“I got that much, can you ask him if we should come back another…” Then I shut up. Patience is key to journalism. No one talks to anyone in a rush. I mentally berated myself for hiring Mehmet. Although I liked him and a colleague had recommended him, he wasn’t reliable. I never should have hired a Christian with a Muslim name. I had thought he would have access to both worlds, but I was wrong, perhaps in Istanbul, but out here he was as lost as I was, both doors locked and guarded. Like a Scotsman in Northern Ireland, no one knew on which side of the fence he hung his hat. The locals acted warmer to me because I was clearly from another planet.
Mr. Buycaz had finished the first call and was now typing frantically into his laptop. The landline rung. All formality gone. Mr. Buycaz a general in battle. He barked at Mehmet.
“We must go now, sir. Come back tomorrow same time, sir.”
“Very very. Come sir, we go.”
I stood up to shake Mr. Buycaz’s hand. Mehmet was already out the door. I paused, holding the gesture. Mr. Buycaz looked right through me; I was credibly invisible. The businessman turned his back, walked to the window and continued shouting into the phone. I went out the door and saw Mehmet holding the elevator open. I said good-bye to the cutely veiled secretary, who had been so happy to show off her schoolbook English. No response, she was yielding calls and spastically typing. Pen in mouth. Not even a nod.
Pulling out of the plant, I asked Mehmet, “What was that all about?”
“I don’t know sir, very very strange. Best we go Hotel. Hotel TV CNN will tell you directly. I take you directly yes sir? Hotel lobby CCN okay sir?”
“Fine Mehmet, but drive slowly, I want to see town.”
I was the only guest in the hotel. I told Mehmet that he could take the night off. I went straight to my room, called for lamb and beer, then stripped down and took a hot shower. I sang while the room steamed, nothing like hot water. I was drying in front of the BBC World Service football highlights, finishing the kebab, contemplating ordering another bottle when reception rang and told me a Mister Buycaz was in the lobby asking for me.
I got dressed, grabbed my notebook, recorder, downed the beer, turned off the TV and was in the lobby shaking Mr. Buycaz’s hand in four minutes. Mr. Buycaz went down on one knee and began kissing my ring-less ring finger. He began chanting what seemed a magic spell. I scanned the room for Mehmet. Was this a marriage proposal?
Suddenly, a tall thin bushy-bearded man in a tight blue suit stepped forward and said in posh British, “He is apologizing.”
“Accepted. How do I get him off?”
“Just say something very loud for all to hear.”
“It is not important. Whatever you say, I will translate it as ‘I forgive you’.”
“I forgive you, though I have no idea what you did.”
“Okay you were a bit cold this afternoon after the phone call, but I understand. Water under the bridge, now get up. All forgiven.”