Flowers from the Black Sea
A.B. Decker’s next novel, which is due to be published in March 2024, is set against a background of corruption, political tension and femicide in a Turkish resort.
Tasked with locating a man called Ahmet, Matt Quillan quickly finds himself out of his depth and much more than he had bargained for.
Here’s a taster:
The cool wind that blew across the tarmac caught Matt Quillan off guard as he negotiated the steps down from the plane. The shock of that early-morning breeze on his face was punctuated by a solitary drop of rain that hit him in the eye. He had not expected Istanbul to be so cold and damp in the dying days of September.
Picking up his bags from the carousel some thirty minutes later, he headed outside for the buses. It was not a fear of flying with the local airline that prompted him to shun the transfer desk for domestic flights. He needed time to get his head around what he was doing on this southeasternmost fringe of Europe. For Matt, it had the hallmarks of a country moving into the fast lane to tyranny.
He really had no wish to be here. But a long-distance bus ride to the south coast of Turkey would at least delay his arrival by the best part of a day and give him time to think.
Walking out into the chill of the morning air to get the bus, he could not escape the presence of heavily armed guards. They lurked on every corner. At every exit. And did nothing to ease Matt’s apprehension. Or to allay his doubts about ever agreeing to come here in the first place.
His sense of foreboding was not diminished by what was about to follow. A looming mountain to the right of him caught his attention as he neared the end of his journey. It underlined his disquiet in bold.
He had agreed to locate a person of interest for his old friend Ben Braithwaite. Matt was no sleuth and had no idea what awaited him or what his first move should be. Ben had suggested only that he start the search in a resort on the Mediterranean coast. As to why he was even looking for the person, he had remained stubbornly evasive.
Matt felt forever indebted to his old friend for funding his start-up in the security business. Without this help, he would likely still be battling his demons of alcohol, cocaine and poker tables. Or at best floundering on a zero-hours contract somewhere.
So, when Ben called in the debt one day, Matt knew he had no other option. It was a good six weeks ago when, out of the blue, Ben called to say he was in town and why didn’t they meet for a drink. They had not seen each other for a good seven or eight years. It proved to be a drinking date he would never forget.
“This has nothing to do with company business, Matt. So I’ll be paying you out of my own pocket, but you’ll be rewarded handsomely,” he said, before lifting the empty glass again.
Matt nodded, and mulled the prospect of financial compensation. With a divorce to deal with in the months ahead, the extra money was not to be sniffed at.
“So, just supposing I go along with this,” he said, when Ben returned from the bar with two more glasses of beer, “who am I looking for?”
“The man’s called Ahmet. Ahmet Karadeniz. He was last known to be in or around a tourist resort on the south coast of Turkey called Karakent. Runs a property business, so he should be quite easy to find.”
“If he’s so easy to find, why don’t you go and look for him yourself?” Matt asked.
“I’ll be sailing down that way in October. I’m hoping you’ll have found him by then,” Ben said.
This was no explanation. And it was his friend’s evasiveness that nagged at Matt’s thoughts now as the bus headed over the Bosphorus and into Anatolia.
While he pondered every angle of Ben’s motives and of what might lie ahead for him, both here in Turkey and back home in London with the pending divorce, the flicker of passing trees cast his thoughts adrift. His eyes closed, and he fell into a deep sleep.
It was the harsh sound of a jangling ringtone that rocked him from this momentary slumber. On the opposite side of the aisle, the only other passenger still remaining - a young man in his late twenties perhaps - gazed out of the window. He spoke a few muffled words into his phone. Then slid the device furtively back into his pocket, peering over the seats in front as he did so, and glanced across the aisle towards Matt. Only a fleeting glance. But it was enough to give Matt a sense of being measured up.
The young man turned his gaze back to the road ahead. He appeared nervous. The bus was beginning to slow down. Then he picked up a laptop bag that lay at his feet, unzipped it and, slipping his hand quickly in and out of the bag, crossed the aisle and parked himself in the seat beside Matt.
“My name Rekan,” he said, extending a hand.
Matt was taken aback by this unwanted advance, but did his best to remain unfazed.
“Matt,” he said in return and took Rekan’s hand.
“You go to Karakent,” the young man said, making an imperative of what Matt took to be a question. Matt assumed it was his reddish-blonde hair that prompted the young man’s use of English, since he could not by any stretch of the imagination be taken for a Turk.
“Yes,” Matt replied, unable to conceal the suspicion in his voice.
“Please, go to Trabzon Ekmek Fırını and ask for Murat,” Rekan said, pressing something into Matt’s hand. “Give him this.”
Matt looked at the object. It was a USB stick. His suspicion hardened.
“Trabzon Ekmek Fırını” he repeated, hastily pulling pen and paper from his pocket, writing out the words in bold capitals and thrusting the paper into Matt’s hand.
“Why don’t you give it to him yourself?”
“I must go,” he said. Then, as the bus eventually ground to a halt and the engine stopped, he implored Matt again with a “please” as he slipped back across the aisle to his seat, adding in a whisper “Give it to Murat. Only Murat.”
At that moment the door of the bus slid open and two uniformed men in berets climbed on board. One of them exchanged some words with the driver, while the other surveyed the rows of seats ahead of him before slowly making his way up the aisle to the back of the bus.