The Ottoman Cage (Inspector Ikmen Series #2)by Barbara Nadel
A beautiful young man has been found dead in one of Istanbul's poshest neighborhoods. It's sad, perhaps tragic, but it should also be a simple case: There are signs of drug abuse, rumors of prostitution, and a local family has reported a missing son. Unfortunately, this is Istanbul, where few things are as simple as they appear, and the past has a way of
A beautiful young man has been found dead in one of Istanbul's poshest neighborhoods. It's sad, perhaps tragic, but it should also be a simple case: There are signs of drug abuse, rumors of prostitution, and a local family has reported a missing son. Unfortunately, this is Istanbul, where few things are as simple as they appear, and the past has a way of intruding on the present. To unravel the riddle, Inspector Ikmen will have to grapple not only with the residue of a century-old genocide, but also with an even older legacy that stretches back to the heyday of the Ottoman Empire.
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The Ottoman Cage
A Novel of Istanbul
By Barbara Nadel
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2000 Barbara Nadel
All rights reserved.
The old woman looked sadly up at the open door and sighed. 'Of course there was a time, Officer, when this was a usual thing. Not' – she added rather sourly – 'that you would remember.'
There wasn't a lot that Sergeant Farsakoglu could add to that besides agreeing with the woman.
'What with the tourists and now all these wretched infidels from across the Black Sea. When I was a young girl Turkey was for the Turks and one could leave one's door open without worrying that you'd be robbed or murdered in your bed, but now ...'
'Yes, right, Mrs, er ...'
'Yalçin.' She smiled. 'My husband owns the grocer's shop opposite.'
Both Sergeant Farsakoglu and her rather small, swarthy companion looked across the road at a tiny basement-level shop, the mean doorway of which was currently blocked by several large cases of Coca-Cola bottles.
'So,' the sergeant continued, turning back to the woman who was still smiling very proudly in the direction of her property, 'do you happen to know who owns the house, Mrs Yalçin?'
'An Armenian lives there. Lives alone. I don't know his name though. Very polite and private he is, dresses very well. Next door might know his name, you could always try there.'
'Yes, I may well do that.'
The house the two police officers and the elderly woman were talking about was one of those wooden nineteenth-century affairs that had, in recent years, become so popular with foreign tourists. Many of them, in response to this popularity, had been converted into what had become known as 'Ottoman Mansion Hotels', presumably so that foreigners could boast about having slept where the old aristocracy used to lay their heads. The fact that some of these houses had originally been built for quite ordinary citizens was not spoken of within foreign hearing. This particular building, and the one next door to it, which had already been converted into a hotel, was however rather special in that it had actually been built on to one of the side walls of the Topkapi Museum. Offering as it did both wooden quaintness and proximity to such exotic joys as the royal treasury and the imperial harem, it was rather strange that the owner had continued to maintain the house as a private residence. As Sergeant Farsakoglu's companion, the redoubtable Constable Cohen, had been heard to mutter, 'If I had this place I'd turn it into a hotel, retire to Bodrum, lie on the beach and do what I do best.' And that was indeed the scale of income that such a place could attract, if put a little crudely.
'And how long, to your knowledge, has the door been open like this, Mrs Yalçin?'
The old woman paused for a moment before replying. 'Well, I noticed it first thing this morning, at about seven o'clock.'
Sergeant Farsakoglu looked at her watch. 'It's now six and so —'
'Eleven hours,' put in her colleague, 'assuming that it was opened at that time. Which it may or may not have been.'
'We'll go in and have a look,' said his superior, 'just to make sure.' Then, looking up at the lowering storm-blown clouds above, she added, 'It's not the sort of day to have your doors wide open.'
The old woman smiled and, her duty as a citizen done, turned back and walked towards her shop.
* * *
The house, although wide and tall, comprising three storeys plus basement, was curiously dark. But then when your back wall is an ancient, windowless palace fortification, light can and does enter only via the casements that look out on to the street. This, together with the iron greyness of the darkening October sky outside, lent the rooms that the officers walked through a sombre and, by virtue of the shallowness of the property, extremely claustrophobic feeling. Indeed two armchairs and a settee completely filled the living area on the ground floor; it was almost impossible to manoeuvre around them.
