More Ahmet and Leigh (Turkish bribes)

This passage was edited out of The Word Not Spoken because of length. It was originally part of Chapter 30, the summer that life became “normal”.

One hot morning, Ahmet caught up to Leigh as she strolled down the main street of Goreme, with nothing more on her mind than a desire for chocolate.
Gel,” he said. “We go now to Eregli.” He took her elbow and turned so that they headed back to where she’d been coming from.
“I must see the prosecutor there.”
“To pay a fine.”
“I must pay today or I will go to jail tomorrow.”
“What! Why?”
“Why you need to know everything? Just you will come with me.” He nodded at her dark green Turkish dress. “It will help me if you are there.”
He was in Ali’s blue suit, she noticed then, and freshly shaved.
“How much is the fine?”
“Maybe $1000.”
“A thousand dollars! U.S.? You pay today or go to jail tomorrow?”
He nodded. “Six months.”
“But how long have you known about this? Why did you leave it to the last minute? Six months in jail or $1000, and I’m only hearing about it today? What did you do?”
He groaned. “My poor brain to marry a woman like this.”
They reached the carpet shop and stepped into the courtyard. The boss wasn’t within sight so Ahmet went on a search. Leigh chatted with the woman on display for the tourists. She was knotting a maroon and indigo carpet on an upright loom. Unasked, a young boy brought them tea. Leigh downed her shot quickly as Ahmet appeared at one of the arched entrances and motioned impatiently.
Gel! You know we must hurry.”
She scooted across the old stone floor and caught up to him in the office where the boss counted out $1000 in commissions. He nodded appreciatively toward Leigh and said something in Turkish. Based on whatever lie Ahmet had told him, he wished them a good journey, and they were off.
It was only two hours to Eregli, a medium-sized city that Leigh had never been to. It appeared much like Nevsehir- concrete houses and shops but not much in the way of parks or restaurants. Without hesitation, Ahmet drove straight to a government building complex, parked the car and headed to one of the ugly yellow buildings.
“You’ve been here before,” commented Leigh but he didn’t answer. In fact, he seemed preoccupied, and it occurred to her then that he was nervous.
“Are you sure that paying the fine will prevent going to jail?” she asked as they climbed some wide steps into the building.
“Yes, I already told you this.”
“What did you do? When did you go to court?”
He grabbed her hand and pulled as he turned left and walked purposefully down a shiny-floored hallway.
Her stomach felt heavy. More turns, more shiny floors, and he knocked at a door. A small man answered and after some discussion they were left to sit in a waiting room. Leigh was completely cowed by then and had stopped asking questions. As the minutes passed, she stilled in her chair, but Ahmet shifted constantly in his.
An hour later, one of the adjoining doors was pulled open by an uncovered woman who barked at Ahmet to come in. Leigh followed.
The woman sat behind a desk that filled most of the room. Ahmet and Leigh sat in two chairs before it. Startled, Leigh realized that this was the woman they’d come to meet. She was uncovered but she was not a prostitute- she was a prosecutor.
Fascinated, Leigh studied her as she leafed through a square book similar to a ledger or agenda. She was an exceptionally ugly middle-aged woman wearing big square horn-rimmed glasses. Leigh guessed that she was aware of her unattractiveness and had decided not to care. She had found ways to compensate: boldness, toughness, power. Her clothes were western-style- a red sweater with an expensive brown jacket and matching pants- and her body tested the seams.
Ahmet introduced Leigh. The prosecutor looked at her with flat eyes and clearly found Leigh to be lacking. She then opened a file and reviewed it, occasionally muttering angrily at Ahmet. Then she closed the file and berated Ahmet for a long time. He sat with his eyes downward, politely submissive and didn’t argue a single point.
Leigh still didn’t know how he had broken the law, but it was clearly very serious. She felt guilty and chastised herself, just sitting across from him, but the woman spoke far too quickly for her to understand. Leigh did hear the anger and warning tones though and she understood that next time Ahmet wouldn’t be given the option of a fine.
The woman stopped and glared at both of them. She was making up her mind. After a moment of silence she spoke to Ahmet, slammed the file shut, motioned to the door and picked up her phone.
Leigh thought they were to leave, but Ahmet didn’t stand up. As the woman spoke into the phone he leaned towards Leigh and explained. Some paperwork had already been completed by the woman, and she wanted a personal payment of $300.00 on top of the thousand they had brought with them.
“But we have only $1000. Will we get more at the carpet shop?”
“No, even $1000 is not all ours. We must pay some back to the shop by our working this summer.”
“Where are we going to get $300?”
“I will try some friend.”
As the woman slammed down her phone, Ahmet asked to use it. He made a couple of calls and the prosecutor provided her personal bank account number. The bribe was to be put directly into her account. She then called her bank, asking them to inform her the minute the money was deposited.
