Deadly Web by Barbara Nadel

Deadly Web - book cover

Games of sex and death have terrifying consequences…

Read a Short Extract


Ikmen looked across the room at the slim, handsome young man hand in hand with his eighteen-year-old daughter.  Resplendent in white and gold, Hulya Ikmen, now Cohen, looked like a bride from a fairy tale.  Beside the couple, standing a little distant from them, was another attractive female, somewhat older and, to Ikmen's way of thinking, a little sadder than Hulya.
    'I am very happy to welcome Berekiah into my family,' Ikmen said, and then tipping his head in the direction of the young woman beside the couple he added, 'I just wish that my Cicek could find someone.'
    Jak, following the policeman's gaze, looked at the young woman and smiled.  'Oh, I shouldn't think you'd have too much trouble here,' he said.  'I mean, look at that fellow there.  He's very attractive and he's moving in on your Cicek, by the look of it.'
    For just a moment, Ikmen thought that perhaps some new and exciting young man he'd never seen before had come on the scene.  But when he saw that it was Mehmet Suleyman, he turned away from Jak and looked out of the open French doors across the terrace towards the Golden Horn and the great Imperial Mosques of the Old City.
    'I don't think that he's entirely suitable,' Ikmen said, more to himself rather than to Jak.  'He's got too much past.'
    And then the music began, softly at first, echoing up into the marble galleries that line the upper storey of the function room.  The Pera Palas Hotel, built for the elegant passengers arriving in Istanbul on the Orient-Express, erstwhile residence of Ataturk, Agatha Christie, Jackie Onassis, various Ottoman princes - including now Mehmet Suleyman.  Poor Mehmet, childless, wifeless, worried, talking earnestly to Cicek - about something.  Ikmen shook his head as if to free worrying thoughts from his mind and went to join his headscarfed wife and her sisters out on the terrace.

The climb was steep and after a short while she began to pant.  It wasn't so hot now - around 5.30pm - but though young, she was mildly asthmatic and so it was hard.  The asthma, so her doctor said, was a nervous condition, brought about by her anxieties.  He'd given her medication for it.  That the condition persisted now that she didn't have any more anxieties, hadn't had them for a while, was strange.  Perhaps the medication, had she taken it, would have helped.  She climbed on, gasping, using, where she could, the stout trunks of the trees to support her.
    Above, the Byzantine castle of Yoros loomed.  At the height of summer, even this late in the afternoon, this area wouldn't be deserted as it thankfully was today.  A combination of late season and rumours of an impending war between America and Turkey's neighbour Iraq had meant that Istanbul as a whole had done badly for tourists in recent weeks.  In some quarters it was being said that perhaps this war could affect Turkey herself.  Even Istanbul, some said, was close enough to Iraq to make gas or chemical attack a possibility.  Her breath became more laboured, dizzying her head with lack of oxygen.
    Before the Christian Byzantines built Yoros Castle, the site on which it now stands was a pagan shrine dedicated to Zeus.  The Ancient Greek sailors who wished to pass safely through the straits would first make sacrifice here, pouring innocent blood into the earth for their god to take and use for his nourishment.  That the 'new' religion of Christianity had appropriated this site was nothing unusual.  Up-coming faiths often did this to old sites, stamping down hard on what had gone before, neutralising what had been 'evil' and making it their own.  Up in the city, Aya Sofya, once a church constructed from the ruins of pagan temples, then a mosque, now a museum, was a perfect example.  All this the girl with the swimming head had learned and understood.
    Just below the castle, in a small clearing she had been taken to before, the girl stopped and sat down.  Though still taut with excitement, she was beginning to feel hungry.  But now was too late and, besides, there was too much to think about and do in the intervening time.  Now she knew he had to be preparing to come to her.  When the sun set he would arrive.  She took her clothes off and piled them neatly in front of a tree.  Then she sat down, legs crossed, and removed her crystal from her bag.  She thought how beautiful it was as she stared into its transparent depths.

