Refugee Part Two - The Land of Promise

by William King

Chapter 4


The morning brought blue skies and a promise of sunshine, this served to lift the heavy burden of yesterday. Perhaps Jordan would be able to come up with a plan to aid the boys, he knew he had to do something.

Pierre was standing in the galley with a mug in his hand. "Coffee?" He asked as Jordan made his way through.

"That is exactly what I need," he replied, and watched as Pierre poured him a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

"So how do you like crewing for my uncle?" Jordan asked, taking the mug of coffee and savouring the wonderful aroma.

"It's fine," Pierre smiled at him. "They are nice people, and very relaxing."

"Relaxed, very relaxed," Jordan corrected.

"Yes, I'm sorry. My English is not great."

"No, no, it's fine Pierre. Your English is hundred times better than my French." Jordan sipped his coffee and idly looked around the boat.

"Vous parlez Français?" Pierre seemed to light up at that possibility.

"Pas vraiment, mais un petit peu. Et si tu plait, c'est tu, nous sommes amies, non!"

"Oui, okay, friends of course," Pierre was smiling at him.

Jordan thought he must perhaps miss the company of his fellow countrymen. Everywhere you go people usually speak English, that is if they speak another language, but French is maybe less common. Still you do find French people all over the world, probably more so than Americans or Brits.

"I wanted to talk to you alone," Pierre was looking directly at him, which made Jordan think he must have something important to say. "You see, maybe I have some way to help you."

"Some way to help me?" Jordan repeated, not quite following where this conversation was going. "How?" he asked.

"Well, I know this Englishman, Simon Conway, he has a yacht business. He often needs to find someone to take boats to different places. You see, people hire a yacht, then fly home, so he has to get it to the next place." Jordan was listening, but still not certain what Pierre was getting at.

"So he needs someone to take a yacht to Italy, and he asked me."

"But you're crewing my uncle's yacht." It was still too early in the morning for Jordan to figure out what Pierre was telling him.

"Oui," Pierre had reverted to French, perhaps frustrated that Jordan wasn't getting it. "It's because your uncle never said it yet, but he wants you to sail with them. So this means I am free. Your uncle would pay my ticket back to France, but... well this is what I was talking to Simon about. Because I could take that other yacht. You understand?"

It was becoming clear. "Yes, I understand. I think so." Jordan told him. "I think I need more coffee." He walked over to the counter and poured himself another mug. "More coffee?" he asked Pierre.

Pierre proffered his mug and Jordan filled it. Then as Pierre was stirring in his dose of sugar Jordan attempted a recap of the situation. "You're saying Ted is going to ask me to sail the Med with them, which means he won't need you. But if I don't go along with that plan, then you stay onboard and this guy Simon still needs someone to take his yacht to Italy."

"You got it!" Pierre had that big smile of his right across his face.

"But how does that help me?" Jordan asked.

Pierre sighed. "I spell it for you, listen carefully," he replied, which made Jordan laugh. "Simon, yacht, Italy via Turkey..." he paused looking hard at Jordan. "Get it?" he demanded.

Jordan got it. "Yes, yes, yes! That's fucking brilliant. Sorry, sorry Pierre." Jordan put his coffee down and hugged the guy.

"Yes, yes, okay," Pierre was saying as Jordan smothered him.

"Now I've got a plan, and it's thanks to you."

Uncle Ted's voice greeted them just as Jordan let go of Pierre. "What plan is that then young man?" his uncle asked him.

Jordan thought quickly, the conversation with Pierre had got his brain working, but he didn't want his uncle to know what he had in mind. "I was telling Pierre," he started explaining, "that perhaps I would go back to Turkey to make sure the boys there were okay, before flying home."

"Ah, I see," his uncle replied. "I didn't say anything yesterday Jordan, but Martha and I were going to ask you to stay onboard and join us for the rest of the cruise."

"That's really very nice of you Ted," he replied, "and you know I'd love to, but..."

His uncle raised the palm of his hand, interrupting Jordan. "You don't have to say. I know, you feel you need to help these kids in Turkey."

Jordan felt torn between his uncle and aunt wanting to spend time with their nephew, and the boys he'd promised to help. "Well..." he began.

Uncle Ted butted in again. "No it's alright Jordan, I understand, and Martha will too."

This morning on the yacht was like a set piece from a play, as if right on cue, his aunt appeared. "Martha will what?" she said stepping into the galley.

