Here is my story that won the Special Jury Award of Truva Literature Magazine‘s 4th Story Competition. Thanks to Enes Talha Coşgun for the translation.
In the waiting room of the police station, the man with gray hair was sitting with his spreaded legs. His face, red from crying, made him look ten years older. His back was bent. His hands and feet were shaking. With his gray suit and lilac tie, he looked like a postcard that had faded from the sun.
Vedat has been coming here every morning for six months. He was waiting for news from his beloved wife. His shoulders were falling more and more each day, his face was getting pale. The versatile husband, who was a purchasing manager for a large furniture company during the week and a sculptor on the weekends, had given up his main job for his wife. The only thing he did when he was not at the police station, was to continue sculpting.
One evening, after work, the young business woman Esra disappeared. Normally, her rush hour was before her husband. When Vedat returned to their single-storey detached house that evening, he was surprised to see that the lights were off. He went into the living room and waited. Then an idea came to his mind. Esra could be drinking coffee at her collegue and neighbor Selin’s house. Normally she would let him know when she went out, but…
Vedat thought, “Maybe she forgot.” and left the house, knocked on Selin’s door.
“Hello Ms. Selin, I am Vedat, Esra’s husband.”
“How can I help you?”
“My wife didn’t come home and I… I was wondering if she… If she is in here, with you.”
“Didn’t you meet on the way? She just went out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Esra forgot her bag at the office today, I bought it. When I got home, I wrote a message.”
Esra used to carry her phone either in her hand or in her pocket. She wouldn’t put it in her bag. Anyone who knew her knew that.
“While she was coming to pick up her bag, we thought we’d sit for a while and have a coffee. We forgot the time when we were talking. She left two or five minutes before you arrived.”
Upon this response, Vedat said, “I understand, thank you very much.” and went back to his house. However, Esra did not come, and no one heard anything from her after that day.
Upon this statement, the police brought the suspect Selin Demir to the police station and questioned her. Selin described the event in a similar way to Vedat, but with a vital difference.
While leaving the office, she noticed a black object on Esra’s desk. A bag. Selin, who took the bag and brought it home, wrote a message to Esra as soon as she returned home.
Esra came to the door, took her bag with an insincere thank and left.
“So you didn’t invite her home.” the police asked.
“No sir, we are not very close and we had some problems at work.”
Selin wants to be a manager and she was working hard for it, but she claimed that Esra was increasing her chance of being the manager by staying on the boss’s right side. Moreover, “I am thinking of two people for the directorate, either you or Ms. Esra.” said the boss.
“I do not attach importance to her bag, I just wanted to help by taking her stuff but I regret. I’m crawling through police stations just because of her. I hope she could be found soon and this case is closed.”
A few minutes after Esra left, there was a knock on the door again. This time, Vedat was at the door.
“Hello Ms. Selin, I am Vedat, Esra’s husband.”
“How can I help you?”
“My wife didn’t come home and I… I was wondering if she… If she is in here, with you.”
“Didn’t you meet on the way? She just went out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Esra forgot her bag at the office today, I bought it. When I got home, I wrote a message. She left two or five minutes before you arrived.”
“I understand, thank you very much.” said Vedat, and left.
An extensive search effort was initiated. Big headlines were given to the media. The police officers talked to the shopkeepers in the vicinity and the family and friends of the missing woman. Security cameras scanned. The last image of the missing Esra Kedili was her entering the house and leaving the house to get her bag. Her phone was also at home.
Although Vedat claimed that they got along perfectly with his wife, eyewitnesses said that Esra and Vedat have been fighting a lot lately. In fact, Esra called her mother when she was crying, a month before the incident, and said she wanted to divorce.
All this information -the lack of evidence that the missing woman has left the house, the problems she had with her husband and colleague- made Vedat Karaca and Selin Demir the prime suspects.
Vedat was open to cooperation with the police until the end. He answered every question clearly and honestly, and managed to remain calm even in provocative questions. He offered the police officers to search his house. He had personally given the police a tour of his rooms, garage, and workshop.
On the way back to the police station, the team was talking about how beautiful the statue that Vedat made in memory of his wife, standing like an icon in the most beautiful part of the hall.