As Sergeant Farsakoglu led the way out of the living room and into the kitchen, Cohen murmured, 'I'd go out of my mind living in a place like this!'
On the face of it, the kitchen was really very well off with regard to equipment. There was a stove, large refrigerator, numerous cupboards and work surfaces upon one of which was even a very modern-looking blender. For some reason that Cohen assumed was to do with his superior being a woman, Sergeant Farsakoglu started looking through the cupboards and inside the fridge. Not that he paid her movements very much attention, transfixed as he was by the 'Girls in Swimwear' calendar for 1982 that hung over the sink.
Cohen barely registered what had been said. 'Eh?'
'The cupboards and the refrigerator are all empty.'
He turned to look at her. She was very attractive for a policewoman: tall and willowy and, when she chose to let it down across her shoulders, possessed of the most fantastic mane of chestnut-brown hair. Cohen replied whilst wrestling with a terrible desire to imagine her naked: 'So?'
'Well, normally,' she said, 'people who live in a house have some food around with which to feed themselves.'
He shrugged. 'Maybe. Although if this man lives alone he could go out to eat.'
Sergeant Farsakoglu looked doubtful. 'What, all the time? Even just for a glass of tea?'
'Mmm. I see what you mean, but ...'
He smiled. 'Men can be a little bit lazy, I suppose, when they're on their own. Single men have, well, you know, other things on their minds.'
She gave him a look that informed Cohen more eloquently than words that now was perhaps the time to stop talking about what single men might or might not get up to, and start being a little serious about the job in hand.
Looking slightly puzzled, Sergeant Farsakoglu moved out of the kitchen and mounted the stairs. As he ascended behind her, Cohen childishly grinned at the prospect of entering various bedchambers with his lovely superior.
The first floor was taken up by two identical and, as far as those little individual touches that characterise people's 'own' rooms was concerned, featureless bedrooms. They had beds, covered with matching yellow counterpanes, one chair each plus chests of drawers which Sergeant Farsakoglu soon established were as empty as the kitchen cupboards had been.
'It's almost as if the occupant has recently moved out,' Sergeant Farsakoglu observed as she pulled one of the counterpanes aside to reveal a plain, uncovered mattress.
'People do do runners sometimes,' Cohen observed, 'particularly when they're behind with the rent.'
'I don't think that's a possibility. Mrs Yalçin said that the Armenian who lives here wore nice clothes and was very polite, which doesn't sound to me like the sort of person who would default on rent.'
Cohen shot her a rueful smile. 'Anybody can default on rent, Sergeant, believe me.'
She smiled. 'The fruits of your considerable life experience, Constable?'
'Yes, well ...' Cohen cleared his throat in that obvious way people do when they want to change a subject. 'Perhaps someone's just been in here and stolen all of Mr Armenian's personal stuff then, eh, Sergeant?'
She moved back towards the stairs once again. 'Come on,' she said, 'let's take a look up there. If we don't find anything, we'll do the basement before we leave.'
Unlike the rest of the house, the entrance to the second storey was not accessed via a hall area; as the officers ascended, they found it obscured from their view by a door placed right at the top of the stairs. It was, so Sergeant Farsakoglu mused, almost as if this part of the house were separate from the rest of the building – like a self-contained apartment for a tenant or sub-lettee. In the context of an ordinary, working-class Istanbul dwelling such an arrangement was not unusual. Here, however, in this great, wide house clinging to the edge of the mighty Topkapi Palace, it seemed, for some reason she couldn't logically fathom, odd. And in keeping with the sergeant's weird feelings about it, the door, unlike that which may have belonged to a totally separate tenant, moved aside easily under the light pressure from her boot.
At first, and quite reasonably in a room in which the blinds were drawn, neither of the officers could see anything beyond their own shadows falling across the edge of the dark brown carpet beneath their feet. Cohen moved rather closer to Farsakoglu than he knew she would like but then moments of tension like this gave him all sorts of excuses. He cleared his throat before whispering, 'If he's asleep in here and we wake him up ...'
'Hello?' Farsakoglu said in a loud, authoritative voice as she simultaneously switched on the large chandelier that hung over the equally large bed. Cohen was for a moment quite lost in admiration for her forcefulness until he saw the figure facing away from them on the top of the bedclothes.
