Airs and Heiresses
New York, 1938
St. Regis Hotel
"So there I was, staring down a barrel INCHES from death...and I told the man, 'darling REALLY, if you simply must shoot me do allow me to remove my earrings. They are Cartier, you know." Molly Maltese paused to take a sip of her Red Snapper, popping the olive neatly between her cherub lips before gnashing it to a pulp. "And the man was quite flummoxed, he said- I say, is that Riza Hawkeye?"
She rose, the group of rapt men in tuxedos and women in glittering dresses and furs murmuring their protests as she wended through their knees. But the apparition she was quite sure had been Riza Hawkeye had vanished in the crowd of New York socialites populating the exclusive terrace.
"Well, this place is a bit ritzy for Riza." she murmured, fairly certain her old acquaintance didn't make a habit of populating social-climbing fetes. And she reasoned, any time Riza had appeared before it was hardly ever for a pleasant cause. Well, maybe that was unfair. It just seemed she was more the swirl-of-furs-and-stiletto-daggers type than a frothy socializer like Molly herself.
Peering around, Molly saw nothing but the shadowed faces of revelers partially cloaked in the smoky haze. She had just been about to give up and go back to her companions when the most shocking hubbub began. Over on the north part of the terrace, she could distinctly hear the shouts of men and panicked screeching of females. Moving forward, she could just make out..
"Did you see... The Ambassador... who could have... murder! Someone has pushed the Ambassador off the building!" Molly picked up speed, expertly weaving through the crowd of panicked voices. Sirens already began to sound twenty stories below. Just as she grasped the ledge and looked over, an all too familiar voice sounded in her left ear.
"Oh hello there, old friend. Lovely breeze out today."
Before her stood Riza Hawkeye herself, looking utterly unruffled as several ladies fainted behind her.
Marc and Riza ran to the sound of the shriek. "That shriek was too familiar," Marc said as they made their way down the train car. People were sticking their heads out of their compartments.
"Nothing to see here, people," Riza said as they passed.
Marc was nearly knocked over as a large man came crashing to the floor.
"Bastard!" Vulkie yelled.
The man got up and started to retreat back towards the door Marc and Riza had entered from. Vulkie rushed after him.
"Vulkie!" Marc yelled, "No!" He turned to Riza. "Get Molly and get outside, quickly!"
Riza started to object. "Do it," he said. He sprinted after Vulkie.
The distance between them was bigger than he had anticipated. He found them fighting next to a railing outside, two cars away. "Marc!" Vulkie yelled, "He's part of Sphinx!"
Marc grabbed at the man, who ducked and kicked Marc's legs out from underneath him, causing Marc to crash to the ground.
Vulkie grabbed the man but he fought back, knocking her backwards so she tumbled over the railing. She grabbed onto the rail to catch herself from falling.
Marc grabbed her hand to try to pull her up. Her palms were moist with sweat and he could feel her slipping from his grasp. "I got you," Marc said. The ground seemed to be moving by at hundreds of miles an hour, an exaggerated measurement from the actual speed they were traveling. Fear overcame Vulkie's face as Marc tried to pull her back over the railing. He was cut short as he was suddenly tackled through the door.
Vulkie was gone. Knocked off the train, she tumbled into the grass. Marc felt sick to his stomach as the man stepped over him. Vulkie...
He looked at the man, who wore a patch over his eye. "Remember me?" Hassan asked.
"You son of a bitch!" Marc yelled. "I'll kill you!" He felt a set of hands grab him and pull him backwards.
"Easy, big boy," Molly said, as Riza pinned Hassan to the wall with her knife.
*** Before Vulkie fell off the train ***
As Vulkie sat in her compartment, she was smoking a cigarette and looking out of the window. It was dark and she couldn't sleep. The dream still haunted her memory. Her father had shot her after she had stolen her mother's jewelry... but there was a good reason for it.
As she thought about what happened after she fell into the sea, a knock on the door interrupted her train of thought. "Enter" Vulkie said, and someone entered the compartment. "Ticket please" a man's voice asked and he closed the compartment door. As Vulkie was still looking out of the window, she quickly turned towards her purse on the nearby table and began to dig for her ticket. Just as she was about to hand it, she could hear the cocking of a gun.
"Surprised to see me?" the man asked, and sat down next to her. As Vulkie looked towards his face, slowly, surprise overtook it. It was Hassan. He was still alive, but wearing an eyepatch.
"You.. you.. but.. how.. but.." Vulkie said, having lost all words. "You.." she began, but was interrupted by Hassan, who replied: "Are supposed to be dead? Yes, I almost was... but your friends showed me some mercy. After they were done with me, they left me for what I was... that was their first, and final mistake, if it's up to me. Yes, I eventually recovered from their torture and was patched up. To keep the believe of me being dead, we found someone else who was suitable and had him treated the same way, plus a coupe de grace - a bullet to the head, so you would think I was dead for sure."
