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The man dove from the dock into deep blue Aegean water and stayed down so long that Levent thought he might be in trouble. It was a relief when the pale form began to move beneath the surface, springing toward the middle of the bay in a series of strong rhythmic kicks. He was twenty-five meters from the pier when his bodyguard dove into the water after him.
The bodyguard would catch the older man, though they were both good athletes. Military, of course. Intelligence, Levent knew. The old manhis name was Tolga and he was in his sixtieswas one of the few operatives who was given lifetime protection. For the things he had done, the Kurds would kill him on sight. Some Arabs, too. Only the Israelis and Americans approved of the mayhem that was synonymous with his career in the service. They may have put up the money for the bodyguard. This government certainly would not.
"What did you say you do?"
Levent looked at the bearded man across the table. An Italian named Federico, he had spoken in English. "I'm an off-line consultant," said Levent. "In Istanbul."
Federico nodded as if he understood. Levent did not usually tell civilians he was a police inspector in one of the world's largest cities. That often made them ill at ease. It sometimes made them disappear.
"So far," said Federico, using his eyebrows forcefully, "I haven't met one person in Bodrum who's from Bodrum. Everyone's from Istanbul."
"In summer, yes," said the third man at the table, a Turk named Turan. "It's a colony, and it was founded by people from the mother city to draw more people from the mother city. Istanbul is such a big busy place. If you want to see your friends, you have to come to Bodrum in high season."
"So they're not here for the water," said Federico. "Seems a shame. Offshore or down deep it's some of the best I've seen."
"Certainly they come for the water," said Turan. "There always has to be an excuse for social occasions."
Was that true? Did it matter? They were making conversation, and Turan was a gifted talker with a fine raconteur's voice who wore his head of gray-black hair like a crown. He had an enormous house outside the city that rode the mountain like a crown, and that was only one of his places of resort.
Levent was out of his social order when on vacation and into the web of connections his wife kept like a dowry. He had let her choose their place, a comfortable, close-to-the-sea rental, but they always agreed on Bodrum. The place had kept him and Emine coming back almost every year since they were married. It was the finest summer resort in the world, they liked to thinka mountain desert surrounded by water. And the water at Bitez was the best of the best.
"The whole thing started when Jevat Shakir was exiled here during the forties," said Turan, who had gotten into the rhythm of his story. "He was the son of a well-known family from Istanbula family of artistswho was sent down to Bodrum for shooting his father."
"Dead?" asked Federico.
"Of course," said Turan. "It doesn't seem useful to do less if you've made up your mind."
"Actually," said Levent, "the father had taken Jevat's wife as his mistress. She was an Italian, by the way."
"Understandable," said Federico. "A bit extreme."
Turan looked at Levent either with disapproval or as an oracle. "I hadn't heard that part of the story."
"Well, it provides what's lacking," said Levent. "Motivation."
"It doesn't really matter," said Turan, smoothing his way into the newest version of the tale like a salesman. "He was a great man. A writer. He made Bodrum what it is today. All those eucalyptus trees we see on the road to Marmaristhe ones that sucked up the swamps and made the place what it isJevat had them planted. He invented the Blue Cruises that all the tourists enjoy so much. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that practically everything we love about Bodrum is his legacy."
"But it doesn't seem like a great punishment," said Federico. "Being exiled to the finest part of the country for patricide."
"It wasn't like that then," said Turan. "Bodrum was such a damned dead place in those days. A fishing village. If you wanted to be rid of someone, this was as good an exile as there was. What you see now is pure sophistication. The Turkish Riviera."
"An overbuilt Riviera," said Levent.
Turan looked at Levent as if he did not like being contradicted, even in casual conversation. His eyes turned from dark brown to the lack of light. He got to his feet abruptly, turning to the back of his chair and the mask and fins he had left to dry.
"I'm going in the water and toward the point," he said. "Anyone join me?"
Levent shook his head definitely no.
"I'm coming," said Federico. "Never go alone, they say, and if possible, with an expert."
Levent watched them gather their equipment and walk up the plank-set waterside to the other end of the dock closest to the point. Each carried a spear gun. Hunters for the tribe. The Good Life tribe. It would nice if they managed a catch as fine as the firstan octopus of generous size gotten not a hundred meters off the dock. They had hired a boy to beat the creature forty times against the stones at the bottom of the beach to prevent the meat from toughening. It had not. Levent thought it was the best lunch he had in some time after the octopus was prepared by the chef at the cafe. That fellow was from Istanbul, too.
