nibbled on the baklava while he sipped his coffee and she sipped her tea. When he was done, she asked, “Would you like your fortune told?”
She didn’t know why she said that, though maybe it was to prolong the evening before he took her back to the bedroom, or maybe it was just a way for her to get to know him better, because she really didn’t tell fortunes, or at least not seriously, only after she had observed one of the other girls tell them each night to all of them, making up fabulous lies as to what the future held when they all knew there was no future that she began to tell fortunes herself. And they all liked to hear her lies anyway so Irina became the resident gypsy and would tell nightly lies herself to the others while gazing at the sediment in the cups.
“You tell fortunes?” he asked, somewhat surprised.
“A little,” she said.
“Well,” he laughed softly as he turned his cup over, “let’s see how good your little is.”
While they waited for it to cool and the sediment to settle in the upside down cup, The Greek smoked a cigarette and asked her how she learned to tell fortunes. “At night, after business hours at the house, they would let us have tea or coffee in the kitchen as long as we were quiet. It was sort of a reward for our behaving while working.” She was careful not to name the work but, of course, The Greek knew and he did not comment. “So one of the girls told about how to tell fortunes but she wasn’t very good at it and well, I had more imagination than the others so I became the house fortune teller.” She shrugged defensively and added, “It was a game, really. A game to pass the time.”
“And so it will be here, too,” The Greek said softly.
And so it began, what would become, a nightly ritual, but neither of them knew, or could even guess, just how many nights that would be. But this first night she asked him to make a wish and for some reason he could not explain, even later, he wished she would not fear him, for he knew she probably did, it being natural for a young girl all alone with a strange man she was given to as a gift on an island she obviously cannot run away from and who is, just as obviously, a victim of trafficking. He could tell by her age, the make-up they made her wear that first day, the circumstances, the skimpy clothes she was given to wear for him to see, the look in her eyes, those ancient eyes that have seen a little too much horror, a little too much to be afraid of, and he was just another man from that world she was trapped inside of, that she could not escape. And he did not know how to tell her not to be afraid because he would not harm her, could not hurt her, it just wasn’t in him. But how could he tell her so that she would believe him that even though he was in that world she was a slave in, he was not of that world, but merely passing through on occasion, doing a job here and there for the man who owned her, because as an independent operator, he could not refuse to do a job, a favor, for the man who controlled so much of the world he must move in and around to make a living, admittedly a dishonest living, but that didn’t mean he was like them, the men who brutalized her. He was only guilty of not doing anything about it, for there was really nothing he could do, except to avoid that kind of work, and not frequent the houses, not add to the misery girls like her must bear.
So he wished she would not fear him and know that at least during this time she was with him, he would give her rest. And part of him wondered if that wasn’t even a cruel thing, for after this restive period, she would have to go back to the skimpy clothes, the make-up, the false smile on what once was an innocent face now forever changed.
Irina turned over his coffee cup and turned it in her hands, looking at the images, the shapes revealed in the grinds left in the cup. “I see a road,” she said, “a road that seems to split in two directions, and one of those directions leads through a clear field with no obstacles, but the other road leads into what looks like a forest. And this forest is dark, and there are shadows in this forest, lurking there. It is not a safe place, and you should not go in there, but it seems you are standing at this crossroads and though one road is clear, you still are, or will be, torn between which road to go down, the clear, open one or the one that leads into the forest where it looks like nothing good awaits you.” She turned the cup a slight quarter turn and looked a little confused. “I see a woman, though I cannot tell anything about her. She seems unclear, not really defined, but she is a fairly large figure so she will be prominent in your life. And there are smaller shapes beside her, maybe other women, or children, I cannot tell, but there are many of them, and they are somehow connected to this woman who will be a big part of your life.”
Then she continued to speak of figures in shadows and what looked like towers on the side of yet another road and an open expanse she thought might be a sea and she saw a heart and what could be a woman and clouds, large clouds hovering nearby. The Greek only partially listened, his mind never fully engaged by fortune telling for he was a firm believer in the ability to make one’s own future out of whatever rumble there was in your past. But he found himself impressed by her imagination, and was secretly relieved to hear her say his wish would be granted. And when it was over, he asked, “And do you tell your own future when you drink coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee,” she said, but was in reality saying that she had no future, or at least not a future she wished to see. And that saddened The Greek but then he thought he would also be sad looking at her and so to push that thought out of his conscious mind, he poured himself a glass of raki and half filled it with water and gazed at the only future he truly believed in within its milky color. There were no open roads, no expanse of sea, no women or men lurking in the shadows, just the color of watered down milk , the taste of licorice, and a numbing of any emotions too difficult to bear.