"But... how did you find us?" Vulkie asked. Hassan laughed quietly and replied: "Do you think we would let you all get away from us? We have connections, everywhere. The pilot you bribed? One of us. He immediately informed us where you were going and it didn't take us too much time to figure out where you were heading next. I bet those idiots told it immediately once you had confronted them at the drop-off."
*cont in next post*
"Yes, but one of those idiots suicided. At least he had the guts to continue with what he started." Vulkie replied, with a grin on her face.
"Shame... they might've been idiots, but they were doing a good job with collecting the money. It wasn't until you all interfered in our business and that of Jack's, that it all blew up in our faces. I'm afraid..." Hassan said, while reaching in his pocket, "that we need to tidy it all up now. Jack's not gonna be happy, but it has to be done.." he added.
As Hassan got his hand out of his pocket, he revealed a small bottle. It had the word CYANIDE written on it.
"Either you get a bullet, or a capsule of cyanide. Your choice..." Hassan said, while presenting the bottle to Vulkie.
As she took the bottle, she observed it and unscrewed the top. She took out the capsule and looked at it. Ordinary as any other medicine, one would say; except, this one had a deadly ending once taken.
"The capsule.." Vulkie said, as she bowed her head. Hassan laughed. "Excellent; that means that I have some more bullets left for your friends.." he said.
As she put the pill in her mouth, Hassan kept on watching. However, he didn't expect that Vulkie was not to bite it down or swallow it. Instead, she spew it out, right in his face and made a move for the gun. Hassan and Vulkie got into a struggle, and she knocked Hassan right in the face, making him fall down on the floor of the compartment. Vulkie held the gun at him and took aim. "Too bad Hassan, your luck just ran out" Vulkie said. "Not quite" he replied, instantly drewing a knife and cutting her leg. She let out a shriek and dropped the gun to the floor.
Hassan immediately got up and held Vulkie's arms together, but she headbutted him and they swirled around the room. Just then, the conductor came in and saw what was happening. "What is going on here?!" he almost shouted, while Vulkie pushed Hassan into the conductor. Hassan fell on the floor again.
"Bastard!" Vulkie shouted.
Hassan immediately got up, ran past Marc and Riza and got out of the door leading to the next train compartment coach. Vulkie immediately began to chase after Hassan, while Marc and Riza kept on watching after her, surprise written all over their faces.
After running through two train compartment coaches, she finally cornered Hassan outside, fighting him. Marc joined them "Marc!" Vulkie yelled, "He's a part of Sphinx!" she added immediately afterwards, hoping to trigger Marc into a fury.
So it did. Marc grabbed at Hassan, who ducked and kicked Marc's legs out from underneath him, causing Marc to crash to the ground.
Then, it was Vulkie's turn. She grabbed Hassan but he fought back, knocking her backwards so she tumbled over the railing. Vulkie grabbed onto the rail to catch herself from falling.
As Marc tried to grab her hand, she realised her palms were sweaty, which caused her to slip away from Marc's grasp. Realizing what was about to happen, Vulkie's faced spelled fear all over it. She knew she was going to fall off the train.
Just then, Marc was tackled and that's when Vulkie lost sight of both of them... She fell off the train and rolled down into the grass, rolling and rolling, which seemed an eternity, until it finally stopped and she praised herself lucky that nothing too sharp was lying in her way down.
As she got up, she heard the train's whistle and looked at it disappearing. "Well then" she said to herself, "I guess we're going to Shanghai on foot. First order of business... what's the damage?" she added.
As she looked down, she could see that her skirt had tears in it, probably caused by some tree branches that were lying in the grass. Her legs were covered in dirt, caused by the muddy hill she had rolled from. As she looked at her hands and arms, they were also dirty. However, as she touched her head, she could feel some blood pouring from it. "Damn, must've hit a rock on the way down. Gotta bandage that immediately!" she said to herself...
As she tore a long piece of her blue skirt, she began to swear to herself. So that rat Hassan had still survived. She should've expected it... but then again, it wasn't like Marc or Riza to leave a job unfinished. As she tied the long piece of her skirt around her head, it almost looked like she was wearing an Indian Turban.
"Right... Now that that's sorted, we best get a move-along.. it's a long way to Shanghai I presume.." Vulkie said to herself and she began to walk...