The Inspector of Police, Istanbul Homicide, moved from the table where he sat to the rows of chaise lounges crowding the head of the dock. On one of the first in the line, his wife lay. Hers was a highly ritualized encounter with nature, following Helios in its movements through the cloudless sky with the speed of a sundial.
"We might have some fish for dinner if those two get lucky."
Emine accepted the comment as if they had been talking for hours. She sat up, looking over the breasts that were so young, though she was not quite. Her black hair was done up in a bandanna of dark green and gold, shading her eyes as she searched the shore until she found Federico and Turan. Her eyes held as the two men tumbled from the edge of the pier into the water.
"I'm not sure luck is the word," said Emine. "I've heard tell that Turan was once the best diver in these parts."
"The Aegean," she said. "The Mediterranean, too, if you believe the gossip."
"Seems like an odd skill for an industrialist to have."
"He wasn't always so urbane," said Emine in her story voice. "In the old days when Bodrum had one paved road, Turan was the captain of a working vessel. After he taught the locals all they needed to know about fishing and diving, he went on to greater things."
"The word of his friends."
"And local legend."
"Put those two together and it might settle somewhere north of the truth."
"You're skeptical," she said. "I might be, too, if he wasn't so rich."
"Stories always gather around that much money," said Levent. "The dirtiest ones are often the truest."
"I defer to your expertise," she said. "In the meantime, see to your cell phone. It rang a few minutes ago."
Levent did not like that. He was on vacation and the only calls to his number should be social. Emine always came by those first, so there should be nothing on his machine's mind.
"You're sure it rang?" he asked.
"Why don't you look?" she said. "There can't be two phones on this coast that ring out Benny and the Jets."
Not likely. Levent dug his phone from the white beach bag. Yes, a call came up on the screen of his Samsung.
An unknown number. That was the best or the worst. And there was seldom a best in his business.
* * *
It was the worstthe call had come from the Chief. Levent would have recognized his number anywhere, even in a dark dreamless sleep, but the call had not come from the office phone of the most devious man he had ever known. Nor was it from the cell phone of the most powerful man in the Istanbul police department. The Chief had a new one, it seemed. The old one had disappeared. Or been stolen.
"Left it on the damned table at Mister Chips, just like any citizen does," he said, referring to a well-known bar and gambling den. "Got up to go to the toilet and when I returned it was gone."
"It's an unbelievable nuisance," he said. "And it took a lot of ass. Everyone at that table knew who I was. Everyone in the whole damned place. This is as bad as stealing the imam's master CD for the Call to Prayer. It's worse, because when I find that bastard, his balls are the only thing he'll have left. He might not want them back in that condition, though."
"I'm surprised you didn't arrest everyone there, sir."
"The thought occurred to me," he said. "But I decided that I shouldn't commit the Minister of the Interior, the Deputy Mayor of the city, and my brother-in-law to the same jail cell."
"Perhaps only the last, sir."
"That would have been the least safe," he said. "You don't know my wife well."
"Hardly at all."
The Chief cleared his throat, creating space for the unpleasantness he was sure to announce. "Enough of my problems," he said without meaning it. "I understand you're at Bodrum."
"Yes, sir. And enjoying my time away from the job."
"But I know you, Onur. Two days in the sun is the limit before boredom sets in. So I've arranged to pass something of interest your way."
"That isn't necessary, sir."
"I'll be the judge of what's necessary," he said. "That's my job. Yours is to listen. An hour ago I took a call from the commandant of Jandarma down your way. I'd have been on the phone sooner if I hadn't had to look up your number through my secretary. He's a good man, the commandant, met him at a conference in Ankara last year, but real crime is something he isn't comfortable with. This one has an odor. Apparently, a man was attacked in daylight yesterday in the parking lot of a convenience store. He was set on fire and burnt to toast inside his car."
"I hadn't heard anything like that, sir."
"You wouldn't," said the Chief. "It's a serious crime in a prime tourist area. I don't have to say more. Before they send all the English packing for Manchester, they'll deny that anything took place. A bad carburator or something. So the investigation has to be kept under tight control. Nothing goes to the press and nothing for the hotel staff to gossip about. This kebab never happened."