And the evening ended once again and though she expected him to lead her into the bedroom, or at least follow her in later, he did not, but stayed out in the living room area after his shower and they both slept again in separate rooms, her flimsy negligees still folded safely in the bureau drawer.
Their days on the island began to take on a series of routines: first there was breakfast, with The Greek preparing menemen or else laying out a large platter of olives, assorted cheeses and meats, fruit preserves, honey, sliced hard boiled eggs, toasted bread, fresh fruit, or cooking an omelet, and Irina brewing the tea and setting the table. They didn’t necessarily talk of anything important, but the silence was not because of any awkwardness on their part, but rather because they were beginning to feel it was not necessary to fill in the silence with meaningless talk. They were, instead, beginning to feel comfortable with each other and so concentrated on eating, then cleaning the table, washing the dishes, having one last glass of cay before setting out for the sea.
Once at sea, The Greek would settle back with the fishing rod propped up in his one arm, the other dangling loosely over the side while his hand traced figures only he understood the meaning of in the water, his pipe in his mouth, his cap pulled down covering his eyes, and he serenely watched as Irina swam or floated alongside the boat, gracefully turning over in the water, feeling totally free of whatever demons awaited her in the future or plagued her in the past, at one with the water and the sun.
It was in the evenings that they found themselves talking. At first the conversations revolved around dinner with The Greek teaching her how to cook and she becoming a very willing pupil. Then there were the strolls to the village, the relaxed conversations as they sat at the tavern, watching the inhabitants of the village watch them, speculating on their lives, inventing stories about each person they saw, and laughing at what would become private jokes. Then The Greek would have his cup of Turkish coffee and afterwards turn the cup upside down and listen to the stories Irina invented as she imagined his future from the images she saw in the grinds.
“There is a man you must be careful of,” she said one evening gazing into the cup. “He is a big man, very powerful, and I don’t think he means you harm himself but there are those around him, many smaller men, who you must avoid.”
The Greek nodded, grunted his usual “Hm” and thought to himself that there were many smaller men in his life that he must be careful of. There would always, in his business, be that.
Suddenly she frowned into the cup, then looked up at him with a question in her pale blue eyes. “Do you believe in God?”
“Why?” he asked, amused by the question. “Do you see Him in my future?”
“It’s not about your future,” she said. “It’s something else.”
She looked a little hesitant, as if she had suddenly entered the wrong room and wasn’t sure of the way out, but licked her lips and finally said, “I just want to know.”
“You want to know if I believe in God?”
“Yes,” she nodded, her long blonde hair suddenly becoming undone and cascading down her cheeks, almost covering her face. She pushed it back behind her ears and looked at him quite earnestly. “Do you?”
“I like your hair,” he said, and then wished he hadn’t. It seemed too personal a comment to make and he was afraid she might take it the wrong way. “I mean, you have very beautiful hair.”
“Yes,” she said sadly. “I have beautiful hair, I am a beautiful girl, but I often wish it were not so. Instead I think I would have preferred to be born ugly.”
“Why?” The Greek asked, and then felt foolish because he knew the answer to his own question and the look she gave him made him feel incredibly sorry he had blundered by asking it.
“I think you know why,” she said in a quiet voice.
He nodded, not having words left that he felt were sufficient to answer.
“But you are not answering my question,” she said after a slight pause. “Do you believe in God?”
”Well,” he said, “I don’t disbelieve in Him.”
She looked at him quizzically, her head tilted slightly to the side and her long blond hair thus freed from behind that ear hung down over her shoulder. He thought then how beautiful she looked like that, with no make-up on, her face tanned from the days out on the water in the sun, her eyes slightly troubled by what seemed to her an evasive answer to her most serious question. And as he thought this, he couldn’t shake the sadness he also felt descending on his shoulders as he once again became aware of the lost youth she had taken from her by people he unfortunately knew.
“That is not exactly an answer,” she said as she straightened up and brushed her hair back behind her ear.
“That hair seems to be giving you trouble,” he said, smiling.
“Never mind my hair,” she said, “and stop trying to change the subject. You haven’t really answered my question.”
“Well I think I have,” he said. “I don’t disbelieve in Him which means I don’t exactly believe in Him. I am, more or less, neutral on the subject.”
“You are neutral about God?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I am willing to not think about Him just as surely as I feel He doesn’t think about me.”
