Chapter 17 (Francisco del Herrero)

October 8th

We had been locked up for over a week. When Gram turned his mobile back on, he had seven new messages from Tom. The first few were calm, with Tom sending regular updates about his progress repairing the Mechanical Gills on the F. Scott. However as he continued to leave messages with out getting any type of response, his voice became more and more irritated. I listened in as the Captain played Tom’s last message.

“…and if you’re out at the fucking bar Gram, I swear to God I’ll walk away right now and you can come get the sub yourself.”

After a few tries, the Captain got Tom on the phone and was able to explain what had happened to us. I could hear the irritation in Tom’s voice turn quickly to concern.

“It’s all right Tom. We’re ok,” said Gram into his mobile. “Bastards ripped out one of my teeth and the son of a bitch won’t stop bleeding but other than that we’re fine.”

He paused for a moment.

“Lewis? Yeah he’s ok too. I think he pissed himself while we were in there but yeah, he’s fine.” The Captain began to laugh.

“Asshole,” I mumbled to myself. I was sitting in the cabin of the truck between Gram and Iseri, who was driving. I reached over and rolled down the passenger side window. I pulled out the pack of Gallos from my shirt pocket and lit one. Iseri, gestured with his right hand that he wanted one too, so I lit a second cigarette and passed it over.

According to Gram, Tom had finished repairing the F. Scott. He and Peoria were somewhere off the coast of Portugal, on their way to meet us. It would take them at least five days to reach Turkey. I threw my cigarette out the window, leaned my head back and fell asleep.

I woke up sometime after midnight. We were driving south along the Gallipoli peninsula. I was cold so I rolled up the window. Gram was asleep. The radio was on and a voice was speaking in Turkish.

“What is he saying?” I asked Iseri.

“He’s saying the Chinese Navy opened fire on a civilian cargo ship from Romania this afternoon,” said Iseri.


“Supposedly they were attempting to smuggle guns through Istanbul to the fighters in the south, in Yalova.”

“Do you believe that?” I asked.


A little after four, we were just outside of Eceabat, a small fishing village on the Dardanelles Strait. We abandoned the truck in the woods and walked the last six kilometers into town as the sun came up. We walked up to a nearby inn when Gram stopped all of a sudden. He looked at Iseri.

“All I have on me are Rubles. Will they take Rubles?”

“They’ll take whatever money you have,” said Iseri.

We got a room with a sloped ceiling and two twin beds. It was small but clean. Gram gave Iseri some money and sent him out for supplies.

While the Captain was in the bathroom gargling salt water, I started looking through my notes to make sure everything was still there. Tucked between my notes from the museum was something I’d never seen before. It was a letter written in Spanish on brittle paper, stained with blood. I scanned it into the Captain’s mobile and translated it into English.

This is what it said:

July 5, 1546

To he who finds this letter,

I come from Barcelona. I was once a captain in the Spanish Armada and took part in the Battle of Preveza. Our forces were slaughtered by Hayreddin Barbarossa, the scourge of the Mediterranean. I was taken aboard Barbarossa’s ship and forced to watch as he executed the last of my men. I was tortured and made to do unspeakable things. I lived for five years, not as a man, but as an animal, kept in a cold damp corner, in the belly of the ship.

As a young Captain, Barbarossa had made a pact with the devil that he would one day command the Ottoman Fleet and be the most powerful man to sail the Mediterranean. He wore around his neck a strange artifact thought to be the source of his power, a foreign metal fish with smooth dark stones for eyes. A gift, no doubt, from the Devil himself.

One night I freed myself of my shackles and killed a guard with a knife I’d carved from bone. Above deck I killed two more men, before I dove into the ocean and swam to freedom.

Unconscious, but alive, I washed ashore in Venice. A kindly monk found me and took me in. He helped me regain both my strength and my sanity.

A year later I returned to Constantinople and found Barbarossa in his home, a bloated old man sleeping in a chair. I tied his wrists and gagged his mouth. With my bone knife I cut him from end to end, bleeding him like a pig. He witnessed in horror as I spread his insides around the room and ground them into the carpet with the heel of my boot. I torn his prize metal fish from the chain around his neck before he took his last breath. I wanted him to know that he knew he would be returning to Hell without it.

You, who have found this letter, understand that I am not a monster, nor a man without purpose. You see before you the body of Hayreddin Barbarossa, a man twisted by evil. I have done the world a great service.

Glory to God, Glory to Spain

Francisco del Herrero

Chapter 16 (Escape)

I woke up when they untied me from my chair. I tried to stand but fell over. The chair where the Captain had been sitting was empty. Two soldiers picked me up off the floor and marched me out of the cellar to the back of the house. One of them knocked me on my knees and the other held a gun to my head. My mind raced. I thought of my childhood in the Philippines and of London and the F. Scott, the Captain, Peoria and Tom. I thought of my mom rolling cigarettes and the stories she told me of my dad. I remembered holding her in my arms as she took her last breath, telling me to run. The man who took her from me, his voice was like gravel. I wanted to scream but couldn’t.

I could feel the tip of the gun pressed hard against the side of my head. I looked up and saw a hand with an enormous knife come from around the soldier’s shoulder and expertly slice his neck open. Blood poured from the gaping wound. I got to my feet, but was tackled by the other soldier. Gram ran up with a shovel and knocked the soldier off me. I watched as he hit the soldier again and again with the shovel until the man stopped moving. He grabbed the dead man’s gun and turned to me.

