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Short Fiction: The Standard Version (2 of 5)

I love reading and writing. I came to writing late in life and discovered a world where I feel like a fish in the water.

To what era does this book belong?

To what era does this book belong?

What's in a Family Name?

“The family name written on the back of the map was a common name in Antioch. It is likely that a descendant or a close relation to the family is protecting the manuscript by keeping it hidden.” she said.

“Where do you think the manuscript could be?” said Elie. “It has been such a long time. How could it have survived the passage of time and war activities?”

“I didn't have the time to find out more.”

Elie looked at Simon. A silent conversation went between them. Simon nodded his head in consent.

Elie spoke softly, so softly in fact that Maren found herself leaning toward him so she could hear him better.

“We're going to let you in on a confidential matter. Do you promise to keep to yourself this conversation and further conversations related to this matter?” Elie said.

Maren beamed. She was being trusted with a confidential matter. She felt her excitement bubble up. She promised confidentiality in everything related to this matter.

“Simon has flown earlier this week from Lebanon where he is currently positioned. He is part of the Maronites community there. The head of the Maronite Catholic Church who is our leader asked him to recover the document from you, and to find out what you know and if you've taken any action since you came into its possession.” Elie continued, “He must report back to our leader. We want to find more information, but we also want to limit the number of people who know about this search.”

Simon said, “Your findings are useful. We'd like you to continue doing further research for us. It's important to avoid drawing attention to what you're doing, so we ask that you continue with your daily routine but devote time during the day to continue your research.”

Maren was surprised by the turn of events. She came to this meeting fearing reprimand and learned instead that her research skills were appreciated and wanted.

“Simon and I will share with you what we know and will give you support where we can,” said Elie in his soft voice. “This will be kept between the three of us. Simon will continue to report regularly to our leader. There is a sense of urgency placed on this matter. Urgency and discretion are both required. Are you willing to help us?”



Maren gladly accepted. She then proceeded to talk about her finding and her belief that the small village of Behram was the location where the manuscript could have been kept safely hidden. That area was a tourist attraction. The ancient and panoramic ruins were under steady surveillance to protect the site from vandalism.

She believed that the threat of terrorism in that area was remote because terror attacks targeted mostly the capital city and large cities.

Elie confided in her that he had been doing some research in the public reference library to translate the document. Two days later, he realized that he had carelessly left the two pages tucked in a book in the library. He went back and enquired from the librarian about who consulted the same book after his visit. That is how he knew how to contact her. He told his superior about his blunder. Simon was asked to travel hastily to Elie’s location to help him recover the valuable document from her.

Simon extended his appreciation to Maren for returning the document and for the speed with which she had advanced the research.

The three of them talked a little more and agreed to stay in touch to share information and act when required. They also agreed to keep all information related to this matter confidential until such time when they could retrieve the manuscript safely.

They stayed silent for a while and Maren felt happy just sitting there with them in the shade of the large tree. She keenly felt the physical closeness of Simon but kept her attention on her breath to avoid letting wild thoughts make her behave in a way that she might regret later. Deep down, she wanted this moment to last but knew better than to hope for a romantic relationship with a catholic clergyman.

After about twenty minutes from the moment she got off the bus, Simon and Elie walked her back to the bus stop and waited for her to board it before heading to their car. They did not drive her back to her place to avoid gossip.

Her instructions were to continue gathering details on how best to travel to that area in Turkey or instead to find someone to do the search for them on site. She promised to report her findings to Simon who was staying with Elie.

Elie did not make any suggestion and Maren saw it as a sign of a lack of commitment on his part.

Planning to Travel

Maren did a lot of reading on the ruins of the Temple of Athena in Behram as she figured she would have to travel there as a tourist in search of the manuscript. It did not even occur to her that Simon and Elie would object and that she should limit her contribution to research.

Behram City was founded from 1000 to 500 before the common era. It was located on the southern side of Big Peninsula, or Troad as it was known in ancient times. Much of the surrounding area was visible from the temple.

She saw herself taking a flight from the Toronto International Airport in Canada to the Istanbul International Airport in Turkey. She would rent a car at the airport to drive to Behram in the Canakkale province.

The flight time was about ten hours. This would be followed by a seven-hour drive from the Istanbul Airport to the city of Behram. The distance from Istanbul to Behram was about 280 kilometers or 173 miles in a straight line.

The only hotel in the village was the Broosyal. An internet search on the hotel showed that it was housed in a natural stone building covered with climbing plants. The rooms had either a view of the valley or the green courtyard. If she went there, she intended to ask for a room with a view to the valley.

Other than the hotel restaurant, two other restaurants in the village could be used to watch and observe. The Kayarisi and the Qayo Merlamouna.

Wi-Fi was available free of charge in all areas. She just had to worry about a secure and private connection to do her research. Language will not be an issue because everyone in historic and touristic areas spoke English or at least understood it.

Maren reasoned, If I go there during the tourist high season from mid-April to mid-September, I could mingle with the crowd. Being part of a group of tourists would attract less attention to me.

The weather during that period was expected to be good.

The busiest days at the Canakkale airport were the 18th of March and the 25th of April of every year. These two dates were significant in Turkish history. That meant she would have to avoid traveling on these two dates.

She knew how essential it was to check the political climate before traveling to any part of Turkey.

With lots of vacation days left at work, she would have no trouble getting approval for two weeks vacation time in mid-June.

Ruin in Turkey.

Ruin in Turkey.

Behram, Turkey

Behram was called Assos in ancient times. Many of the old buildings in Assos had fallen in ruins, but Behram was still active. The remains of the Doric Order Temple of Athena, that went back to the year 530 before the common era, were on the Acropolis. Six of the original thirty-eight columns remained almost intact. How can I find out if the bases of the columns were a good hiding place for a small package? She wondered.

The pier with old stone houses serving as inns, pensions, and restaurants was situated down the steep seaward side of the hill at the water’s edge. This information was relevant to her project. She could either stay overnight in one of the inns or visit one of the restaurants on her first day to watch the area and plan further.

The Temple of Athena was the only known example in the Doric order in archaic Anatolia. The Doric order could be identified by the simple circular capitals at the top of the columns. The unadorned columns rested directly on the stylobate of the temple without a base[i]. A stylobate was a continuous base that supports a row of columns in classical Greek architecture[ii].

Maren stopped reading at this point as she realized the complexity of her search. If the three columns had no base, it meant that the manuscript could not be hidden underneath one of the columns. If not under the columns, then the manuscript must be hidden in a house with someone. This is like searching for a needle in a haystack.


[i] https://baringtheaegis.blogspot.com/2016/09/on-hellenic-architectural-orders.html#:~:text=The%20Doric%20order%20is%20characterized%20by%20a%20plain%2C,metopes%E2%80%94square%20spaces%20for%20either%20painted%20or%20sculpted%20decoration.

[ii] Encyclopedia Britannica.

© 2020 Liliane Najm

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