The statue was not complete, it was in the intermediate form. It was possible to say a torso sculpture with a head or a bust with a navel. Vedat had produced his work in just one night with the help of the molds he had bought before. In the house, there were many other quintessences of Esra. Figurines, reliefs, torsos, hand and foot sculptures, masks…
On the other hand, there seemed to be no concept of composure for Selin. She had begun to shed tears on her third interrogation. In a question that police officers implied she did something to Esra, she had a nervous breakdown. She turned the place upside down while her house was being searched.
Vedat came one day but he was not in his usual calm state, he was crying and trembling. He said that he saw stray dogs digging in the garden of his neighbors. The garden has been dug. A bloody chainsaw, human arm and leg bones were found buried in the ground.
Forensic report indicated that the bones, and the blood on the saw belonged to the missing woman. Thus, the Esra Kedili case turned from missing to murder.
Selin was arrested. Although her crime was not conclusive since there were no fingerprints on the saw, everyone who knew about the incident at the police station was sure that Selin was a bloody murderer who destroyed her opponent by tearing them apart, except for the experienced commissar of the homicide bureau.
“Katip, do you trust my experience?”
The name of the deputy commissioner was Katip. He started his tenure in this city three months ago.
“How can you say that, my commissar? Sure I do!”
The commissioner came close to his assistant’s ear and whispered, “Vedat is behind of this story. For now, we can’t do anything because we don’t have any evidence.”
Katip opened his small eyes wide, just like a small squirrel. “But… The man loves his wife very much. He comes here early in the mornings, every day. He shares even the tiniest bit of information with us.”
“He comes early in the mornings every day because he wants to dominate the whole process. He shares what he knows with us because the controller of the knowledge, controls the thought either. Be smart, Katip! How does this guy find what we can’t find? As poliçe officers, we might think that bloody saw will be in the neighbor’s yard, but how would an ordinary person can come upon with an idea like that? Besides, do not forget that, the close relatives of the victim who got involved personally with the cases are suspicious. They may be trying to cover up their crimes.”
“You are right, but I bet on Selin is the culprit. All the evidences indicate that she is the murderer.”
He raised up his hands. He spoke with the tone of a professor speaking from the lectern, or an artist who the spotlight shined upon, “She is a greedy woman who sees getting promoted as a matter of life and death. The boss clearly said ‘either you or her’. The scenario is simple: Esra leaves work at 7 pm on the day of the incident. She forgets her bag at the office or our suspect takes the victim’s bag secretly, we don’t know that part. As a result, Selin goes to her own house with Esra’s bag, texts Esra, and when Esra comes to pick up the bag, she says, ‘Come, dear, let’s have a coffee.’ She takes her inside and gets her work done.”
“Come, dear, let’s have a coffee.” He said this sentence, piping.
“Well…” said the commissioner. “Then?”
“Then she buries the murder weapon and the body in the garden. Cleans her house. Five minutes later, Vedat comes to his house, calls Esra, and when he cannot reach her, informs the police.”
“So Selin had coffee with Esra in five minutes, teared the body apart in the bathroom, buried her in the garden, and cleaned the house at the end all of this? If Selin is not a relative of Flash, such a thing is not possible. I’ll tell you a more likely scenario. On the day of the incident, Esra leaves her work at 7 pm, forgets her bag on her desk. Selin takes Esra’s bag, goes to her house and texts Esra. When Esra comes to Selin’s house, Selin gives Esra’s bag and sends her. This is how Selin’s part in the incident ends. Just think about it, there is no intimacy between them to have a coffee, you can say that, because the women’s houses are next to each other, but Selin does park her car a little further and doesn’t knock on Esra’s door.”
“So Vedat is lying when he saying that they drank coffee.”
“Definitely. After Esra returns home with the bag, Vedat commits the murder. He buries the corpse’s arms, legs and the saw in Selin’s garden. He hides the rest in a place where we don’t know yet.”
Katip looked at the blackboard. There were three large photos side by side. The photos of Esra was in the middle, Vedat and Selin on either side… There were the photos of some other people on the borders, but they were crossed out. There were lots of arrows and lines and notes between them.
“Both of our main suspects have clean bathrooms.” said the commissioner. “Whichever worked on this, worked very cleanly. Katip, remind me, we will congratulate when we catch the murderer.”
