As he dragged the woman by her feet his legs buckled. He fell to his knees gasping for air. Exhausting, Guz thought. She must have weighed at least two hundred pounds, the same as him if not a little more. The main beams from the car shone across the top of the burial hole, just a few more feet and they would both be placed together in the earth. Him first, her on top; she seemed to be a bit of a nagging cow throughout the day. Guz laughed at his macabre thought. By placing her on top, she would always be over him; nagging him; blocking his soul from making its departure; imprisoning it with her hefty weight.
Dried mud, foliage and gravel got caught in her mousy blonde hair; her grey complexion was now scuffed with dirt marks from the dusty ground. He watched the skin on the end of her nose flap down. The skin that had easily torn as he’d pulled her dead weight over a tree stump before her nose had crashed down on to its splintered edge. It was, after all, too far to drag her around the stump, too much effort and too hot.
Sweat trickled into Guz’s eyes, down his face and into his mouth. He coughed then spat a gritty bolus to the ground before standing and continuing to pull hard at her limp body. He felt his leg muscles tighten and with every tug he feared he might burst a blood vessel. Black dots clouded his vision, he stopped to let the light-headedness pass. The last few feet were the hardest; he needed a break, a proper break. He dropped her legs, stood tall and reached up to the sky for a good stretch.
He bent down and took a seat on the mossy ground before pulling out the pack of cigarettes he had grabbed from her pocket, he lit one. Looks like she smoked Bensons; better than his usual brand of unfiltered baccy that he got down the market. That shit had aged him. Sucking hard, he closed his eyes and savoured the cigarette’s calming effects. The heat had been relentless that day, reaching the forties he guessed. What he wouldn’t do right now to be sat in Sadik’s little pool in Sadik’s little garden, smelling the spicy aroma of Sadik’s secret recipe Adana Kebabs grilling on the barbeque. Instead he was sat in the forest, with a pasty whale that was beginning to stink of shit. Shit, cigarettes and pine trees, interesting mix of smells. He stubbed his nub end out between his hardened fingertips and placed it in his pocket. No one was ever likely to come here in search of anyone but ‘you never know,’ and leaving cigarette ends next to burial sites was not a good idea.
Back to the job. He stood and grabbed her legs once again. Only a few feet, he reminded himself. ‘A few more feet then I can go to Sadik’s, get in that pool and have my kebab,’ he thought. Music blared out. Guz dropped the woman’s legs and dived towards the hard ground slamming his knee onto a jagged rock as he fell. He cowered out of the light beam and his eyes darted left and right. Heart pounding, he reached down towards his knee and rubbed the ache away. He gazed at his phone then laughed. His text alert was calling. Tarkan sang ‘Kiss Kiss.’ The music stopped before the phone beeped. Standing, he walked over to the car, took a swig of warm cola from the bottle that lay on the drivers seat as he checked his alert. A text from Sadik.
3 credit cards, 700 euros, 2000 lira, Gucci bag, 2 drivers licenses. Jewels.
Sadik, straight to the point as always. No, hi Brother? How you getting on with the bodies brother? Is it okay to celebrate with your lady, Celile, Brother? He had seen the look they shared when they thought he hadn’t been looking. A look he remembers all to well, the look he had once received all the time from Celile only three years ago. He threw the phone to the seat. Sadik and Celile would now be heading to the house to celebrate and that thought made him feel sick to the stomach. Next time, he would put himself first; him and him alone. Once the next job was completed, he would clear out, go and make a fresh start with the proceeds. In his mind he was clear. Stuff them both; they were welcome to each other. For now though, he still wanted to join them and have that beer and kebab. Cursing himself for his weaknesses he had another swig of the cola before placing it on the back seat next to the passports. Two German passports and driving licences, he grabbed them and placed them in the glove box, things were looking up. He would never mention the passports that Ilse had kept in her bag. As far as The Boss and the others were aware, they had only found driving licences.
All around him he heard the song of the crickets. As he moved and turned it would disappear only to reappear when he turned again.
Forcing his weary body back over to the woman he stopped and stared. She stirred and groaned. Opening up one eye she looked towards him, squinting as if she couldn’t focus. His heart beat faster and his hands began to shake. She was dead, he was sure he’d killed her. Had he checked her pulse? No he hadn’t, he had been slack.
