Privileged, that's what I am. I pray in the Conqueror's Mosque, the most honored one in the whole of Istanbul. Look at its simple, vast courtyard. There's nothing to distract a man from his mission, just the sober beauty that reminds one of the Greatness of God. Of why I have to perform my difficult duty.
At the fountain I have done my ablutions, a ritual that soothes me. A little cat came up and licked the water drops off my bare foot. I thought it to be a good omen even if I had to wash again. I love cats. I thanked God when I was praying inside, surrounded by the thick walls laced with five rows of arched windows that support a dome so high, it must have been a miracle half a millenium ago. Fatih Mehmet, the Conqueror, built this tribute to Allah after the greatest city of the infidels surrendered to the relentless blows of his army. Our army! We, the Muslims arrived, and Constantinople became Istanbul. Some claim the architect failed to make the first mosque of Istanbul higher than the infidel's biggest church, the Aya Sophia. They say the Sultan ordered his hands to be cut off, but I think that’s just malicious slander, invented by the infidels.
I must go now. No time to linger. I'm quiet inside, focused. I have the address written on a piece of paper, but I don't need it. I know where to go. I leave the outer courtyard of the mosque through the gate at the right, which brings me into Darüsafak Avenue. Isn't that a beautiful name, Abode of Dawn? I walk past Wednesday Market with its small shops. Dried fruits and nuts, frilly dresses for little girls, a toyshop -didn't have those when I was small- the tulumba shop. Maybe I could stop for a portion of those sweet syrupy balls. I'm sure my assistant would like to. But no, I mustn't indulge.
Evil tongues say I know little mercy. That's not true. My assistant will testify that I find my task hard. He's a reliable young man. But it must be done. God's soldiers must be tough. We cross the Yavuz Selim Avenue straight into the Manasyazade Avenue past the Ismail Aga Mosque. I know that at the back of its courtyard, the old medrese is still being used for teaching. One of our finest Quran courses is given there. Perhaps on my way back I could pay a visit. The teacher is a friend of mine.
Look at the pretty ladies in the sun, their faces framed by headscarves and reddened by the icy wind that's blowing. I disapprove of those young, slender girls who wear their long coats so tight that a man needs no imagination to know what's inside. They send my blood racing. Very bad. They're asking for something to happen to them. We're nearly there I think. Left off Fethiye Avenue, at the end of this street we go right, and then left again.
Here's the place. First on the left after the big grocery. Its stands of vegetables nearly blocking the pavement. As I expected, a decent, modest street. Is it surprising, if you remember that back in the Conqueror's time this was the first neighborhood of the city that was populated by Muslims? No fancy houses, no showcases for wealth, just as God commands. Behind these metal framed windows live good folk. My assistant knows the address too; he's spotted the door already. I let him press the bell. He likes that.
"Who's there?" I recognize Zekeriya's drawling voice.
My assistant announces our arrival. It takes a while before the buzzer sounds. I'm not worried. I know our friend will let us in. He has erred, but he's not lost. I'm here to bring him back to the flock. Third floor. My assistant presses the button. He likes that.
I suspect Zekeriya hesitated before opening the door because he thinks little of me and my assistant. There are some who think the boy is retarded, but I can tell you he’s not. And of course Zekeriya’s wife hates me. I guess she’s at home….
You can find the full story in ‘Istanbul Noir’. Akashic Books, New York, 2008