“It would be a mistake to get stuck in these two scenarios.” said the deputy commissioner. “Maybe both Vedat and Selin are innocent. Maybe the events have happened in the ways we could never have predicted.”
“Surprises and coincidences are good in Yeşilçam movies, Katip, but real life usually has a precise math. Sometimes cases go too complicated, the wrong calculation may come back from Baghdad, but it has not been seen that the mathematics is wrong. If Vedat and Selin’s stories were compatible, you might be right, but they are contradictory. And what does that mean? One of them is lying.”
“Maybe they don’t remember corretctly.”
“How can they misremember? According to Vedat, Selin said, ‘We were drinking coffee with Esra’. Selin, on the other hand, says that she did not invite Esra to her home.”
When the deputy commissioner stopped, the commissioner continued. “We can’t uncover the truth of this lie, and that’s the worst. If even a hair of Esra was found in Selin’s house, it would be proof that Selin is the liar. Vice versa, we cannot say that Vedat is a liar, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
“What if we use this in the interrogation to pressure Vedat, my commissar?”
“Before you prepare a mousetrap, you have to make sure that you left no space for the mouse to escape.”
“So what are we going to do?”
“You tell me, Katip, what shall we do?” The commissioner threw himself into the first seat he could find. “Because my brain has melted.”
“Let’s search Vedat’s house again.”
“How is that gonna help?”
“Vedat called us on the night of the same day. And he came to the police station soon after. So if he’s the one who committed the murder, he only had four hours. Since it is clear from the security cameras that the car never left the front of the house during this time, it was impossible him to go anywhere else.”
“You are right.” said the commissioner, straightening himself up. “But we have a problem, we have already searched Vedat’s house twice. And we found nothing. Well, there were hair and fingerprints of Esra, but that’s Esra’s house anyway, what could be more natural than finding these traces? For the third research, the prosecutor will not allow.”
The deputy commissioner took a seat in one of the empty seats. He took his head in his hands. “We need to get into that house.” he said. “Is there a place we forgot? Garage, workshop, garden…”
“No, we searched them all.”
Katip got up again and started walking around. He was as if talking to himself when he was saying, “We got footage of all the security cameras around, right? There is no camera that fully displays the front of Selin’s house, but Vedat’s house is fully visible.”
“The images are also in Vedat’s favour.” said the commissioner. “Esra enters the house once after returning from work and leaves the house upon a message from Selin. And she is not coming back. Maybe I was wrong…” He said the last sentence silently. “Perhaps Vedat is innocent.”
“When we are searching the house again, the place where we will concentrate is the second entrance, is that right, my commissar? Back door, basement window, etceteras. If there is no such entry, we can eliminate Vedat.”
“We don’t have a chance to search the house again.”
“Not for this crime, of course, but they will give a search warrant for robbery. After all, the robbery of a successful business man and a sculptor’s house is a sad thing for our business and art world.”
“What do you say, Katip? Has Vedat been robbed? When?”
The deputy commissioner smiled. “Tonight.”
At this moment, the commissioner stood up and frowned. “What’s on your mind?”
When it was past midnight, an old yellow car was waiting in the back street of Vedat’s house, in the blind spot where the street lamps were flashing. Inside the car there were two men with snow masks. The man in the passenger seat was grumbling.
“You and your ideas god damn it… We’re going to do a fake robbery, and the prosecutor’s going to give us a search warrant? We’re the homicide desk, Katip. Public order will take care of this place tomorrow. Besides, if we get caught, both our careers and our lives are over. To play cops and robbers is not something like this.”
“We will go along with the public order. Besides, my commissar, didn’t you say that a good cop must also be a good criminal?”
“My almighty god…”
The house lights went off. Katip turned to the commissioner and whispered, “The time has come.” They got out of the car and walked through the night, jumped over the fences. A muffled ringing sound came from under the deputy commissioner’s feet.
The commissioner held up his flashlight. It looked like there was only grass where Katip was stepping. “What is there?”
Katip bent down and punched the ground. “A metal door hidden by grass. That’s the fall at the first hurdle.”