“Gerhard? Helfen sie mir,” his German was lacking, Sadik had done most of the talking that day. He stared into her eyes, the eyes that thought he was her beloved Gerhard. Eyes that were blood shot and wet, his stomach turned. “Es ist Ilse, hilf mir,” she cried. Hilf, hilf, he’d heard this one before. She said her name Ilse; he knew that her name was Ilse. Hilf, Helfen, help! He remembered. She was asking for help. ‘She thinks I’m Gerhard and she’s asking for help.’
He ignored her and walked over to the hole in the ground, wedged in the bottom was Gerhard. His face was now expressionless, no glint at all in his eyes. He hated it when they died with open eyes, he should’ve closed them but yuck, he shuddered at the thought. Killing them he could deal with but eyes and eyeballs were a thing he couldn’t touch so he had left Gerhard’s eyes open. He could see speckled movements over the body, it was too dark to make out what it was but he guessed it was ants or insects of some kind. There was no shortage of insects in the forest.
In the distance he heard the crashing of the mountain waterfall gushing into the pool below. Earlier that day the couple had swam in it. He could tell they were cold, they came out shaking even thought the temperature was so high that day. Why did it always surprise them that mountain water was so cold?
His hands shook at the thought of what he had to do next and his arm pits began to itch with sweat, then so did his groin. He scratched hard, first his groin, then his arm pit. He felt the burning of a rash began to spread within these delicate crevices.
“Gerhard,” she cried, louder this time. He didn’t respond; from his lack of response she seemed to know that he was not her beloved. She knew that he wasn’t there to help. She was disoriented but not dead as he had earlier thought. Cursing Sadik under his breath he kicked the tree that stood next to him. He flinched then rubbed his throbbing foot, the tree was harder than he’d thought. Insects scurried up the bark as he backed away from the tree; disturbed by being at the epicenter of the earthquake on their trunk.
The lights on the car began to flicker. The battery. Guz hobbled to the vehicle and turned them off. There was no way he could break down here, miles from anywhere. Sadik wouldn’t come back for him that night. He felt a gentle piercing on his arm, slapping hard he then felt the trickle of liquid spread down his bicep and past his elbow. Mosquitoes. After a moment his eyes adjusted to the light from the half moon.
“Gerhard,” she said as she sobbed. He could hear her snivelling and filling up with mucous. She screamed; her voice was getting louder.
“Fuck,” he cried as he hurried over towards the hole and grabbed the shovel. Standing behind her he watched as her pleading eyes tried to focus on him. Although he had done this many times, it never got easier. Her wet teary face shone as the trees branches parted with the humid breeze, allowing the moonlight to catch her tears. One minute he saw her whole face, as clear as day; the next he saw only the glistening ridge of a trickling tear that had caught the light. Then nothing. The breeze dropped, she lay there sobbing in the shadows. He heard rustling amongst the leaves beneath him; she was on the move; now on her front she had dragged herself along the rough ground. Scraping her delicate swollen skin over the sharp lime stone and grit, she grunted as she kept going. The breeze picked up again and the moon fully revealed her position. He could see the wound on the back of her head from their earlier assault on her. Blood had dried to her head and he was sure he could see a bit of exposed skull. His stomach turned and he heaved. The bubbles from the warm cola were repeating on him, causing him to belch bits of sweet cola. Without hesitation he drew the shovel above her head and hit the original wound again.
“Nein, bitte.” Nein, he knew nein, no. She was still shouting. Why wouldn’t she just die? Letting out a hefty grunt Guz brought down the shovel one more time onto her head, this time at a slant. It cut into her neck and she screamed. Deliriously rambling away the woman soon hushed before she was finally silent. He knelt down and checked her pulse, her breathing still persisted. Without hesitation, he grabbed her legs and with all his strength he hauled her over to the hole and rolled her in to it. Thud; she had landed hard on top of her Gerhard but facing upwards. He watched as her pupils disappeared into her upper eyelids exposing a red, veined eye ball. Acid rose up his wind pipe. He belched again to relieve the pressure. Why the eyes, why him? As the light caught her he was sure he saw her chest rise. She’s dead; she has to be dead, he thought.