“So you do believe He exists,” she said, trying in her own stubborn way of resolving this question for herself.
“Let me say that I am willing to admit to the possibility.”
“You are a strange man, my eagle,” she said finally, as if that were all the conclusion she needed.
“Yes,” she said. “You are like an eagle, high up in the sky, flying above us all and never landing except high up on some cliff somewhere, away from the people you only look down upon.”
“You think I look down on you?”
“Not in a bad way,” she said. “At least I don’t think you look down on me in a bad way. But you look down on us because you don’t come down to the ground where we are, but choose to stay high above us. Like God, we exist and also we don’t exist for you.”
“You exist for me,” he said, then regretted almost immediately saying it. He wondered why he kept doing things like that, saying things that were much too personal and could give the wrong impression to her, that he cared somehow about her. And then he thought that perhaps he said those very things because he did actually, in fact, care about her. And that troubled him more than he wanted to admit. “I care about some other people, too. Very much.”
“Who?” she asked. “Ivan? People you work with?”
“Well there are a few of them, yes, that I care about,” and he thought of Baris, Sergei, Gokhan. “But also about some people from my past. People from before I got into this business.” And his eyes clouded over, remembering. “People from a long time ago.”
She looked at him for a long moment before she said, “You are a complex man, my eagle.”
“Perhaps,” he said and sighed. “But also perhaps like you do not wish to be beautiful, I do not wish to be complex. I would much rather be simple.”
“Simple is good,” she agreed. “Because if you are simple, you do not question anything. You accept things as they are and are content.”
“Yes,” he nodded, thinking that being simple would be a blessing for both of them.
“I used to believe in God,” she said. “Even back in Russia, when things were not good with my family, I still believed in a God and thought if you prayed hard enough, if you always did the things you were supposed to, that were right in His eyes, that somehow life would get better. That faith was all that was required.” She grew quiet then, staring off to a past of her own. And The Greek just watched her, not knowing what to say since he long ago stopped having faith in anything but himself. “But I don’t think I believe in God anymore.”
“If you don’t think so,” he said softly, “then that means you still are not certain.”
“I want to believe in God again,” she said, almost fiercely, her eyes ablaze suddenly with anger, “but how can I when I’ve seen what I’ve seen? When I’ve experienced what I lived through? How can a God exist that lets these things happen to poor people who have done nothing to deserve it while animals rule the world?”
“You equate belief in God with belief in justice,” he said as quietly as he could.
“But isn’t that what the priests tell us? That through God we will be saved?”
“I’m not sure salvation and justice are the same things,” he said. “But then again, who am I to know of such things.”
“But who else can I ask?” she said with such desperation in her voice, a plea in her eyes. “I have no one else to talk to of this confusion in my heart.”
And it touched him then, in his own heart, an organ he thought was beyond being touched, at least in this way, anymore. And he thought he might appear to be an eagle to her, to others, but even if he was, he could not fly high enough to escape compassion, to avoid empathy, to harden himself, and especially his heart, from the plea in her eyes. And so he found himself saying, “Don’t give up hope yet. Even a God, if He does exist, needs time to right all wrongs.”
“But how much longer can I wait?” she said, her voice now almost a whisper. “You know what will happen eventually. You know what waits for me.”
And he could say nothing, do nothing, except reach across the table that separated them, and take her hand in his. And they sat like that for a long time until it was finally closing time at the tavern and they had the long walk back in the dark to the cabin. But he held her hand the whole way back and gently put her to bed, covering her suddenly frail body with the blanket, caressing her hair with one hand as she eventually fell asleep still clutching his other hand. And he sat on the edge of the bed still smoothing her hair on the pillow , watching her sleep, and wondering just what he should do.
The next day they didn’t talk at all but that wasn’t because there was any awkwardness between them, but on the contrary, it was because quite suddenly they were entirely comfortable in each other’s company now. They had shared something, an intimacy, and though there was so much more to them than that, that was enough to erase any doubt in Irina of him and any reserve he might have still had in him towards her. So even though they didn’t converse, it was evident from the way they sat, stood, moved in concert with each other preparing the morning meal, that they had shared some secret that had drawn them closer than either one of them had thought possible before.
So even though they followed the same routine for the day, there was a difference now in their attitude towards each other that they were both acutely aware of. So as The Greek casually leaned back in the boat to pretend to fish, but was in actually watching Irina swim, there were more emotions whirling inside him now than he would have previously considered and Irina, for her part, felt the water was only part of what was cleansing her now. For his eyes bathed her, too, and she no longer suspected any ulterior motives in their gaze.