He found the canopy door by searching with his hand. He pulled up the with all his power. At that moment, the commissioner touched his shoulder. “Now let’s get the job done and go.”
The thief cops approached the hall window. Because the largest windows belonged to the hall. Katip probed the floor and found the largest stone he could find. “Watch out, my commissar…” he said. “…Three… Two… One…”
The stone broke the glass with a loud noise.
The lights turned on. Footsteps came from the stairs. Vedat was going downstairs and shouting, “Esra!” His gray pyjamas were on him but his hair was neat, because he hasn’t fallen asleep yet. The stone that fell a few inches beyond the great statue in the hall seemed to have given up breaking this precious piece at the last moment.
“What are we waiting for, let’s go!” shouted the high-ranking cop, while the other was staring inside the house fascinatedly. Vedat came directly in front of the statue and knelt down.
Katip laughed. “Does he adore that statue? I guess the man is innocent my commissioner. Look at him, he cracked up. He worships the statue of his wife.”
At this moment, the host noticed and reached the falling stone slowly. After he touched the stone, he stopped and suddenly turned his head back. The thief and the host came eye to eye.
Two men in snow masks suddenly started to running. And Vedat was running after them… They jumped over the fence like cheetahs, ran across the pavement, and closed the car doors and hit the gas. In the rearview mirror, Vedat had clenched fists, arms raised, and stood like a ghost in the pale yellow light.
The cops went through the side streets and drove into the forest. They took off their snow masks and took a deep breath when the big blue sign showed their departure from the city.
“I can’t believe we did it.” said the commissioner breathlessly. “Pray for this to end well. Or I’ll destroy you.”
“We will destroy together, my commissar. I offered, and you accepted after all.”
Katip laughed as the senior constable said, “You dumbass…”
They left the car in the forest. They got on the motorbikes they had brought to the forest before and returned to their homes by separate roads.
Vedat had taken his place in the waiting room of the police station just when the sun had just illuminated the coordinates of 20-odd degrees east. However, today he wasn’t silent like the other days, he was begging to every officer he saw, “Find them, find those bastards!”
The homicide commissioner came up to the man, trying to make as surprised a gesture as he could. “What happened, Mr. Vedat?”
“Last night…” said the man, his body was trembling. “Two vile thieves tried to break into my house. They threw a stone at my house! Help me. Find them.”
“Okay, calm down. Come with me.” He pointed to the office. “Bring us tea, boys. Tell me what happened.”
“It was night. Half past twelve, I guess. I just went to my bed, then I heard the sound of a glass breaking from the downstairs. First I said I must have heard wrong, it must be coming from the outside. Then it dawned on me that the voice had come from the living room. I went downstairs, I looked and they were waiting behind the window. I saw both. Maybe they were more. Their faces were masked.”
“Okay, we’ll note of it all. In fact, we don’t actually consern with these kind of cases, since we’re the homicide bureau… Friends from the public order and crime scene investigation will come anyway.”
The expected search warrant came towards noon. The commissioner explained the situation to his colleagues in the public security office and said that they wanted to be there with his assistant. However, they could not search anywhere they wanted because of they are guests. The commissioner had mentioned to the officer of the public security bureau that there was a canopy door in the garden, but…
The commissioner and Katip stood side by side, chatting while the protective suits dressed crime scene investigators circled and numbered the stone in the hall.
“The man is a true art lover, moreover, he is skilful.” said the young deputy commissioner. He approached the white statue and began to walk around it. “Look at that statue.”
“Katip, are we at an exhibition?” said the commissioner, gnashing his teeth. He was spinning a ballpoint pen between his fingers. Meanwhile, the last crime scene officer was finishing his job and going out the door. “We came here to gather clues.”
Katip did not hear him. “If Vedat is acquitted, I will make him a statue in my house, my commissioner. This is perfect… It’s almost like real.”
Amir dropped the pen from his hand. His chest was more swollen than usual. “What did you say?”
“Like real…” said the man, cheerfully. Meanwhile, the police chief was looking at the statue with dilated pupils.
“You couldn’t take your eyes off too, could you? Well, without wishing to boast, I have a bit of art culture too.”
“This statue is real.”
“Yes, it is absolutely very realistic.” The deputy commissioner blinked and smiled. “Do you see the curves of the hair? This is a Baroque sculpture.”