"Well my dear," Ted continued, "Jordan was saying that he feels very strongly that he should return to Turkey to help those kids. And that's all to his credit, but it means he won't be coming sailing round the Med with us old folks. I was telling him you would understand."

"Of course I do," she told Jordan, moving next to him and giving him a little sideways hug. "But you can still stay a couple of days, can't you?"

Well, he couldn't say no, and besides all good plans needed time to put in place. He could do both things at the same time. It would help having Pierre introduce him to Simon and he could benefit a lot from his local knowledge. He had after all, only the vaguest of outlines for this plan.

Simon Conway was a nice guy, late thirties Jordan guessed, he greeted Pierre with a smile. They sat down at one of the tables in the Capitainerie and Simon ordered coffees, then listened attentively as Pierre explained the change of plans.

"I've got no problem with that," Simon told them, "but I will need a copy of your qualifications faxed or emailed." He looked at Jordan, "I take it that won't cause any difficulties?"

"No," Jordan replied, "I'll get my dad to send a copy."

"The yacht needs to be in Italy by the 25th, so that gives you plenty of time, just over three weeks."

"Yes Sir," Jordan smiled, "I think I can manage that."

"Okay, well that all seems fine." Simon was happy to have Jordan deliver the yacht in place of Pierre. "I'll get all the paper work sorted, a letter of authority for you, Jordan. Give me a call in a couple of days, time to get everything organised."

They stood up, shook hands, then Jordan and Pierre left Simon to go back to meet Ted and Martha, who had some sort of tour of the island planned.

"Thanks for getting me the job with Simon," Jordan told Pierre as they walked back to the mooring.

"No problem," Pierre smiled. "We can sort out filing a detour plan for you to visit Antalya and then... well it's for you."

'Yeah it's for me' Jordan thought to himself as they came onboard the yacht. The two of them had discussed how it might work, but it was a big risk. Jordan would be fine with the filed sailing plan and his US passport, that part was all in order. The complication was arriving at the marina in Antalya, there he would need to report to the police. They might ask questions, but maybe not, if he was convincing about wanting to visit the antiquities before getting the yacht back to Italy. Or something like that, perhaps he could come up with a better cover story, if needed.

The scary part would be crossing from Antalya to Rhodes, the two of them had definitely decided that was the best route. Jordan had done some searching on the internet, and Rhodes was not really a destination island for refugees. So, if he could land the boys on Rhodes, there was every chance they could get a refugee card. It might take a while, but it was probably the best plan.

The crossing would, however, take a couple of days. That was the risky part, where they might run into a patrol vessel. The Turkish Coast Guard were on the look out for refugees trying to cross, although they wouldn't normally bother inspecting a foreign registered yacht. Not usually, but there were no guarantees.

Any yacht sighting, or rescuing refugees, needed to report it over the VHF radio to the Coast Guard. If not, and they were discovered with refugees onboard then Jordan would be treated as a 'passer', a criminal. The yacht would be seized and he would be arrested and face trial, with a five year minimum spell in a Turkish prison hanging over him.

It was a very serious prospect if things went wrong. This was no joke. Jordan had visions of 'Midnight Express', an old movie he'd seen in a art house cinema about life behind bars in Turkey, but he told himself not to think like that. Nevertheless, it played on his mind and made it difficult to enjoy the day out with Ted and Martha.

If his aunt or uncle noticed that something was not quite right with Jordan, they said nothing. Perhaps, if they could tell that he seemed a bit preoccupied and distant, they put it down to his experiences in Turkey, or his thinking about those kids he'd left behind. It was otherwise a nice day spent together visiting places of interest and stopping for lunch at a great restaurant with fantastic sea views, and excellent food.

That night Jordan sent his dad an email asking him to send copies of his sailing certificates, he told his parents he'd be back home in about a month from now, and that it was great seeing Ted and Martha. He hoped his dad wouldn't question why he wanted his sailing qualifications, that he would just assume it was because he would be crewing for Ted.

Firas was looking across the room at Amar and Samir sitting together on the other bed. "Do you still think we will hear from Jordan?"

Amar nodded, "Sure, why not? He said he would call."

"But if he doesn't?"

"If he doesn't... I don't know. I guess we would have to leave. We can't stay here forever." Samir reached out to the boy sitting next to him and squeezed his hand. It made Amar think that perhaps they should come up with some sort of plan of their own.

"Maybe we need to think about what we would do?" Firas had seen Samir grip the older boy's arm. He knew that the youngster was worried. During all their time together he'd got so used to watching Samir that he could more or less read what the boy was feeling. He didn't need to speak. "We should think about going West, and leaving before the money runs out."

