Part 3: Talon - Chapter 15

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Franco liked to drive a fancy car.

That is, Nancy noted as she put her collar up against the gritty wind dusting the streets, he liked to be driven in a fancy car.

The car stopped exactly where Nancy hoped it would, just out of sight of the main street. It was a quiet part of Istanbul—relatively speaking in a city of twenty million people—and the only passers-by were the type of people who very much minded their own business.

On the other side of the street was a small coffee shop. The owner knew both Nancy and Franco and also minded his own business, only opening his mouth when it was necessary to say something, not because he wanted to.

Franco's driver climbed out and opened the rear door. He would be a tough one in a hand-to-hand tussle, one of those big sort of guys who would just stand there and take a lot of punishment, then pull back and punch hard with every bit of weight behind him. Just that one punch, and all the fancy stuff his opponent had done would be rendered pointless.

Franco emerged, dressed in a dark suit. Both he and the driver looked about them as they crossed to the café and entered. It was only after they had passed inside that Nancy emerged from the shadows she'd been lurking in and approached the building. Light spilled out onto the street, but she kept to the dark places until the last minute.

Inside, the owner was just showing Franco to a table. The driver sat apart, back to the wall, facing the door. More than just a driver, then.

There were no other customers. Nancy knew there wouldn't be. The owner had been paid well for this private booking of his establishment. Even the staff had been given the night off.

As Nancy entered, all three men looked at her.

Franco smiled as she approached.

'How do you know I don't have someone outside with a gun aimed at your back?' he asked, but without threat. Maybe he was just asking out of sheer curiosity.

'Because neither of us is that stupid,' she answered.

The owner's loyalties were clear: the chair he pulled out for Nancy allowed her a view of both of the other men, with the driver on her right side, and Franco up against the wall on her left.

'Rakı,' said Franco to the owner. 'And meze.' He pointed to his driver. 'Nothing for him.'

Wants him to keep a clear head for fighting, thought Nancy. She ordered rakı too, the aniseed-flavoured liquor the Turks loved.

'Why are we here?' Franco asked. 'Not that it isn't a pleasure to see, I revise that. It isn't a pleasure.'

The owner had gone back to the kitchen to fetch their drinks and appetizers, but Nancy touched the silencer on her lapel anyway. The device resembled an ordinary broach, but effectively put up a barrier against the escape of sound around their table. Even the driver could not overhear them now; only someone actually standing within the silencer field would be privy to their conversation.

Franco smiled. 'Such a device is not necessary,' he said, and indicated his man at the other table. 'Eban can be trusted. Besides, he can read lips.'

Nancy turned to look at Eban as if noticing him for the first time. 'Impressive. Can he play the guitar too?'

She touched the lantern on the table and the light dimmed to a dull gloom which would make it hard for Eban to read anything. 'You shouldn't have told me that, you see.'

If Franco regretted his words he didn't show it. 'I repeat, why are we here?'

'Oh don't worry, I'm not asking you for money or anything. Even though you do seem to have done well for yourself. You bake the best bread in Istanbul, I'm told.'

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