The commissioner approached the statue. He brought his finger in front of the statue’s nostril. After a few seconds of silence he whispered, “She’s breathing.”
“I mean it, Katip.” The room rang with the commissar’s voice. “Esra is here!”
This time it was Katip’s turn to be surprised. “How so, where is she?” he said, quickly turning his head.
“Give me the water quickly!” With a stunned expression, the deputy commissioner handed the water bottle to his chief. The commissioner poured the water through the statue’s hair. As the water flowed white onto the floor, the hair had also darkened a bit.
“This is not happening…” said the young policeman, closing his eyes.
“My god, I just can’t believe this…” said the commissioner. “How many years I have been in this profession, I still find things to surprise. What the hell is it to cut a woman’s arms and legs with a saw and cover them with plaster? We searched her for months… For months.”
“It was right in front of our eyes.” said the other man.
“Bring me water.” He handed the bottle to the assistant. “They should call the ambulance immediately. Also, tell our folks to nab Vedat when he is at in our hands, Katip, do you understand?”
“Roger that, my commissioner.”
Until the water came, the commissioner was lost in thoughts. It felt like he was going to suffocate in thoughts. He couldn’t believe that Esra spent all this time here, in a plaster cage, in the middle of the hall. Was she conscious? What a torment was it not being able to touch when salvation was at your fingertips, witnessing the search efforts and not being able to give a voice, hearing the tyrant’s lies in your ear but not being able to tell the truth?
The shadow of Katip reflected on the door. They washed the woman’s face carefully. First the eyelids appeared, then the scarred nose and cheeks. Her skin under the plaster was flaky. The eyes longing for the light opened and turned towards the faces of the cops. When they removed the rag that was put in her mouth to prevent her from shouting, the commissioner paused for a moment, waiting for the victim to say something, but only one breath came out of the woman’s mouth. A quiet breath, full of agony.
The commissioner went out. Other policemen were dealing with Vedat. It was Katip’s part to carry the woman to the stretcher waiting in front of the door. He wrapped her body in a blanket and held her in his arms like a baby. He got goose bumps, while walking down the hall, hearing the whispers from the woman.
He knew that if he wanted to continue his profession without deteriorating his mental health, he knew that he should not have unnecessary empathy, but he could not refrain, and put himself in Esra’s place. If the same events had happened to him, probably Katip would have wanted to die too. However, man’s desire to live was the strongest instinct. Even the basis of the tendency to death was the longing for a high quality of life.
“No,” he said to himself, “if I said I’m going to kill you now, you’d object. If Vedat comes back to destroy you, you will try to hide under that cover with fear. You want to live, you just don’t know how to live like this. You are afraid of uncertainty.”
He did not voice his thoughts out loud. After handing Esra over to the medical technicians, he sighed and leaned against the door. He stared at the back of the departing ambulance.
He was pulled out of his stupor when the commissar touched his shoulder.
“He started confesing before he got in the car.” said the commissioner. “My intention was not bad. I was arguing with my wife, she was going to leave me. We actually loved each other, I always wanted us to be side by side.’ Those craven disreputable men have always excuses. Oh, and he said that if you put me in jail, Esra would be very upset.”
They burst into laughter mixed with disgust. When the smile wipe off their face again, “I think I chose the wrong profession” said the deputy commissioner.
“Why did you say that?”
“I should have been a life coach, my commissar.” he said. “I should have sat at my desk at sunset and produce aphorisms.” He took a deep breath as if to continue speaking, but he fell into silence.
“Safest place to hide, is in plain sight.”Sherlock Holmes
“You’re affected, didn’t you? What are those eyes gonna see, Katip.” said the commissioner. “What are you going to do as a life coach? We are right in the middle of it, intertwined with death and reality. Is life disconnected from death?”
It was time to go. The commissioner and his assistant returned to the police car. The car took to the street, drove away, shrunk to a point and disappeared.
At that moment, the secret underground room in the garden was opening. Anesthesia needles, medical suture kit and stype were found here. It was understood that these objects, which would not work to make it look like murder, remained here, and the rest were buried in Selin’s garden. During the interrogation, Vedat would confess that he cut off Esra’s limbs in that room.