Our family had spent the night in a hotel to avoid an anticipated attack by eight bruisers hired by our loony Istanbul neighbour. All seemed somewhat ridiculous in the light of a new day. The Frenchman went to work, one child went to school, the baby and I went back to our apartment, where Mandana, our Iranian housekeeper, was waiting on the doorstep.
We went in, closed the door and went to the kitchen for coffee. We had not yet even opened the curtains. The doorbell rang and there was an insistent forceful knock. There was also the loud, buzzy-crackly noise of a walkie-talkie. On hands and knees, Mandana crept to the window and peeked through a gap in the curtains. "It's the police. Your neighbour is behind them." She listened and I thanked the heavens for her being fluent in Turkish. "The voice on the radio says to arrest you. They are saying you are not home. Your neighbour is saying you are, that she saw you come in." The phone began to ring. "It's them ringing you. Don't answer it!"
This was in the days before every soul owned a mobile phone. We had a second land line in the office for the fax. From that, I rang the Frenchman and again had to insist when the snooty secretary said he was too busy. "The police are at the door to arrest me!" I hissed to him.
"Stay on the line. Do NOT open the door or answer the phone." He rang the highest government official he knew. That man rang the Ministry of Police. They rang the corner police station, who, Mandana told me, told the police at the door, via the walkie-talkie, to give up and leave. Which they did.
"It may not be over yet," said the Frenchman. "If they can arrest you within 48 hours of the complaint, it is considered in flagrante - caught in the act - and you go straight to a judge and jail." My heart, I am sure, stopped for a moment. Everyone in Istanbul knew about Turkish jails. Mandana knew from her friends what happened there. "Midnight Express" was not a lie. The jails were primitive torture chambers where people were beaten regularly and there were no investigations as to those who died. I did not think I would be killed but the loony's husband was a lawyer and clearly they would make sure I got the worst possible treatment they could arrange. "I will come for you in the armoured car in one hour. Have a bag packed and be at the door."
"We have to get Mandana out of here too. She's illegal."
An hour later, he was at the door. The guards and police were waiting at the lower gate for me to try to leave but had not considered the upper gate, which was where the car was. We hurried up the hill as the guards of the upper gate were telephoning the guards below that we were there. We left before the police came up the hill and we went to another hotel.
"You must not be caught within the 48 hours. After that, the complaint is treated as any ordinary complaint. You will be given a court date and time for a lawyer. I am told it takes months. You just must not get caught. Do not even order room service."
I was on the lam. It was in the world's most beautiful hotel, but I was in no condition to enjoy the luxury. To the end of my days, I will think of the Çiragan Palace Hotel as my hideout.
My son was brought from school. A couple of hours later, the Frenchman and the snooty secretary showed up unexpectedly. It seemed that the loony neighbour had gone to the police station of the next town and made out another complaint requiring the Frenchman to say where I was. As he and his secretary did know where I was, if they were questioned and lied, they too could have been prosecuted. We were all on the lam. The snooty secretary offered the knee-shattering services of her father who, she said, was a lawyer for the Turkish mafia (which explained a lot about the woman). Such a thing at such a moment is such a temptation, but one must resist joining the ranks of the truly wicked.
©2011 Anne Morddel