"I understand, sir."
"I know you do, Inspector. You'll get to the bottom of this and do it without attracting attention. I've guaranteed the commandant that. The man is at a loss, never having dealt with anything more serious than honor killings."
"His name, sir?"
"How do you expect me to know that?" said the Chief. "He has one. I gave him yours so he'll be able to nod politely when you present yourself. You'll be sure to do that right away, Inspector."
Levent let a long moment pass before he answered. "Yes, sir."
"This is a favor to me, Onur. You know I honor my debts."
Levent knew nothing of the kind. He might have known the opposite if pressed. But there was no refusing the Chief, or the Minister of Tourism, who was probably on the other line. The only problem was how Levent would present this to Emine.
"I'll let you know how things come around, sir."
"You'll let me know when you've done the job," he said. "This case is out of our jurisdiction, and out of my mind as of this moment."
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The crime was also outside the jurisdiction of the Bodrum city police. That was the reason the Jandarma had gotten the case. They were the state police who took care of all the districts, rural and suburban, that were too small to maintain a force of their own. A sensational murder was outside their normal run of mayhem. A kebab was unusual anywhere outside Iraq.
Due to the population boom on the peninsula, the Jandarma probably should have been replaced by a regular police force, but Bodrum was a series of peninsulas within the larger one, scattering in crooked fingers with small towns sitting on them. This Jandarma headquarters stood like a white fortress at the top of the hill twenty kilometers from the city, the driveway ending at the iron gates of the compound.
The guard on duty was a private, but he had the combat boots and green beret that all the Jandarma wore, as if they were special forces. That was true in the east, where the Jandarma were the first line of defense against civilian crime, and the guerrilla forces that Kurdish terrorists, the PKK, kept in the field. Since Levent's only experience with a man being burnt in a car had involved a terrorist bombing, his mind went in that direction. He knew he should curb the feeling. The facts came first.
"The car was released to the Bodrum City Police to see if their forensics can find anything," said the commandant of the station. "They're aware of the priority and should be back to us today with preliminary findings."
Levent, who had taken a plastic chair that looked like a slice of melon, did his best to come to the facts slowly. The commandant's namethe one the Chief had never spokenwas Metin, which meant solid, strong, and contradicted nothing about him. He was a thick block of a man, not tall or fat but filling every angle of his uniform. His calm brown eyes were the last thing anyone would notice, which was their mistake. Well-spoken and a university graduate, he was glad to have assistance from outside his command while surrendering none of his authority inside his headquarters.
"The crime was committed yesterday, I understand," said Levent. "At about what time?"
"Five in the afternoon," said the commandant. "The car was parked in the side lot of the store and only the cars of some of the staff were there. No one saw a thing, though some people had to pass through the store around that time."
"Have you questioned everyone with a view of the parking lot?"
"The surrounding area, yes," he said. "The road has steady traffic, but it's not like a city street. Between five and five-fifteen any number of cars passed on the road. Fifty or a hundred vehicles probably."
"Nothing from them?"
"Nothing except the man who stopped to say that a car was afire in the parking lot," said the commandant. "The clerk at the register had no idea. Looking back, he thought he might have smelled smoke and heard a small explosion. But he was inside all that time, seeing to some customers and stacking a delivery that had come in half an hour before."
It was not likely that the man who lit the torch would bother to report his crime, or that the clerk was involved. The man should have noticed something, however.
"Did the clerk recognize the victim?"
"The identification wasn't easy," said the commandant with distaste that rode his hairless upper lip. "The body was badly burnt. Even the face was completely charred. But the clerk was sure because of the shoes he'd seen in the store. They were new and white. Deck shoes. They turned several different colors with the fire, but he recognized them. They were a good brand, so he probably fancied them. Most people here wear sandals in summer."
Levent waited as one of the commandant's subordinates came with the tea service. The private with the slick sleeve was well trained, waiting patiently at the door until the commandant noticed his presence. One nod brought him into the room with grave haste. Discipline and hierarchy were the hallmark of the Jandarma as courtesy and a welcome of tea was the hallmark of this land.
"Metin, with those deck shoes, do you think the victim could have been a sailor?"
The commandant agreed with a nod. "I have some of my men checking the marinas downtown and in this area. But there are a lot of boats in the summer. Not only the ones that hook up at marinas, but others that put in to any of the coves. We have a lot of those on the peninsula."