Ahmet was not permitted to leave her office. They waited on the modern cushioned chairs and watched the prosecutor work. She opened files, read reports, snarled into the phone and haughtily ignored them. Ahmet didn’t speak or smoke; no tea came.
As the hours went by, Leigh’s angst increased unbearably. She hated sitting and waiting. Ahmet continually glanced at the clock. If the money didn’t arrive by 5:00, it would be too late- he would go directly to jail.
At 4:00 Ahmet asked the woman to check her bank. She ignored him. He looked at the floor. Leigh considered going home alone. She’d have to find a bus. She still couldn’t drive a shift, despite Ahmet’s best efforts.
At 4:20 the phone rang. The money was there. Ahmet smiled; Leigh sighed. The prosecutor stood, stretched and told them that they needed a box of candy for the ladies who would complete the extra paperwork at this late hour. Hungry and annoyed now, Leigh wondered why she couldn’t have been told that earlier.
All three of them went to Ahmet’s car and got in, the prosecutor in the back seat. A lighter left on the dashboard had exploded in the sun. This brought only a shrug from the others, but Leigh could think of little else. She’d never known a lighter to explode in sun before. Did Turkey make defective lighters or was it that hot? What if she’d been sitting there? It had been right in front of her face and now plastic shards were everywhere.
The woman loudly pointed the way. They stopped quickly for a box of sweets at a pastry shop and then drove back to the complex of government buildings, parked and hurried into one that looked like all the others.
While they were rushing through the halls, the prosecutor’s heel broke on one of her shoes. She yelped and picked up the errant heel. Leigh was several steps behind and she soundlessly snickered. The prosecutor limped awkwardly down the rest of the hallways. Leigh enjoyed it immensely.
It was 4:45 when they arrived at a long counter where two women were packing up for the day. They accepted the candy and sat back down. Ahmet handed over $1,000 and the real paperwork began. Thirty minutes later, Ahmet and Leigh stepped out of the building, free of their escort, exhausted and elated, in dire need of tea and sigaras.
Leigh gave him hell once they were back in the car, but it was half-hearted. This was life with Ahmet and she loved the last-minute dramatic rescues. Her main complaint was hunger.
They didn’t hang around Eregli to eat, but headed for a cafeteria they’d passed on the highway, only an hour ahead. Ahmet sped but she didn’t mind- the motion was a relief for both of them.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, hearing a siren behind them. She turned and moaned. “Damn, damn. It’s the police. Pull over.” All she could think was that they were in for hours of paperwork and she was too hungry to bear it gracefully.
“Ahmet! Stop the car! Shit, I am too hungry for this.”
Ahmet stepped harder on the gas and their speed increased. “I will not stop.”
“Stop the car! Haven’t we been in enough trouble today? We can’t afford more tickets.”
He hooted and grinned. “The girls are very slow today!” Truly happy, he took the car as fast as it would go.
“Stop the car!” yelled Leigh, scared of the speed now.
“If we stop we will get a ticket,” he argued, watching the road ahead.
“If we don’t stop we’ll have bigger problems.”
“No, no. They will radio ahead and make a blockade. There is police station in the next town.”
“A road block! Are you out of your mind? Stop the car!”
“Why? Look behind. They are lost.” He laughed and slapped the steering wheel.
He slowed a little. They argued as he drove. Ten minutes down the highway, they came upon a police car turned sideways across the road
“You see?” he thrilled. “They do this all for us!”
He was forced to stop by a thin police officer waving both arms.
The policeman came to his window and Ahmet rolled it down to greet him cheerfully. He demanded Ahmet’s driver’s license and registration. Ahmet told Leigh to look for them and he opened the door.
“Where are they?” She opened the glove compartment.
He glanced at her as he got out of the car. “License is at home.”
“Home! Where is the registration?”
He grinned at her. “I don’t have but you look.”
He turned to the officer, and they walked to the back of the car.
Talking aloud to herself about the follies of marrying foreigners, Leigh made a show of emptying the glove compartment. With maps, handwritten notes, a few utensils, some tissues, a single glove and a wrench on her lap, she touched the blue glass eye hanging from the rear-view mirror for luck and waited.The men were talking animatedly for so long that she put everything back into the compartment and then collected the blue plastic lighter shards from her seat, the floor and the dashboard, muttering all the while.
Finally Ahmet bounced into the car, laughing hard.
“Are we going to the station?”
He waved to the officer. “No.”
“Did you get a ticket?”
“No, just greetings for my family.” He started the car.
“He is from the village near to mine.”
She shook her head. “Can you just get me to the cafeteria without incident, please?”
“Yes, my Lady, benim Hanim, it is the time to celebrate now.”
And very shortly they did.

warding off the evil eye

warding off the evil eye

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