Later, as she laid back in the boat letting the sun dry her as before, she thought she wouldn’t mind if he took her now, would actually be relieved in a way, and knew she could easily surrender to whatever passion he might have, but also felt, instinctively, that that was furthest from his mind. She felt something else there, in his gaze, something paternal, and that made her feel secure for the first time in so very long that she finally fell asleep in the boat knowing nothing could harm her now, not even the sun, for he was there, her eagle, spreading his protective wings.
He watched her sleep. He didn’t realize it then, not fully anyway, but he was beginning to hope no one came for them for a long time. They had been here over two weeks now, almost three, and he hoped they would be here much longer, a month, two months. He hoped that man he killed, that Alexi, was important enough to have Ivan keep him cloistered like this for two months, even three. He needed that much time, he thought, to give to her. For some reason he felt it was important to give her time enough to believe in her god again, though he didn’t know how any god could help her now. But it wasn’t something he could know, how a god worked, but he believed, or hoped to believe, that if there was a god somewhere, then that god would know what to do, but it would be important for her to believe in a god again for whatever miracle that could happen to happen. This he was positive of.
So he watched her sleep, watched her breathe deeply and evenly there in the boat under that hot sun, and watched her skin turn a darker tan, watched that young body that should still be innocent and pure but was not any longer, watched as the sun and the water cleansed the filth out and let it look like a teenager again, a young, healthy, worry-free teenager again. He watched and waited for that metamorphoses to take place. And though he was not a praying man, this watching and waiting was as close to prayer as he ever found himself to be.
For dinner he grilled fish they had bought at the market. There was always fresh fish there. Probably the fish he never caught as he sat in the boat watching her swim, but he did not care for he thought he ate the fish anyway, whether he caught them or not. Besides, he would much rather watch her swim. And like now, he found he also liked watching her slice the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the onions to make the çoban salad just as he taught her. But first, she coated the bottom of the bowl with olive oil and sprinkled in oregano and mint, then added the sliced vegetables and poured on the pomegranate juice and squeezed lemon over it all, then tossed it before setting it down on the table. He liked watching her do all that, too.
She looked up at him then, and catching his eye, smiled at him. He couldn’t resist smiling back. And the smiles lingered in the air long after they sat down to eat.
After dinner, they took their customary walk into the village and sat at their usual outdoor table at the tavern. They were viewed as regular customers now and so the owner brought a bottle of raki and a pitcher of ice water for The Greek and a glass and a pitcher of freshly made lemonade for Irina. He also put a plate of nuts, a basket of bread, and another plate of assorted cheese and olives down in front of them, too. Then he left them alone while he went back inside to attend to other regulars. The Greek tore off a piece of bread and put it in his mouth while he mixed his raki and water in his glass but only first after pouring a glassful of lemonade for Irina. And they sat, without conversing, for a long time.
It was sometime after the midway point of their evening when he had his Turkish coffee and had turned it over for her to read his fortune that real conversation began. And that started with the usual vision of dark men, open roads, and what looked like a sea. “This sea seems to be an important part of your life,” she said. “It is a sea, isn’t it?”
“The Black Sea,” he said and smiled sadly. “That is where I am from.”
“You miss it, don’t you?” she asked.
“I cannot miss something that is always with me,” and his eyes got that faraway look in them that she had seen before. “But perhaps I do miss some people I used to know there.”
“Used to know?”
“Well I don’t see them so much anymore.”
“Different lives, I suppose,” and then he thought that wasn’t exactly it. “I lead a different life,” he said. “They are honest people. They have a tea farm in Rize and when I was younger, I would go there and help with the harvest. He is my childhood friend.” And The Greek’s eyes looked off to distant years long, long ago. “We are like brothers.”
“Then you should still go there,” she said. “Or doesn’t he approve of your life now?”
“He would never say that.” And he thought of his friend Mustafa and felt sadness mixed with love in his heart. “It is that we lead such different lives. He is married with four fine sons, the youngest is a man now, just finishing college. The third son is in medical school, the second son teaches high school, and the oldest works with an uncle in the construction business. And what do I have? Just what I carry on my back.”
“The eagle,” she said, smiling slightly. “My lone eagle.”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I am an eagle and he is a lion with a family to protect.”
“Aren’t you happy being an eagle?” she asked. “Or would you rather be a lion, too?”
“I would have to have a family for that.” And he sighed. “But how can I have that with the life I lead?”
”But you chose this life.”