*** 5 hours later ***
As Vulkie kept on walking down the narrow, muddy road, she noticed that it slowly turned into morning. As she took a small pause and looked at her surroundings,she exclaimed out loud: "It all looks the same! Rice fields, everywhere!!" As she walked a bit further down the road, she began to realize that she didn't have any water nor food with her. She was all on her own, there wasn't a human probably to be found in miles and she still didn't have any idea where she was and on top of that, she was tired from all the walking.
Luckily, a great old tree stump was nearby, on which she could sit and rest for a bit. "I'm never going to make it.. I'm never going to make it.." she murmered, over and over...
"Don't give up" a voice in the back of her head said. "Your friends are still in danger! They need you, now at the most perilous of times!" the voice added.
"I know" she murmered, "but I can't go on! I'm dead tired.. ".
Then, all of a sudden, she looked into the further distance. She could see a wagon driven by a man, with two oxes in front of it, approaching her. "Just my luck!" she said and she waved down the wagon. The wagon came down to a stop.
"Hello, good sir. I need some assistance. I'm on my way to Shanghai.." Vulkie began, but she realised that she was talking to deaf man's ears. The Chinese rice farmer couldn't understand her at all.
"Shanghai.." Vulkie said.." go.. to ... Shanghai" she said after it. The man still looked curious at her...
The man waved towards the back of the wagon and she got into the back of the wagon. She hoped that he would take her to a place where she could get some food, or better yet, find someone who could translate for her.
*** One hour later ***
As Vulkie had dozed off, she was immediately awakened by the fact that the wagon came to an immediate stop. As she pulled herself up and got out of the cart, she could see that she was near another rice field. "Great.." she murmered, "I hope they don't think I'm the new worker.." she added.
As the Chinese rice farmer guided her towards his farm house, they entered it. The man immediately began to speak in rapid Chinese as his wife approached and looked curiously at Vulkie. Vulkie simply nodded and made her way towards a chair. A young, Chinese boy, sat opposite her and looked at her with surprise as well. The poor lad had probably never seen a foreigner, and was only expected to be surrounded by Chinese people.
Suddenly, the Chinese rice farmer's wife approached with a large pot, filled with green tea and a bowl of rice. "Eat.." the Chinese rice farmer's wife said, "drink.." she added.
As Vulkie gracefully thanked her by smiling and placing some dollars on the table, that she had still left, since her purse was still on the train and she began to eat and drink.
"Where.. you.. go.." the Chinese rice farmer's wife asked, trying her best to speak clear in English. "Shanghai.." Vulkie replied. Immediately, the wife began to speak to her husband and the husband returned with a map of China.
"Point.. where... you.. go.." the wife asked, and Vulkie pointed at where Shanghai was located. Immediately, the wife began to speak in Chinese to her husband and they argued for a bit, while Vulkie drank the remaining bit of her tea. It was apparent to Vulkie that the farmers had never gone to Shanghai, possibly preferring the simple Chinese farmer's life and dealing only with local people...
*cont in next post*
"You.. go... with.. him.. take.. two.. days.." the Chinese rice farmer's wife said.
Vulkie simply nodded and got up. "Is there somewhere I can freshen myself up?" Vulkie asked, making all sorts of gestures about cleaning up. The wife immediately understood and guided Vulkie towards a small pig-tub, which was filled with water. "Well, we have to make due.." she said, as she started to wash her legs and arms. Eventually, she was cleaned up, but she still looked like she had rolled in the mud with a pig. She couldn't obviously wash her clothes, that would be impossible here, and she had to get to Shanghai immediately!
She knew the train would arrive in Shanghai in a couple of hours, but for her, it would still take two days... two whole days, in the back of a wagon, with two oxes in front of it and a Chinese rice farmer who didn't speak a word English. "If the guys hear this.. I'm never gonna hear the end of it.." she said to herself, as she got in the back of the cart.
"To Shanghai, it is!" she shouted and the farmer whipped the reigns, and the oxes began to move...
*** From Riza Hawkeye's point of perspective ***
Out of the corner of her eye, Riza watched Vulkie tumble down the hilly precipice, her body occasionally hitting jutting rocks. Riza winced as she saw Vulkie's body go limp and she noticed that she wasn't instantly getting up. The train still moved along, as she turned her attention towards Vulkie's attacker, who was none other than Hassan...
*** Some time later ***
Vulkie woke up by the sound of a Minaret, which meant that she was still somewhere in Turkey, Istanbul. As she tried to pull herself up, she noticed that she didn't have enough power and instantly fell back on a comfortable bed.
"Is.. is anyone here?" she said, but all she could hear was her voice being very quiet. As she tried it again, a man entered the room. He immediately dropped a bowl filled with cold water with a towel in it and rushed to her side.
"Don't worry Hanımefendi." the Turkish man said, "you've been ill for some time... just relax."