'People commit suicide every day,' Cicek Ikmen said as she put her cigarette out in a small, white ashtray.
    Together with Mehmet Suleyman, she had moved from the main function room of the hotel and into the bar.  Sitting at a distant table over by the hotel's front windows, they had both decided to stay out of the orbit of the huge mirror that hung like a vague threat over the old, darkwood bar.
    'But then you, just like my father, must know that' Cicek continued as, in unconscious mimicry of Cetin Ikmen, she proceeded to chain-smoke.  'Perhaps it was the boy's youth that so affected you.'
    Mehmet leaned back in his chair and sighed.  'Maybe.'
    'Or maybe the method...'
    'I don't want to talk about that.'  He too took a cigarette from his packet and lit up.
    'OK.' She crossed one slim leg over the other and settled back to look at the ornate and archaic decor.
    He couldn't tell her the truth.  He couldn't tell anyone the truth.  Besides, although he knew she was aware that Zelfa had left him, he didn't know whether Cicek knew why.  It was almost certain she didn't know the whole story.  She was so normal with him.  People weren't generally this casual when talking to those living under possible sentence of death.  And HIV, Aids - it wasn't nice, not a comfortable death.  But then two handfuls of the antidepressants he'd been prescribed plus half a bottle of raki would fix it even before it began.  Even taking the route the boy had taken.  No, that was far too upsetting, too messy, too much trouble for all of those left behind.  It was, however, compelling, strangely attractive and just at this moment he wanted it with all of his soul.  But he couldn't tell her that.  Now smiling as her sister the bride entered the bar with their father, Cicek was so obviously pleased that the young girl had got what she wanted.  Tales of death were not appropriate here.  He reined them in and forced a smile.
    'My sister looks dazzling, don't you think?' Cicek said as she raised her champagne glass up to her lips.
    'You belong to an attractive family,' Mehmet replied.
    'With one exception,' Cicek joked as she flashed her eyes briefly in the direction of her father.
    Mehmet laughed.  Small, thin and rumpled Ikmen might be but, as he reminded the man's daughter, her father had such charm and charisma that looks were largely irrelevant in his case.
    'Well, I suppose that my mum must agree with you,' Cicek said just after she drained her champagne flute.  'She's been with him for ever.'
    'Hey, you know Dad's engaged a gypsy fortune-teller on the terrace?  He knows her; she's supposed to be really good,'  Cicek said excitedly.  'Do you fancy having your cards read?'
    Suleyman grinned.  Ikmen and his soothsayers, spiritualists and other assorted misfits!  'No,' he said, 'it's not for me.  But you go.'
    'OK.'  She got up and left.
    When she'd gone, briefly Mehmet caught Ikmen's eye and watched as the older man's features broke into a smile.  He is, Mehmet thought, in a sense holding me close.  He knows what I think and what my intentions could be.  As the most successful and prolific homicide detective in the city he has a legal duty to protect me.  And he is the son of a witch.  And he loves me, I know like a son.  If I lay hands on myself, he will stop me.
    The sudden touch of a hand on his shoulder made him jump.  Ikmen, suddenly materialised at his side, took his face between his hands and kissed him hard on both cheeks.

The sunset call to prayer brought him just as he'd said.  Wordlessly, from behind, he took her naked arms in his hands and entered her.  It hurt.  Terror briefly took over from desire and she managed to stifle a scream.  Big, hard and cold - as she knew it would be - slowly at first it moved inside her, agitating the pain.  But then as the rhythm began to increase a curious thing happened - a sort of anaesthetic effect took hold, an absence of sensation that then suddenly blossomed into something she had never experienced before.  A feeling somewhere between pleasure and pain, a glorious tightening of the senses.  She gasped.  Long, elegant hands reached around to pull and tease her nipples and the girl let out a small breath scream.
    Her body now moving in time to his, she took her hands away from the earth and kneeled up, her eyes closed.  She'd been told about this moment, the one that was approaching with such ecstatic rapidity.  She heard her chest wheeze as her body attempted to deal with the increased need for oxygen.  He spoke now, possibly in Hebrew, and she, in response, began to gasp.  The experience took him to another level, one that was so wonderful and yet at the same time so frightening for her that she screamed.
    Let it finish, let it last forever, she thought as the full force of the orgasm broke across her.
    And then with him still hard inside her, others, their faces hooded, came and touched her body too.  Sharing their ceremony, his and hers.  She didn't see the knife because her eyes were closed.  But she felt it, plunging into her heart as great flashes of white lightning flew all around the clearing like a display of fireworks at a wedding.

Copyright © Barbara Nadel, 2005