“I’m not so sure,” he said. “Sometimes I think it chose me.”
“What do you do exactly?” she asked.
“Smuggling,” he said. “Guns, mostly, and sometimes alcohol to Arab countries and also clothing, cigarettes, electronic equipment.”
“Women?” she asked, and though she felt funny asking it, she had to know the answer to that.
“No,” he said, looking deeply into her eyes. “I have never smuggled women or drugs.”
“You don’t want to?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I don’t want to.”
“And how did you get involved in smuggling?”
“It was many years ago,” he said. “Someone asked me to carry a package across a border and they paid me to do it. Then someone else asked me, and then someone else. And soon I found I was being paid to bring packages across borders.” He breathed deeply and let out a long sigh. “Then I started driving trucks across, or bringing things over the mountains by mule. I found a friend or two to help me and it became a way to make a living.”
“You like it?”
“I don’t really think about whether I like it or not,” he said. “I just do it.”
“And you like these men you work for?”
“I like the ones I need to like. The others I don’t think about.”
Irina looked at him without speaking for a long moment, then she said, “You’re a strange man. There is good in you, even kindness, but you do bad things.”
“The world is not so easily divided between good men and bad men,” he said. “There Is some good in all bad men, and some bad in all good men.”
“Which are you?” she asked.
“It is not for me to say. Other people, like you, must decide that for yourselves.”
Her eyes strayed from his face, and stared off into a very recent past filled with memories she will never be able to erase from her mind. “I’ve seen too many bad men since I left Russia. And I’ve seen very little good in them.” Then she looked back at him. “But you, you are different from all of them. I have not seen any bad in you.”
“It is there, though,” and he smiled sadly.
They sat for a long time in silence, each lost in thoughts of the past, and trying to understand the connections to the present. Finally he looked at her almost tenderly and said, “Now tell me about you. What was your family like back home?”
“It’s funny,” she said, “but I’ve only been gone a little over eight months but it seems so long ago. I can hardly remember clearly. It is like a dream I once had but cannot remember well upon waking.”
And then she began to relay the events that led to her seeking a job out of Russia. “My father has lung cancer and with the medical bills and his not being able to work any longer, my family was under a lot of strain. I am the oldest so it was up to me to try to find work and a friend of the family, who now I realize is not really a friend, said he had a great opportunity for me. He said there was a new Russian restaurant opening in Paris and the owners, who he knew, were looking for young, attractive girls to work as waitresses. They would pay 50 Euros an hour, plus housing. I couldn’t believe my luck. To work in France and make so much money to help my family. It sounded too good to be true and, of course, it wasn’t.”
And then after supposedly having to switch planes in Bulgaria, she, along with four other Russian girls, were whisked off in a van with darkly tinted windows to a house on the outskirts of Sofia and initiated into their new jobs; gang raped by six thuggish men while a half dozen Ukrainian and Georgian women sat huddled in a corner too frightened and shell shocked to move. The next day another group of four girls came in from Moldova and Romania and Irina, like the rest, sat huddled against the wall and tried not to watch the horror but could not screen out the screams and the sobs.
Finally three days after her arrival, they were ordered to stand and strip while various men came into the large room and inspected them. This was the auction and it was also the first time she saw Andrei who bought her along with three others. They were then smuggled across the border into Turkey and she was given a room in one of the houses run by Ivan. The only merciful thing that happened was that Ivan ran clean houses where every customer had to wear a condom for intercourse and the girls worked regular 12 hour shifts, unless, of course, they were hired out for private parties and then those could go on all night. They were also given a day off, though not because of any kindness but because Ivan thought it would help extend their life expectancy in the business which would, in turn, reap more profits over time. And so, that was her life now and forever, or at least until she was no longer of value to anyone.
The Greek, of course, had heard these stories before, but before they were always about nameless, faceless Natashas. Now he was hearing it about a young girl he had gotten to know, was even growing fond of, who had a name, a face, and it pained him to think of her returning to that life. Only what could he do? She belonged to Ivan and Ivan was his sometime employer, sort of friend. There was nothing he could do and yet he felt that he had to do something. He was beginning to feel as hopeless as Irina.
The walk back to the cabin was a long one in the dark and Irina once again held his hand the entire way back. And once they were in the cabin, she only released his hand so they could both do their nightly bathroom chores but once finished, she held onto it again as she went to bed. And it seemed that only with him sitting there by the side of the bed holding her hand did she feel safe enough to surrender to the night, to sleep. And The Greek once again found himself propped up on the bed next to her, watching her the whole night through.