"Look Firas," Amar replied, "it's too soon to think about leaving, and besides Jordan has paid for us to stay here. What's up with you? Is it sharing a bed with Fadil?"

Firas couldn't help blushing, he felt his cheeks getting warm. "No I like him," he replied.

"So why all this talk about leaving?"

"I don't know. I guess it's because I know things won't last, and..." At this point Samir stood up. Both Firas and Amar watched as he crossed the room to sit down on the bed next to Firas. Samir put an arm around Firas' shoulder. "It's just so good," Firas continued. "You know this is the best it's been and... well I think it can only get worse. I don't know."

"It will be okay," Samir spoke and hugged Firas. That was maybe only the second or third time the young boy had ever said anything. It was too much for Firas and he couldn't help the tears escaping his eyes.

Amar had now joined the two of them. He too put an arm around Firas and they sat there, one on each side, holding him.

It was not the first time that things had become emotional for one or the other of the boys. They spent all their time trying to deal with their circumstances, trying to come to terms with their past, and hoping for some kind of future. But it was a future that was difficult to imagine. They relied on each other now, but there was always the thought lurking at the back of their minds that their existence together was very precarious. Sometimes all these emotions were overwhelming.

Samir knew exactly what Firas was feeling. He'd seen how he liked Fadil, he knew how alone he was. It was not difficult to understand, but he himself had confidence in Jordan. There was something about the American that was innocent, honest, trustworthy. If things didn't work out he knew it wouldn't be Jordan's fault.

The cathartic moment was interrupted by the ringing of Amar's phone. He scrambled excitedly to pick it up and answer, because the only person who would be calling was Jordan. "Hello," Amar answered. Then he listened as Jordan briefly explained his plan, what they had to do, when it would happen. Jordan said nothing to Amar about the risks, he just concentrated on telling Amar what they needed to do.

When the call was over Amar stood up and turned to Firas. "You see, you worry too much."

"What did he say?" Firas asked.

"He has a plan. We need to go and buy some good clothes, so we look... respectable."

"Respectable?" Firas questioned.

"Yeah, respectable. That's what he said. He will be coming to the marina and we need to look okay so we can go meet him there. You know... so people don't think that... well don't see anything odd."

"But why do we have to meet him at the marina? Why doesn't he just come here?"

"Look, I'm getting to that," Amar carried on. "He's coming here with a boat."

"With a boat! " Firas shouted the last word.

"Shut up can you," Amar told him. "He's coming by boat. We need to meet him at the marina, then we all sail off into the sunset." Amar chuckled at his own joke, but it was more nervous than funny. "He is going to get us out of here by boat."

Firas looked from Amar to Samir, he couldn't really believe what he just heard, and he saw that Samir looked just as incredulous. As for Amar who was telling all this very matter of factly, like it was totally normal, well it was obvious he didn't quite believe it either.

"That's what he said. I'm just telling you what he said." It was as if repeating out loud could in some way or another convince both Amar and the others that this was a great idea, a good escape plan. I don't think anyone thought it was, or that if it happened, it would actually work.

"He's crazy," Firas said.

Then everyone went quiet, looking up as Fadil entered the bedroom. "What's crazy? "He asked.

"Oh nothing," Amar replied. "Firas was saying we need to get some new clothes, that's all."

"Ah, well... if you want I can take you to my uncle's shop," Fadil suggested. "He does clothes, men's... and boys. Very good prices for you... and he really is my uncle."

Amar smiled at that confirmation that it was Fadil's real uncle because it was standard practise for boys to take tourists to their 'uncle's' shop. The shopkeeper would give them a small commission for bringing him a customer.

It was decided, after lunch was finished, they would all go with Fadil to visit his uncle's clothing store.

Mazhar greeted Fadil as he stepped inside his uncle's shop with the boys following behind. "Fadil, my boy," he smiled at his nephew, "come in, come in." He ushered the little group into the interior.

There were clothes on hangers, jackets, t-shirts, trousers, jeans, and on shelves, each side of the shop. It was like walking through a multi-coloured forest of material. It extended from floor to ceiling and stretched way back into the depths of the building. The further inside they walked the dimmer the light, until Uncle Mazhar flicked a switch and light bulbs came on to illuminate the furthest reaches.

"And what do all these fine young men want from your uncle?" He was speaking to Fadil, but looking the other boys over. If he thought to himself that they were poor street urchins, he kept his thoughts to himself, and maintained a jovial smile.