Not an infinite number, but plenty. Three major marinas, several minor ones, and fifteen or twenty coves by Levent's count, which could have been light. One of the first things he would do was find a good map. The tourist never knew an area like geodesic survey did.
"Had the clerk seen the victim in his store before yesterday?"
"He said no. I couldn't find a reason to doubt him. He was cooperative and embarrassed by all that happened. He seemed to think he should have noticed a serious blaze in his parking lot."
"Did you run a check on him?"
The commandant's reaction told better than words. His deep chest seemed to take a physical blow. "No, Inspector."
"Do," said Levent. "I like to think I'd notice a car afire on my watch. I might even have heard a scream from a man who was being burnt alive."
"Yes," said the commandant, scrawling a note to the subordinate who stood outside the door on duty. The man entered the room, took the note from his superior and walked away down the hall. Almost before he disappeared, another subordinate replaced him at the door.
"It did seem odd, Inspector. I asked forensics to have a look at the body to see if the victim was dead before the fire started."
"That should tell us something one way or the other," said Levent. "It would be good if they find out how the fire started."
"We may know something about that already," said the commandant. "We found the gas cap on the ground ten meters from the car. It had been attached to the car by a fastener and probably was blown off when the fire reached the tank. There was a boom. Not Hollywood grade, but a definite noise."
That was odd. If the killer had finished his victim, and afterward taken the time to wick a fire from the gas tank, he was a confident operator. He did not seem concerned that he might be interrupted at his work, or perhaps he counted on luck. In that case, he was an amateur. A bold one.
"What kind of car?"
"A Mercedes," said the commandant. "It wasn't new before the fire took it the rest of the way. Six years. Silver gray. We couldn't even read the plates. Forensics should have that soon."
"So we have some time," said Levent. "Do you think the same clerk will be on duty at the store today?"
"I don't know," he said. "But we have his number."
"Tell him we'll meet him at the store if he's not there already."
* * *
They drove down to the main road, Levent following in his car as several men piled into the large van that the Jandarma used for everything but social functions. They were all heavily armed with pistols and automatic rifles, including a young sergeant with a specialist's patch. What he specialized in should become clear in time.
The store was part of a Turkish chain that ran nationwide. It sat close to the road with several parking spaces in front for quick ins and outs. Why the victim had parked around the side was unclear, but it might have been to get his car out of the sun. The side lot took some shade from the overhang of the building.
The blackened and weirdly scorched area stood three parking places in from the front of the store. It had been a hell of a blaze that left holographic images on the concrete wall five meters away. The local fire department had responded with an array of vehicles, but were hampered as always by the lack of hydrants. He was not sure any existed in the whole country, but the firemen had put down enough chemicals to drench the area in a very bad smell.
The flames had been so intense that several lumps of congealed plastic fused to the asphalt pavement. Levent tapped the biggest one with the toe of his shoe. Nothing budged, but a glint of metal within the blob caught his eye. He bent down to look closely and slowly pried the lump loose.
A curious fragment, a piece of metal with notches or slots. It had a slight concave curve, and somehow seemed familiar.
"What do you suppose this belonged to?"
Metin bent down to look. He stayed down as if he had something to add. "It could be a piece of windshield wiper," he said. "A headlight wiper. The car had one if I recall, hanging from the left front headlight. I don't think they make them any longer, but some of the older models came loaded from the factory like that."
For an expensive car, Mercedeses were common in Turkey, so anything that made it less common was a gift. A small one. Levent placed the fragment in one of the plastic bags he always carried. Why he should have carried it on his vacation made a case for prescience or stupidity.
"Let's go now and talk to the clerk."
* * *
He was a man on the near side of middle-age with blue trousers that hung down to mid-calf, as if he was a seagoing sort, too. Levent did not think that likely. The clerk was short and bent at the shoulders, but it was less a matter of height than the sad crouch of a domestic. He had grown a brush mustache of the kind that had carried the Turkish nation from the wastelands of Central Asia without one frozen lip in the tribe. Otherwise, he seemed modern, even to the Chicago Bulls T-shirt. They had not done well in the playoffs. Levent's team, the Celtics, had taken the crown.
"Are you certain you'd never seen this man in the store before?"