Shoveling the earth that he had earlier stacked next to the grave, he watched as it began to cover her body. It landed on her middle, her bare legs and her face. She spluttered. He hesitated, staring at the earth splattered body. He heard it again, she spluttered, her hand began to move. She wasn’t dead but she wasn’t shouting either. As good as? He asked himself. As good as, he answered. Without hesitating he shovelled more earth over the woman underneath the grit he was sure he had heard a whine, a subdued whine. Ignore it he thought, it didn’t happen. Carry on, hurry up, and go to the barbeque.
Filling his head with thoughts of food grilling; the spicy aromas; the oily kebabs being turned; the coolness of the pool; the end of this job. ‘They don’t always die this hard,’ he thought. This was an exception, it wouldn’t happen again. He promised himself it would be quicker, more humane next time. He wasn’t a savage; this was a means to an end. Maybe next time he could force his imbecile brother Sadik to do the clean up. He continued to shovel earth fast, panting with very movement.
Thoughts of hot meat; cold beer; hot aromatic meat. Salivating at those thoughts he began patting the top of the grave down with the shovel. Then, in his mind he saw the meat being cut, still rare; rare like the back of her head. Un-boned, the whiteness of the bone standing out brightly against the bloody meat, cartilage. Bloody, vacant eyes. Dropping the shovel he ran and ran until he’d got away from grave. His heart was now in his mouth, was it his heart. Toppling over the side of a mound he fell to the earth on to all fours, sweat poured out of him. The meat still lingered; the greasy smell; the bone; the blood. Not just bone and blood but matted gritty hair; matted with congealed blood. He vomited onto the earth, letting all the disgust fall out into a heap beneath him.
His body trembled all over. As he sat up, he wiped the sweat from his brow with his gritty sleeve. Sweat now replaced by grit, he wiped again. As he wiped the grit scratched into his skin. He whacked the ground, why couldn’t he get rid of the dirt? Close by he could hear the water again, he needed to cleanse himself, to cool down, to regain momentum and get home. He stood then staggered towards the waterfall. Intoxicated by the moment he eventually reached the waters edge. Its icy cold splashes flecked onto his face washing him free of his sins. Kneeling over the edge, he scooped some of the cold water up, drinking it and splashing it over his face, on his clothes and down his front.
In the distance he heard Tarkan singing again. His phone, he had to get back to the car; cover up the grave with some foliage, get the shovel and go. Standing, he admired the beauty of the waterfall for a moment and enjoyed the feel of its cool spray on his face before staggering back towards the car. The sound of the crickets seemed to be all around him, the moons light barley showing him the way. To the left of the waterfall’s peak he was sure he could see an outline, “kara kulak,” he whispered to himself; a lynx. Its ear was touched by the light from the moon emphasising its points. Then it disappeared as a cloud interrupted the moon’s light. Disorientated, Guz tripped on the undergrowth, a thorny stem pierced through his canvas trouser and into his leg. “Shit,” he cried. He rubbed his leg and felt wetness gather around the area. He stood still, leaned over and pressed his hand against the wound to stem the blood flow. Appetite now all gone, all he imagined now was the cold beer. Stuff the others; he was going home to his apartment to crack open a beer. Beer and bed; a cure for everything he’d always insisted. He gazed up at the dark sky, the moon was still concealed. Where was he? Where was the car? He hoped Tarkan would sing again soon. He heard rustling all around him; the crickets’ chorus became louder. Breathing fast he grabbed onto the undergrowth, squeezing hard, feeling for some clue as to how to get out of this predicament. Stop, think logically, he could still hear the water behind him and as long as the water was behind him he was going the right way.
After a tedious trek forward, the cloud had disappeared and through the gaps in the branches he could see the moon glistening off the bonnet of the car. Laughing with relief he hobbled towards the vehicle. Skin still bumpy from the coldness of the water, he hurried to the grave. He snatched the shovel from the ground and finished off by patting the earth down. After wrestling with some stringy undergrowth, he dragged it over the bare earth and placed some leaves over the top followed by a few pine cones and a couple of needled branches.