"How.. what.. How do you know I speak English?" Vulkie said and the man smiled. "You were unconscious for a while, but you were muttering in your sleep.. something about.. cyanide and Chinese Rice farmers.." the man replied. Vulkie instantly remembered. She had been on the Chinese countryside, hadn't she? Was it all a dream?
"How come you understand English and can speak it?" Vulkie asked, while looking at the man. "Well Hanımefendi, I am a spice merchant. And my dealings are often with local people, but also with foreigners who wish to procure spices that are unavailable in their own countries. One must keep up with what the foreigners want. They're very good for business!" the Spice Merchant replied. Vulkie just gave a small smile.
"But, if I said cyanide.." Vulkie began, but the man hushed her. "Rest.. it's all been taken care off.. You'll be alright in a moment. Would you like something to eat? You've been unconscious for at least two days.." the Spice Merchant said.
"TWO DAYS?!" Vulkie shouted...
As it went unnoticed by Vulkie, she had gotten up immediately, but the man forced her back on the bed. "You really shouldn't do that Hanımefendi, you are still recovering.. Here are some dates, a Turkish delicacy. We also have some Turkish delight, if you prefer, with a cup of tea?" the Spice Merchant said.
As Vulkie picked up a Turkish delight, she put it in her mouth and chewed on it. She was immediately blown away by how sweet it was; sweeter than anything she had tasted before. She immediately beckoned for some tea, which the man poured in a cup and gave it to her. It tasted like roses and a hint of cinnamon as she took a sip.
"My friends.. they're on a train towards Shanghai.. I need.. I need to go after them. They're in grave danger!" Vulkie said, and the man threw her a worried look. "If you are in a rush Hanımefendi, I can't hold you here. However, the next train to Shanghai won't depart until tonight. I propose we walk around Istanbul, so I can show you all the wonders that Istanbul houses; it's not often I get such a humble foreigner in my house.."
"Thank you, my friend.." Vulkie said, and the man helped her up. As she stood up, she felt a bit groggy, but otherwise, she felt great. "Now then, Mr.. I never asked your name to be honest.." Vulkie said. The man smiled. "You may call me Tariq.. Tariq Atalay.. At your service, miss.." Tariq said. "Miss Nouson.. Victoria, if you please" she said and she took his outstretched hand.
*Some time later *
After a nice walk through Istanbul and having been shown lots of exciting things, such as Galata Tower and Topkapi Palace, Tariq treated Vulkie on some dinner. As she dug in on her döner kebab, she was reminded of her time spent in New York at Sami's.
"You know Tariq.. I've had Gyros before, but it doesn't taste as good as this!" Vulkie exclaimed, and Tariq smiled. "Did you know that gyros is based off of döner kebab? We invented it and it spread towards Greece during the Ottoman Empire - era." Tariq replied.
Vulkie was astonished; so the Turkish actually invented what the Greeks called Gyros? "Amazing, Tariq.. I never knew that. Once I get back in New York, I'll have a word with the proprietor of Sami's, a Greek restaraunt. He's always been saying the Greeks invented it first!" Vulkie replied, before she took another bite of her döner kebab.
"Ah, it's been like that for centuries... We never could quite give eachother credit for eachother's inventions, may it be in the food - section or any other sections; one will always exclaim he or she invented it first..." Tariq said, with a saddened smile.
"Don't worry Tariq - I still believe that the Turkish invented it first" Vulkie said, with a small wink, which made Tariq smile.
As they were paying the bill, Vulkie said: "Oh, don't worry, I'll.. wait.. my bag's still on the train!"
"Don't worry Miss Nouson, I'll cover it this time. Just promise that the next time you visit Istanbul, you drop by my house. Here.." Tariq replied and scribbled an address down on a piece of a napkin, "is my address. You're always welcome." he added afterwards.
As Vulkie took the napkin, she placed it in her jacket's right pocket and proceeded to hug Tariq. He immediately stopped her. "No, no! That's forbidden, by our religion. You musn't!" Tariq said. Vulkie immediately apologized; she hadn't realised that women weren't supposed to hug men who had a Muslim background.
"Right, off to the train station Miss Nouson - you have a train to catch!" Tariq said and they departed towards the Sirkeci Terminal.
*Sirkeci Terminal *
"This is where we say goodbye, Tariq... I hope to see you another time!" Vulkie said, as she got into the train's compartment. Tariq had made sure she was alright and said: "Be careful Miss Nouson. I suspect you still have dangers lying ahead..". Tariq extended his hand, and Vulkie shook it. "Don't worry - it's my job." she said. Just then, the train whistle sounded and Tariq got off, as the train departed to Shanghai...
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