Uncle Mazhar was the image of a small and charming shopkeeper. A person who would work his magic on his customers to ensure they left with the purchases they believed they had chosen and obtained at a bargain price.

Fadil explained that the boys had need of some smart clothes so that they would be presentable and not look poor. Although he made a point of telling his uncle that they were in fact poor and did not have a lot of money to spend.

The smiling shopkeeper ignored why they might need to be presentable, it was after all an opportunity not to be missed. He brushed aside the question of money with a broad sweep of his arm and an encouragement to the boys to look around and examine the clothes.

Amar and Samir were looking at trousers on one side of the shop, whilst on the opposite side Firas looked at shirts. Fadil joined him to help him choose. Uncle Mazhar buzzed around, and at one point produced a tape measure because none of the boys knew their sizes.

First Amar, then Samir, and finally Firas were measured. Samir was laughing as Uncle Mazhar ordered him to stand still so that he could measure his inside leg for a pair of trousers. There was a lot of toing and froing, and jostling each other. Demanding from one another if this looked good, or if that shirt went with those trousers.

When finally each one of them had found a shirt and trousers, they sat down with Uncle Mazhar around a little table in the back of the shop. The young boy who worked in the shop brought a tray with glasses and tall silver tea pot. Then he poured each of them a glass of tea. He disappeared off to the front of the shop whilst they drank their tea and haggled over the price of the goods.

It was Fadil and Amar who ended up doing all the talking with Uncle Mazhar, whilst Samir and Firas joined the young boy at the front of the shop. They joked around and chatted, which was much more fun than haggling over prices.

Firas wanted to know if the boy liked working in the shop, and what he did there all day, and how many people came in to buy things. The young boy told them his name was Arslan and he had been working for Uncle Mazhar for a year. He said that Mr Mazhar liked to take a nap in the afternoons and so often left him to serve anybody who came into the shop.

Young Arslan was very talkative, had a winning smile and was actually pretty nice looking. The three of them were soon lost in conversation as Arslan recounted various stories about customers. He explained about one elderly gentleman who was a regular visitor to the shop and who always insisted Arslan serve him.

He would get the youngster to bring him clothes to the small changing place at the back of the shop, where he would always have him wait whilst he tried them on. The man would touch him casually, brush a hand against his cheek, or rest an arm across his shoulder. Nothing more than that, and he always bought something.

One time he told them he had to serve the son of a rich man, whilst Uncle Mazhar dealt with the boy's father. He told them that boy kept him with him in the back of the shop as he tried on some jeans. Arslan smiled broadly when he explained the boy, who was about fifteen, had a huge hard on when he was getting undressed.

This excited Firas who wanted to know what happened. Arslan told him that the boy took his hand and placed it on his hard cock.

"Really!" Firas exclaimed, wondering if Arslan wasn't just making this all up.

"Yeah, yeah, it's true," the youngster insisted.

He told them he would have touched the boy's cock anyway if he'd just asked, but he played along pretending he didn't want to do it. It ended with the boy paying him to jerk him off.

"You should have seen it when he came," Arslan said. "He shot buckets right across the back of the shop. And he shouted out, which brought Mr Mazhar back to see what was going on."

"So what did he say, Mr Mazhar," Firas asked.

"Nothing much," Arslan replied. "He made the boy get dressed and he bought the jeans, so I guess he was happy."

Firas wondered if Samir was having the same thoughts as he was, because Firas' mind was off imagining all sorts of sexual escapades in the clothing shop.

The three of them were Interrupted when Amar joined them, he had two parcels of their clothes wrapped in paper, bound by string. He immediately took the first from under his arm and handed it to Firas, then pushed the other one against Samir's chest.

"Okay, let's go," he said. Then they were off out of the shop, with Samir and Firas trailing Amar down the street. Fadil had stayed behind, Firas turned and waved a goodbye to Arslan who was standing at the shop entrance next to him, watching them go.

Now they had the clothes Jordan had asked them to get, but Amar was not entirely happy. For one thing, even if Fadil had been true to his word, and his uncle had made them a good price, still it was a chunk of money spent. Secondly, Amar thought it might be money wasted if Firas was right and Jordan never showed up. He was not in the best of moods when they arrived back at the restaurant, something that was obvious to the other two.

"I hope he doesn't stay like this for the rest of the day," Firas whispered conspiratorially to Samir, who smiled back at him.

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