'Sir?' she said, again with some forcefulness, enough at least to rouse a sleeping person.
Not of course that this person did rouse from his sleep. And as the smell from the soiling of his trousers finally reached their nostrils the two officers knew that he wasn't going to react to any of their entreaties – ever.
* * *
Çetin Ikmen was not a patient man. He could have hung around for the waiter to come and give him another drink of his choice but quite frankly he really couldn't be bothered. So, grabbing hold of what he hoped was the brandy decanter, he poured a nice healthy draught into his glass and then drank with obvious pleasure. Had he not been at the home of his very best friend, Arto Sarkissian, he would have acted with more propriety – or at least that was what he told himself as he hurled a massive gulp down his throat. It felt good too, the warm, comforting taste of alcohol. The drink and the cigarette he was holding in his other hand also had the advantage of giving him something to do, which he needed very badly for, as well as feeling hideously uncomfortable in the unaccustomed dinner jacket he was wearing, he also felt very out of place amongst Arto's other guests.
Çetin and Arto had been friends since they were small boys. They both came from intelligent and intellectually curious families and as children the two of them had shared their play and their thoughts in equal measure. As adults that state of affairs had not really changed except for their respective professions. Arto, like his elder brother Krikor, had opted for a career in medicine and had for the past twenty years been working for the police as a criminal pathologist. Çetin too worked for the police, but in the far less well-paid arena of detective in the homicide division. That the two frequently met over what was left of somebody's unwanted wife or inconvenient father gave them, in common with others who work in rather morbid professions, cause for some very cruel and grim humour.
Outside of work, however, the two could not have been more different. With nine children, a wife and an ageing father to support, Çetin lived the life of a struggling working-class Turk, albeit an educated one. His home was a crowded, reeking apartment in Sultan Ahmet, an area of the city that not only boasted most of the famous Istanbul monuments but also a large shifting population of backpackers, drug dealers, pimps and illegal immigrants. The thing that he drove – he rarely called it a car for it hardly warranted the term – was the same article he had driven since just after the birth of his third child. It was all in startling contrast to the opulence around him now. Arto, his rotund and jolly little Armenian friend, had not only done very well for himself professionally, he had married well too, which was why Çetin was now standing in this vast floodlit palace on the shore of the Bosporus. Seeing his host's wife, he raised his glass to her in greeting. He received a frosty smile from the lovely Maryam Sarkissian in reply. Not wishing to address the fact that she, he knew full well, couldn't stand his skinny scruffy Turkishness, Çetin chose to believe that her latest bout of plastic surgery was preventing her from welcoming him properly.
'Are you enjoying yourself or are you actually drowning your sorrows?'
Çetin turned around and found himself facing his friend. 'You want me to be honest?'
Arto smiled. 'As ever.'
'Well, this jacket isn't really me, is it?'
'No, but ...'
'And ...' Çetin sighed heavily. 'Look, Arto, I don't really fit in with this lot, do I? Maryam's just given me a look that said it all.'
'Oh, you should know not to pay any attention to Maryam,' Arto laughed, 'and besides, whatever you may think of the people here, they are all working for the project just like we are.'
Çetin looked down at the floor, apparently shamed by his friend's words. 'Yes, I know.'
'In order to get anything like this on track we need to get hold of money and that's what these people have. In abundance.'
One cursory glance around was enough to convince Çetin of that. There was a lot of money in that room, or at least the possessors of a lot of money. Industrialists, well-heeled professionals, old and venerable families – they were all here and, what was more, they were all very eager to get their cheque books out in support of this initiative that had first been put forward by Arto's brother Krikor. Drug addiction, or rather the fight against drug addiction, was, especially in view of the threat from AIDS plus the influx of some very dubious organisations from the former eastern bloc countries, becoming a grave cause for concern amongst certain sectors of Istanbul society. The police, as represented here by Çetin Ikmen, were noticing that more and more crimes were related to narcotic abuse, and doctors like Krikor Sarkissian, who had been involved with such problems for some time, had decided to take a lead in trying to address the problem. A first step was to try and secure funds for a dedicated advice and information centre at the heart of the 'trade', the districts of Sultan Ahmet and Beyazit. And that was why Çetin, Arto, Krikor and all these smart folk were here now.