He grabbed the shovel, ran back to the car and got in the driver’s seat. He turned the engine, it spluttered and hissed. He’d left the headlamps on for far too long. He turned it again and once again it spluttered. Wait, he would give it a moment to recharge. Placing his head on the steering wheel, he clenched his fists as he hit the dashboard. How could he have been so stupid leaving the lights on for so long?
Tarkan sang continuously, a phone call. He snatched the phone from the passenger seat.
“He keeps on about what we’ve got. He wants to talk to you and said you’re phone isn’t on. He keeps mentioning the passports and I told him that we just couldn’t find them but I don’t think he believes me. You have to get back now and deal with this shit. He’s well peeved,” Sadik shouted without pausing to breathe.
“But, the car, it won’t-” Sadik hung up. Guz smashed his fist into the steering wheel. He looked at the phone to reveal two missed calls. He would’ve heard Tarkan; the signal must’ve dropped as he’d moved about.
Trying again he turned the engine, it spat and spluttered before it fired up. “Yes,” he was on his way home. But he didn’t want to go to Sadik’s, he wanted to go home and drink. Drink to get drunk and drink to sleep. Drink to forget the bone, the eyes and the raw meat; drink to forget Ceilile and Sadik’s betrayal. Their day would come. “I could cut them all out; stuff them all,” he whispered. He then shuddered as he thought about the consequences if he got caught by The Boss. As he steered the car down the embankment he was determined to forget all his troubles. He smiled as he imagined opening a bottle of beer. But first he had to get home, quick and call The Boss.
“Banana boat, ringo, jet ski, date with me?” The young man shouted. Eve smiled as she shook her head and turned away. The tout moved on to a middle aged man who sunbathed on a lounger in front of them. Her head was burning with the mid afternoon heat and she squinted as she gazed towards the sun’s brightness. Wishing she had unpacked her sunglasses before exploring she held her hand horizontally across the top of her eyes and gazed out at the still blue sea in front of her. The water lapped, barely breaking into much of a wave. A couple of ducks swam near the safety rope, a woman yelled before laughing and swimming in another direction.
“We should get back and bag ourselves a good room before the guys get in there,” Selina said. A couple of stray blond hair extensions were beginning to stick to her friend’s sweaty forehead. Selina lit a cigarette and stood, “Besides, there’s someone coming, he’ll probably want his five lira or whatever it is for the sun lounger you’re sitting on.”
“You’re right. I just had to see the sea. It’s been a long time since I’ve been away, in fact it’s the first holiday I’ve had without my parents,” she laughed.
“And it won’t be the last. Come on Evie,” Selina said as she held her hand out to Eve and pulled her up. “We are going to have a fantastic week and it starts with bagging our room and then working our way through all the cocktail menus in Marmaris.”
The young Turkish man stopped in front of them. “Massage, I am the best there is. Or Turkish bath, I make your skin glow, ready for the beach, I make you sexy ladies,” he grinned. Eve stared at him as she twiddled her fingers, blushed and looked down at her feet.
“I wouldn’t mind been given an orgasm by him,” Selina whispered as she leaned towards Eve’s ear. Eve giggled and slapped her arm. “What? I meant the cocktail.” The man smiled as he awaited their answer. “Maybe another day,” Selina said as Eve dragged her towards the edge of the thin strip of beach.
“But you want to look beach beautiful,” he shouted.
“As I said, maybe tomorrow,” Selina called. “You really have to be assertive around here,” she smiled, eyes still fixed on the young man. She dropped her nub end on the floor and stood on it. “It really is the hard sell around here. I may take him up on the massage though,” she said as she repositioned her breasts in her plunge bra before turning away from the man’s distant stare.
They ambled along the bumpy cobbled pavements past an array of restaurants and cafes. The smell of the grill filled the air; rich and meaty. Chefs with open kitchens flipped and plated food, staff called orders and children ran around the tables shouting.
Touts beckoned them over with every step. “Boat trip, first cocktail free, jeep safari, best food in Içmeler, first time in Turkey?” Distracted, Eve stumbled on an upturned cobble and Selina grabbed her arm. Nearly there, she thought as she recognised the Karaoke Bar. They had passed it half an hour ago. She knew then that their villa was only a couple of minutes away.