"Not that I remember," said the clerk in a wary voice. "But I'm not the only man at this register. Or woman, either. We have four clerks for the shifts."
"Was there anything about him that you'd call memorable?"
"The look in his eye," said the clerk. "You see it when you go any place you're not wanted. They stand at the door. They only let the pretty girls or the money in."
"He looked like a bouncer?"
"He looked like one who got old in the saddle. I don't know if they all do. He was about fifty or a little more."
"Do you remember why he stopped in?" asked Levent. "What did he buy?"
"Cigarettes," he said. "He took a pocket lighter, too, one of the plastics on the counter there. I'd hate to think I sold him the murder weapon."
"Probably not," said Levent, turning to the commandant. "You didn't find a sales receipt in the car, did you?"
"Paper," said Metin. "Not a chance."
"What about the sales receipt from your register?" said Levent, turning back to the clerk. "You should have it in your back tapes."
"God knows," he said. "That was yesterday. I'd have to dig it out of the bin."
"We can wait," said Levent. "Check now, please."
The clerk went unwillingly but with determination after he looked at Levent's face. He opened a small cardboard box from behind the counter. It was lucky that the tape had not already been sent to headquarters in Istanbul, where all the garbage landed. Levent saw that Metin was not quite sure of the reason for the request.
"It's useful to establish time of death as close as possible. The tape should tell us exactly when he left the store."
The commandant smiled. "That's very good, Inspector. I'm making a list of the things I should have done."
"They're the things time on the job makes automatic," said Levent. "I wish I'd made a list when I started at homicide."
"I'm going to say I believe you for now."
Make that forever, thought Levent, and call it a start. The principle was the same no matter what vector the case took. If a time of death was needed, the investigator had better look around for things that told time. Machines did that best.
"I've got it," said the clerk, coming up from his crouch. He held the roll of tape out by both hands and moved it onto the counter. "Cigarettes and a lighter."
Levent bent down for a close look. Cigarettes, a lighterand something called a Magnum. That sounded promising.
"What's the last item mean?"
"Magnum's a chockolat bar," said the clerk. "Frozen. I'm guessing, but I don't think they do well in that kind of fire."
No, but there was one surprise on the receipt. The commandant said that the fire started around five, but the machine reported that the victim had still been inside the store at 5:11. Add another minute to get out the door to his car and an indeterminate length of time before the fire was spotted. So time of death could not have been much before 5:15. Possibly later.
That meant nothing yet, but certainly could. Levent passed out the front door of the store, following the path the victim should have taken yesterday if he had gone in the logical way that he should have.
The heat that replaced the air-conditioning was staggering. It seemed to draw Levent into it with the false promise that it could not grow worse. The highway that passed by planed like a boat in the heat, rising slightly higher than the front of the store. The buildings on the other side of the road were higher still. Yes, this had been a hill before man leveled it to his liking.
To the left stood a marble factory store with slabs of productbright white and probably local stonedisplayed in the front yard. The store should have been open at five yesterday.
"I suppose you spoke to the people at the marble shop?"
"Yes, but the owner saw nothing," said the commandant. "He was out back storing his best travertine in the shed. The rest of the marble isn't worth the trouble of moving every night, so he leaves it outside."
Levent was sure the man knew his market. He was not so sure of the next business in the dusty line on the other side of the road. It was a large gasoline station that stood opposite the convenience store at a vaguely convex angle. The gas pumps and service area were so far to the right that it would have been impossible to see anything in the side parking lot of the store.
But directly across the street, three large tanker trucks were parked. They must be used for local deliveries of the oil products that were becoming more precious by the day. One hundred dollars a barrel. One-thirty. Almost certain to make one-fifty. The tankers should be valuable even if they were not fully loaded. Levent bet they were protected.
"You spoke to the people at the filling station?"
"Yes," said the commandant. "They were aware of the fire, but late noticing it. One of the men from the pumps ran over to help, but thought better of sticking his head into the flames."
"They weren't in the best position to observe," said Levent. "Or help once the fire began. But it might be different where the tankers are parked. How many were sitting out yesterday?"
"The same number," said the commandant. "Three. I'm sure."
"So several tankers are a constant," said Levent. "I'd like to know how far management goes to protect its investment."
"What are you thinking?"
Levent shrugged. "A surveillance camera?"