'Arto! At last!'
Both Arto and Çetin turned in response to this rather strident cry and found themselves looking at a tall, extremely attractive man in, Çetin quickly reckoned, his late thirties.
Quickly, but with much affection, Arto hugged and kissed this man and then, smiling, introduced him to his old friend.
'Çetin, this is Dr Avram Avedykian, a most avid and enthusiastic supporter of my brother's project. Avram, this is my oldest and best friend, Inspector Çetin Ikmen.'
The two men shook hands.
'Inspector Ikmen as in police, isn't it?' the doctor said.
'Yes, sir,' Çetin replied in his best speaking-to-those-outside-my -usual-sphere-of-influence voice, 'we have, as you can imagine a vested interest in —'
'You don't have to call anybody here sir, Çetin,' Arto put in before his friend's awkwardness became a problem. 'We are all here for the same reason, all trying to help.'
'Oh. Right. Yes.'
Chastised, Çetin then looked down at the floor. It was a movement that even he found childish. Had it not been for the appearance of another man at Dr Avedykian's side the moment could have been embarrassing, but this man, possibly just slightly older than the doctor, was so arrestingly handsome that even a red-blooded heterosexual like Arto was quite lost in admiration.
Moving forward to greet this newcomer, he said, 'And you are?'
'Oh,' said Dr Avedykian, suddenly also aware of this man's presence, 'this is my best friend actually, Arto.' He moved the man forward to include him in the group and made his introductions. 'Dr Arto Sarkissian, this is Mr Muhammed Ersoy.'
The name was familiar to Arto. 'Oh, yes, Avram talks of you frequently, Mr Ersoy, and my brother Krikor has, of course, mentioned your name to me. You're very interested in his work, I believe?'
'Yes.' Muhammed Ersoy shook hands with his host in a casual, almost off-hand manner and then turned almost immediately to Çetin. 'I couldn't help overhearing that you are a member of our fine body of police officers.'
It was said in such a way as to imply a mockery of that force. Luckily, Çetin, who was accustomed to this sort of reception, rose only mildly to the bait. 'Yes, I am,' he said, 'but like yourself, Mr Ersoy, I am here tonight to support Krikor's initiative rather than talk about what I do.'
A rather frosty silence followed which was only brought to a close by a change of topic on Arto's part. 'So,' he said, addressing the two newcomers, 'I hope that you gentlemen are going to be generous after my brother's speech tonight.'
'You can count on us,' confirmed Dr Avedykian lightly.
Excerpted from The Ottoman Cage by Barbara Nadel. Copyright © 2000 Barbara Nadel. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Barbara Nadel was born and bred in London. Trained as an actress, she is now a public relations officer for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship's Good Companions Service. She loves Turkey and has been a regular visitor there for over 20 years.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In the upscale neighborhood of Ishak Pasa in Istanbul, Turkey, a neighbor sees an open door to a house that is occupied by an Armenian. She calls the police and the body of a twenty year old male covered with track marks and garroted is found. Inspector Cetin Ikmen is assigned the case and quickly notices that the young man was in a small apartment, separated from the rest of the mansion. The tenant Mr. Zekiyan is nowhere to be found.--- There is nothing in the apartment except a collection of crystal figurines. There are no fingerprints, DNA or trace elements to give a clue to who Mr. Zekiyan really is or who the victim was. The drug found in the victim¿s system is a synthetic form of heroin available only to doctors. Using informants, Inspector Ikmen discovers that a medical doctor is supplying drugs to male prostitute addicts. While the investigation concentrates on the medical profession, the killer sends the inspector crystal figures like those found in the dead man¿s home, daring him to uncover his identity.--- It is obvious that Barbara Nadel has a love affair with Turkey using the culture of the country as the basis for the murder mystery. The inspector is an interesting and complex protagonist who works himself to death so he doesn¿t have to cope with nine children, an ailing wife and a delusional father. Though a killer scorning police is old hat, the exotic locale adds an extra bit of spice to a thrilling police procedural that makes THE OTTOMAN CAGE a great treat for armchair travelers.--- Harriet Klausner