Mr. Buycaz’s chorus kicked off again. When I stood up and extended my hand to officially take leave, Omir pulled me into a bear hug and kissed me four times on each cheek. I waved good-bye to his Uncle. He was skipping the hookah cord and chanting all sorts of gibberish, of which I could only understand the name of his newest cash cow.
I went to my room and logged on. I opened a Word document and started my copy. I plugged in my headphones and started down my list of contacts. I got through to an old university roommate who was a sub-sub-editor at the New York Times. “Yo Paul, I’m in the armpit of Turkey at the shoe factory, yes the press conference-shoe, yep, the one Bush dodged… selling like hot-cakes…. it’s pure economic proof of the political unrest to come, these sales are a global forecast, everyone that ordered the shoe is an anti-US sympathizer, more than 200 000 overnight…”
Paul said to send it through. I contacted an ex-girlfriend at Reuters who also wanted the story. I covered my contacts in the UK, Canada, Australia, and even India. All told, if they all accepted, I’d be looking at over six grand for 1200 words and a couple of photos. Not including the original commission from SIGE. It was impossible to sleep. I worked all night and felt great. The next morning, I checked my camera gear and went down to breakfast. Mehmet was standing outside my door smoking.
“Sleep well sir?”
“Not much, and you?”
“Sleep very very well, sleep with Suluova girl. She teach the local wrestling, very good sir.”
“Is the car ready?”
“Clean and ready sir.”
We arrived at the BuyCanShoe.com headquarters. Omir met me in the parking lot with more hugs and kisses. I told Mehmet to stay by the car. Omir told me his Uncle would not be joining us, as it was all hands on deck in the plant. He also informed me that sales orders had jumped to 900 000 pairs overnight and they had hired 20 new workers. I congratulated him and then he offered me a job running his international advertising department, I pretended to not take the offer seriously. A few minutes later, Omir showed me into a showroom. I took photos for about two hours. Omir produced the secretary, with veiled, striking, deep eyes. I took some photos of her standing on the American flag with the Bush shoe, a photo I knew I could never use, at least not in a newspaper. Just before lunch, we wrapped up. The secretary hovered away. Omir hugged and kissed me good-bye, and Mehmet drove me back to the hotel.
I went straight to my room and started uploading the photos. After a shower and a couple of hours typing, I submitted my final copy and a selection of the best photos. I was over the moon and went down to the lobby to celebrate with a massive meal. After my second beer, the receptionist brought a phone over. It was Paul.
“What the fuck are you trying to do to me?”
“What are you on about?” I asked.
“Did you forget where I am? Who I work for? They almost canned me for plugging this drivel. They have submitted the text to The Feds. They want a list of all the buyers.”
“But it’s true, all true.”
“I don’t care what it is. My boss is on the phone to the CIA. This is a national security issue. We can’t run this story. We can’t help terrorists sell shoes. If I were you, I’d get the fuck out of there fast, and don’t call me for a while.”
“But they are not terrorists… they are just buying shoes.”
He hung up. I stared at my beer. Two seconds later, the Ex from Reuters called. Same story. “We can’t help terrorists sell shoes.” No debate. I threw the phone on the sofa. I walked over to the window and lit a cigarette. I looked out at the hotel pool. It was cracked and had no water.