At the end of the road they saw the little grey house surrounded by the unruly shrubbery and a rickety looking balcony. “How come we couldn’t have a villa like that one?” Eve said as she looked at the neighboring villa with its clean white paint, newly stained balconies and its large pool. “Ours looks like it’s going to appear on ‘Holidays from Hell’ one day soon.”
“That would cost more than we could afford. One day, I’m coming back and having that one,” Selina said pointing to an even grander villa across the road. Eve stopped and leaned up against a wall. Wiping the sweat off her brow she took a couple of deep breaths. Selina had carried on walking, Eve laughed to herself as she heard Selina continue to talk about all that she was going to do one day. A couple passed her and stared. Halting in the middle of the pavement her friend looked back. “What the hell are you playing at? I bet those people thought I was some sort of loon,” she cried, eyes watering and laughing, “I’ll get my own back tonight.”
Selina grabbed Eve’s arm and they turned, plunging Eve face first into a fast walking young man. She felt his clammy skin against her arm and cheek, he smelt sweet, like sweat mixed with aftershave. The man held out his hands and smiled. “I so sorry. English?” Eve nodded and the man took a step back. “I see you need a trip. I can do Jeep Safari, cheapest in village. I will do even cheaper for you lovely ladies,” he said as he looked into Selina’s eyes. “We work from there.” He pointed to a small shop front that was shaded by a green canopy.
Outside the window sat a large older man in a white suit and hat playing a game. White Suit shouted at his scrawny opponent in Turkish, but then Scrawny put his hands up and the suited man sat back down. The table was low and positioned either side were two little chairs. Eve wondered how White Suit had managed to sit on the tiny chair without breaking it. A chequers board filled the table’s center and Eve could just about see that the last white had just been taken. “Is he always such a sore looser?” she asked the man.
“Him, oh yes. Take no notice. I’m Mehmet. What are you lovely ladies called?” Eve looked at Selina. Should she answer? Be more assertive she was told. Leaving the response to Selina she waited. Selina didn’t respond, she smiled and looked at the young topless man who had so obviously impressed her.
Rolling her eyes, Eve replied. “This is Selina, I’m Eve.”
“Jeeps did you say?” Selina said.
“Yes, we do the cheapest around. We can do, just for you or your group, a deal. One whole day with the jeep all for yourselves, can take up to twelve. You can have it, with a barbeque dinner for only sixty British Pounds. I can book you in tomorrow, only ten pounds deposit,” Mehmet said as he pulled out a booking pad from the back pocket of his shorts.
“That sounds g-”
“We’ll think about it,” Eve interrupted. Selina stared at Eve. “What? We can ask the others and let him know later.”
“Don’t leave it too late, I may just not be able to offer you much if you wait to long,” he said as he smiled at Selina.
Bang. Chequers flew against the shop window and White Suit stood up. He snatched an envelope from Scrawny and left him sat there amongst the turmoil. As he stood he stepped over the upturned table and placed the envelope in his breast pocket. “So you want it? It is good deal.” Mehmet asked again. Another bang from across the road, White Suit kicked the little chair over. “Ignore him,” Mehmet said. White Suit turned and paced before stopping and staring at Eve. Eve realised she had been staring at him; blushing, she looked away. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the white suit moving away from the shop front, another suited man ran out of the shop and walked three paces behind. White Suit then turned his head to Eve and grinned as he turned the corner. “Well, ladies, I can’t do any better than that,” Mehmet continued.
“I think you could do much better,” replied Selina. She was now playing with her hair, coiling it around her index finger and occasionally pushing up her bra. Eve watched her in action and wondered if she could ever have the allure that Selina had. She looked back at the shop window. Scrawny was bent over picking up the counters that had been strewn across the tiled shop front.
“Excuse me.” A veiled lady of about eighty years placed her bony hand on Eve’s arm and steered her over to the wall. The lady pulled out several pairs of sunglasses that were attached to a cardboard frame from her bag.
“I don’t need any sunglasses, sorry,” Eve said as she turned.
“Shh,” the woman said as she pulled Eve back and held her finger to her lips. “I see you watching over there,” the woman pointed to the shop. As she turned her hearing aid whistled. Drawn to Eve’s chest, the woman stared at the little heart necklace that said ‘Mum’ on it. “You are a mother. From a mother to a mother, you must be careful. Trust what you feel. Things are not always so good. People not always so good.”
