The two Mosques looked like giant spiders, their minarets, long legs punching holes in the sky. They could have been aliens from another planet, shedding terror over the city. The two titans overshadowed Istanbul, the city of intrigues, belly dancers and James Bond. Borders stood at the rail and watched the ship glide on the Bosporus. The sun was just rising, the burning red horizon a backdrop to the skyline. The sea was awake. Sailing craft of all shapes and sizes raced and lumbered across the strait, carrying fish, passengers and likely contraband. Borders leaned on to the railing and spat into the water.
A short time later, he left with Hill in search of their guide. Time to explore Istanbul. On the dock, belly dancers gyrated their wares, to the joy of the amateur photographers and old men with old memories. Borders and Hill took photos and moved on. Panama, carrying his hat and camera, weaved in front of them, seemingly glued to his agenda. Borders intended to keep a close eye on him. If he had any plans to meet someone today, this would be the place to do it. On the bus, the two men again sat at the rear. Panama, as usual, sat in the middle. His face showed anger and Borders wondered what had upset him. He didn't seem to be taking many pictures. Was his façade crumbling? Did he know he was being followed?
Istanbul was a sea of yellow taxis, squeezing in between modern buses and top of the line street cars that resembled bullet trains. It was indeed a modern city. Everyone was fashionably dressed and in a hurry. It reminded Borders of New York City. There were no beggars in sight, no gypsies sitting or sprawled on the sidewalk, with grubby paper cups. No knick-knack sellers dogging their every step.
The tour bus dropped them off at the Sophia Museum. It had begun its life as a Christian church and for five-hundred years was the largest church in the world. In the 15th century, it was turned into a mosque, and in the last century, into a museum. Whitewash blanketed the mosaics that once adorned the walls, and now only the occasional saying of the Prophet Mohammed caught short glances. Borders lost sight of Panama and cursed himself for it. He had become too involved in his surroundings. He forgot he was more than a tourist.
The next stop was the Blue Mosque, the most important mosque in the city. A line moved slowly awaiting the removal of shoes and the donning of scarves by women. Massive columns held up the ceiling of a building that was empty. The place reminded Borders of a huge underground parking lot with high ceilings. For prayers, there was a drastic separation of sexes, men at the front and women at the back. Borders noticed a young woman and babysitting with her back against one of the columns. She was more interested in people watching than praying.
The next spot on the tour was the Topkapi Palace, one of the biggest and most popular sites in Istanbul and was home of the Ottoman Sultan for over four-hundred years. The most astonishing thing to see at the Palace was the Sultan's throne, which was in reality a large bed. 'With all those wives, what would one expect?' Borders lived with that thought for a few minutes until the guide told them that the sultan's companion for the night was selected by his mother. Soon, the history lesson was completed, and it was time for shopping at the Grand market.
The bus dropped them off at the end of the street that led to the Grand Market. The street allowed only pedestrians. The sides of the street bristled with stores and restaurants. Benches and bushes tastefully filled the center. There was an abundance of signs in front of the eateries bragging about free WI-FI. Hill leaned against a brick wall and tried accessing with his cell while Borders sat on a bench trying to keep his eye on Panama. Numerous cats were sitting about and seemed to be giving him the eye. He wondered if he looked in any way like lunch. They seemed to be contented cats. He wondered who fed them.
A large tour group walked by and Borders noticed that each person had a #2 stuck to them. They reminded him of a kindergarten class. His group had no numbering system. They must have been trusted to look after themselves. Vendors stood on street corners and available empty spots, hawking roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob. Near the Bazar, men sold rugs and knock off clothing.
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Mediterranean MissionMystery / Thriller
Mason Borders, operative for CSIS, has been given a new mission. He has to track a terrorist on a Mediterranean cruise. The ship will stop at a number of ports along the way. Any of the ports from Barcelona to Istanbul could be the target. While Bor...