Metin tried to hide his embarrassment again. "I didn't ask. They didn't volunteer. The only men around late yesterday were the ones at the pumps. And they may not know they're being watched."
"Given the price of oil, we should find out how well the station is equipped. It seems like a new installation."
Metin motioned for the Jandarma with the specialist's patch to join them, and they walked across the hot dusty road. Levent followed, stopping every few paces to look back at the parking lot at the side of the building where the victim died. He could see the area clearly all the way to the other side of the road.
As they came near the tankers, Levent noticed for the first time the little building standing behind a row of freshly planted evergreens. Midway between the tankers and the service area, it was almost secreted there.
"The manager's office," said Metin as he stepped up and knocked at the door.
The man who opened the door was obviously in charge of the station, though he wore no uniform and clearly would have been uncomfortable in one. Just above six feet tall and fifty years old, the strong foundation of his face welcomed the advance of age from deep eye sockets and brown eyes that seemed sunk in the bed of the earth. Their look changed from cross at having been interrupted to accommodating as he considered the commandant and his entourage.
"Yes, sir," he said. "May I help you?"
"Commandant Comert, Jandarma," he said. "I'm afraid we didn't have a chance to meet yesterday."
"Fazil Gazi," said the man, putting his hand forward for a brisk shake. "I'm the manager of this station. Please, come in."
The commandant made the introductions as the three visitors filed into a wide one-room building. Twin desks stood east and west, as if maintenance of the station required those numbers. Certificates of competence lined the walls, along with photographs enumerating the important career points of management and the details of their lives. That included the declining beauty of their wives and a gaudy circumcision portrait of someone's son. Also a portrait of Ataturk in evening dress. A good sign. It meant the man was secular in his leanings. That sometimes helped.
"Tea?" he asked.
"Of course," said Levent.
The manager rang up his service with pleasure as his guests took seats before his desk. Levent's eyes searched the photos and gewgaws before settling on a large console on the wall between the two desks. Like all the furnishings, it was well made. Levent was sure something important was housed inside.
"I'm sure you know about the incident that took place yesterday across the street," said the commandant. "The fire."
"Of course I was told," said the manager, running his fingers across the hairline that formed a fine widow's peak. "Terrible business. And terrible for business. I don't know what this country is coming to when things like this happen in a public place in broad daylight. I've been living in Bodrum for thirty years and don't ever recall anything like it."
Levent found the man's emphasis correct. He seemed to lament the state of affairs under the current Islamic government. The breakdown of order had advanced at a record pace, fueled by the empowerment of their supportersthe poor. Unfortunately, what the poor often felt empowered to do was criminal.
"Have you had much trouble at this station?" asked Levent. "Say, with theft or vandalism?"
"I suppose we're lucky our customers don't have much choice," said the manager. "When they look at their gas gauge, they know it's time to get off the road. Most of the trouble we've had has been pilfering from the fast food racks. This station stays open until ten o'clock every evening, and we keep three men on duty. It helps."
"What about the evenings?" asked Levent. "Has the station been broken into?"
"Once," he said. "But we caught the thieves on our camera."
"Your surveillance camera?"
"Yes, indeed," he said as if proud to be current. "We have a full array, as all the new stations do. We called the Jandarma at oncenot your station, commandant, but the other up the roadand they ran those shameful bastards down in good order. The same day, in fact. That kind of news travels fast among criminals. We haven't had any trouble since, except for some midnight raids on our tankers."
"You're talking about the tankers down at this end of the lot," said Levent. "Are they usually filled with oil?"
"Always some," he said. "The thieves can't steal the trucks because they're immobilized, but they were siphoning off oil late in the evenings. It was a clumsy business that made for some difficult repairs until we installed a camera to cover that part of the lot. We haven't had any trouble since."
"The camera," said Levent. "It should have a partial view of the convenience store across the street, shouldn't it?"
"At long range," he said, drawing his hands apart. "I'm not sure you could find anything to use from the tapes."
The tapes. Of course they should keep them, at least for a while. A day might be all that Levent needed. Even a camera at long range could provide a record. It should be something like a sales receipt in that it kept time.
So they went to the console as the tea service came through the door. The large wooden leaves of the cabinet opened to reveal a surprising number of monitors. Three rows. Nine in all. Levent found out how the sergeant got his specialist's patch in the Jandarma when the young man took the equipment in hand. With no help from the manager, he dialed through the tapes until he arrived in digital numerals near the correct time on the preceding day.