“I’m sorry?” Eve said.
Scrawny stood and looked across at the woman. Leaning on her stick, she stepped back and spoke. “You are a beautiful girl. You should protect your eyes, you need sunglasses,” the woman took out several pairs and began to place them against Eve’s eyes. “Only two British Pounds.”
“What did you mean? Before,” Eve asked as she snatched the glasses from her face and placed them back in the old woman’s bag.
The woman looked across at Scrawny; he continued cleaning up the mess from the floor. “Nothing. Young girls, you have to be careful. I just say, I am a mother. I look out for you. Remember what I say. Trust what you think. Trust your instincts,” the woman said as she hobbled away. Eve leaned up against the wall. What did the old woman mean? White Suit, the stare, the old woman. She needed reality, those last few moments had all seemed bizarre. Even in the midday heat she shuddered.
Selina giggled at something Mehmet had said. Eve moved away from the wall and joined them. “We best go, got loads to do. Remember that room that we have to get back to and bag?” She grabbed Selina’s arm and dragged her away.
“I be here later …… and tomorrow, and the next day. Come see me anytime,” Mehmet shouted as he walked across the road back to his stand.
“What are you doing to me?”
“That man,” Eve replied as she looked around her. He had gone. She opened the rusty gate and they headed down the uneven cobbles to their front door.
“Yes, he was really nice and you blew my chances,” Selina shouted.
“Not him, the angry one in his shop window, the one in the white suit. Did you see the way he left? He stared me out.” Eve shook as she banged hard on the heavy wooden door. She heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
“I think you’re just being paranoid. He was probably eyeing you up,” Selina replied.
“Whatever, it was a bit weird. Then the old woman said I should trust my instincts or something odd.”
Selina grabbed both of Eve’s shoulders and looked her in the eye. “It was just her patter. It was nothing. Listen to someone who comes on holidays more than you. Loosen up. We’re going to have the best time. The best. I mean it.”
The door opened. Ryan stood there with his tee-shirt slung over his pale shoulders and his shorts hanging low. “I see you’re last to get a bedroom. I think you’re both sharing the couch. It’s okay, at least you’ll get some pricks this holiday, from the dodgy springs in that sofa bed,” he said as he walked away.
“Why the hell did he have to come? Knob,” Selina said. “I’m not having it. I know he’s my brother but I’m losing the will to live with him being around. He hasn’t even paid me back his share of the villa yet and he thinks he’s bagging a bedroom all for himself. No way, that one is ours.” Selina stomped up the stairs and a few seconds later Ryan’s rucksack flew down. Eve jolted to the left missing the impact of the bag before it landed on the floor with a thud. “If that couch is so full of pricks, you can join them. You’ll be right at home,” Selina shouted as she stomped in her wedges down the stairs.
“Whatever Sis. You know you love me really,” he called from the kitchen.
“Yeah right,” she replied.
Eve grabbed her case that was leaned up against the far wall and followed Selina upstairs.
Their room overlooked the main road that they had just strolled down. It was now bustling with tourists. From her window she could see Scrawny approach Mehmet. He appeared to push him, shout and get into a car before driving off. Maybe she was a bit paranoid. They were probably all family. A few seconds ago, she had witnessed how family could drive you insane with anger. If Rachel and Ryan were anything to go by, insanity should follow shortly. She could see Selina smacking him one before the week was out.
Smiling, she sat down and lay on the bed. The floor was dusty, the windows were cobwebbed in the corners and the bed, well that was lumpy too but she was on holiday; for the first time in her adult life, she was abroad. She lay with closed eyes, listening to children shouting and cars go by. Horns tooted every few seconds.
“I hope you’re not thinking of going to sleep, we’re getting something to eat then going out on the town. You are so going to have a good time tonight,” Selina said as she walked to the window. “Look at him, such a perfect example of the male species. Be great to catch up with him again.”
Eve walked over to Selina and linked arms with her. “Just be careful, trust what you feel.” She found herself paraphrasing the old woman’s words. She watched Mehmet sit behind his stand and stare at the floor as potential customers walked by.
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