Eight of the monitors were focused too narrowly on the busy front of the station, but one returned something like the view that Levent wanted. The camera, mounted high on the fence, rotated through a semi-circle of nearly one hundred and eighty degrees, taking in the right side of the gasoline station. Basically, that was the tanker view, but as the camera swung to zero and back again to the tankers, the road beyond the station could be seen. The front parking lot of the convenience store and the apron of the side lot came into view between the slow rotations.
Levent could see at once that no significant detail would be gotten from the crime scene three parking spaces deep in the side lot. The range was too great and several obstructions at the front of the station intervened. A small tree at the side of the store that he had not noticed seemed to spread its dusty leaves for the sole purpose of obscuring the camera eye.
But the road was visible periodically, and the sergeant stopped moving through the tape when the read-out on the screen said: 5:06.
"I'll run it five minutes preceding the event and five after," he said, as he worked the backward and forward arrows. "We can't count on accurate clock-time from these read-outs."
The sergeant moved forward with real speed but not in real time. Nothing passed on the road for the first two minutes except two cars. Neither stopped. Neither slowed.
At three minutes, a silver Mercedes pulled from the road into the front parking lot. The driver seemed to hesitate, driving slowly past two empty spots in front before cruising to the side of the store. He was visible as he entered the side lot, and then, damn it, he disappeared. That meant what happened to him later, after he left the store, would not be part of the record either.
Levent's luck worsened when the camera swung from the road to a tighter focus on the tankers. If another car followed the Mercedes into the lot, he would miss it.
He almost did. Nearly ten seconds passed as the camera swung away, and he did not see the man exit the Mercedes or walk to the store. But he saw the rear of a second car enter the side lot. It passed out of sight as the Mercedes had. Levent had no means of identification except to note that the car was dark green.
"Back it up," he said to the sergeant. "Run the sequence again."
The sergeant-technician rewound the tape until he reached the beginning of the sequence where the Mercedes appeared.
Unfortunately, the repeat of the tape was no help. The Mercedes passed. The camera rotated. When it came back to the scene, the rear of the green car moved out of sight into the lot around the side. If anyone got out of the car, he did not show himself for the camera.
"If it matters," said the commandant, "both cars came from the direction of Yalikavak."
Yalikavak was the only town close to the scene of the crime. It was almost too much to think they could narrow the investigation to that area.
"Run the rest now."
It was nervous work watching the tape, especially during the periods when the camera swung away to the tankers. The periods seemed to lengthen even as the machine that performed the functions measured out the same interval. At no time when the camera returned to a frontal view did Levent see a sign of another human being in the side lot. The only thing that he thought he sawthen became sure ofwas a startled flight of small birdsstarlings probablythat rose in a small cloud from the back of the lot and quickly vanished into the continuation of the hill behind the store. Had they reacted to a movement? A sudden noise?
Then he saw the man. The dead man.
It was no more than a glimpse that lasted a second, but he was the only thing moving toward the side lot. He wore new white shoes.
Levent waited. He saw nothing more for the longest time. He did not know if they were seconds or minutes.
All he had to do to find the time that had elapsed was look at the numbers on the screen. He found he could not. Although Levent was an experienced investigator whose soul had been confiscated by his work years ago, he felt the emotion in his body. A man would die in that lot. A man would die soon. There was no way to shout a warning into the past, but everything in Levent wanted to.
The man was probably dead already. He had walked into the lot at 5:12 bearing on 5:13, not in a great hurry but not dawdling. Though it was hard to judge size from the angle of the monitor and the distance, the victim was not a small man. Broad-shouldered with a tight mound of belly, he was at least six feet from the ground and possibly more. Bouncer material. It would not have been easy to bring him down in a head-to-head confrontation. But an ambush, yes.
Any man, yes.
At exactly 5:18, like a breath of an angel, Levent saw a plume of pale light jet from within the parking lot. He would not have known it was fire without this window from the future. Coming within the heat of the day, the greater heat seemed to glow like a faint gas.
Suddenly, a green car crashed from the lot, digging into the asphalt as it mounted to the level of the road. The killer was no longer cool. Smoke followed his car, first black and then white, as if more than one thing were changing states.
"Peugeot," said the commandant. "It's a dark green Peugeot."
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