“Get up bud.”

“We must leave now,” said Iseri as he cleaned the blood off his knife by pulling it across the bottom of his boot.

“Wait.” I said.

I ran back into the police station and found my bag was sitting on a desk next to the Captain’s mobile. My journal was still inside, along with my wallet, which was now empty. Luckily Gram keeps a wad of cash in his boot, which the police neglected to search.

We ran through a patch of woods to the main road. There was a truck parked in front of a refueling station that said “El Gallo Kosher Meats.”

Gram ran up and pointed the gun at the man filling up the truck. Iseri said something to him in Turkish and the three of us got in. We drove off leaving the man standing there holding the nozzle.

Chapter 15 (Prisoners)

The soldiers linked us to the dead businessmen found in the Bazaar three days earlier. We were taken to a cellar and interrogated for hours. They punched me in the stomach repeatedly causing me to vomit blood. The soldiers held Gram down and pulled out one of his teeth with a pair of greasy pliers. Then they punched him in the spot where the tooth used to be. When they left the room, I looked over at the Captain. His eyes were wild.

We sat there in that room tied to chairs, bleeding. I held back tears and tried to think of something pleasant. I thought about a girl I met in the pub from Mauritius, who took me by the hand and led me through the back door into the alley. She kissed me with warm soft lips. She ran her fingers through my hair and whispered in my ear. My heart raced and I could feel the warm blood in my veins. My mind was far away.

I looked up at the Captain and remembered where I was. He saw me looking at him and smiled. His teeth were stained with blood.

“The first time I got locked up I was fifteen. My parents were killed in ‘68. I left the Carolinas and headed north to West Virginia. I wandered into a small factory town. I was hungry but had no money. The local sheriff and his boys caught me going through someone’s garbage. They beat the hell out of me and threw me in jail.”

“How long were you in there?” I said.

“Weeks man, months probably. They used to come around late at night and spit beer at me. Sometimes they’d drag me out of the cell and take turns kicking me in the stomach. Other times they’d sick the dog on me.”

I started shivering and was unable to stop.

“One night I escaped. I ran off into the woods, away from that devil town”

Gram paused and spit out a mouth full of blood. He looked me in the eyes.

“What I’m trying to tell you here Lewis, is that things may be bad, but we’re gonna get out of this. Believe you me. I want you to know that.”

This made me feel a little better, but not much.

“What happened after you escaped? Where did you go?” I asked him.

“I went back to that town and I killed that son of a bitch sheriff… That’s what happened.”

They kept us tied to those chairs for five days, occasionally feeding us stale bread.

Chapter 14 (in the bookstore)

October 8th

It’s been over a week since I wrote my last entry and today I’m struggling to concentrate. My head hurts and I keep finding bits of dried blood in my hair. Gram is in the bathroom gargling warm salt water. His mouth won’t stop bleeding. The past week has been awful. I feel lucky to be alive. I will start from the beginning.

(a week ago)

I followed the storekeeper down dark narrow hallways, past shelves so crowded with books that they leaned over you ominously. Rooms fed into one another like a maze. Walls had been constructed out of salvaged plywood and sectioned off the store like a shantytown. I cut my elbow on the sharp edge of a Coca-Cola sign that was bent in half, with one side was nailed to a bookshelf and the other to a moldy wall. The floor was covered with overlapping Persian rugs, worn so thin you could see the white thread showing through. Eventually I could feel the cold hard lumps of fresh soil under my feet and realized we were no longer in the main building, but in the empty lot next door.

A heavy oak door with a bronze knocker shaped like the head of an Incan warrior blocked the entrance to the storekeeper’s office. He fumbled through his wad of keys until he found the one he was looking for. Before he opened the door, he told me I must wait outside. When I protested, he reached into his pocket and handed me a piece of candy that was melting out of its rapper. Once he went inside I threw the candy on the floor and lit a cigarette.

When we caught up with the Captain an hour later I was too embarrassed to tell him that I had let the journal out of my sight. He and I spent the rest of the day rummaging through boxes of books, magazines, periodicals, letters and old photographs.

That evening we were eating kebab sandwiches with Iseri when I noticed that my notes from the British Museum were missing. When I told Gram what happened he was furious.

The next morning we confronted to storekeeper about the missing pages. He said didn’t know what we were talking about and suggested that Iseri took them. The Captain’s questions became more aggressive. The storekeeper smiled and offered us some apple tea. He asked if we wouldn’t mind waiting while he went back to his office. Perhaps he had taken the pages without realizing it he explained.

“You had better come back with those missing notes,” said the Captain.

I was smoking a cigarette in the courtyard when soldiers stormed into the atrium. One of them saw me and signaled the others. They plowed through a group of chairs as they charged in my direction. I dropped my cigarette and ran back into the store. Gram was standing by a bookshelf reading. I grabbed him by the shoulder and told him to run. One of the soldiers fired his gun and it hit the shelf just above the Captain’s head. We sprinted through a series of rooms to the back of the store trying to find an exit. We came to a dead end, so we doubled back and went through another series of rooms. When that led nowhere, Gram took a step back and kicked in the plywood wall to the right of him. We stumbled over the broken wall into the next room.

We found ourselves in the storekeeper’s office. He was sitting at his desk talking on the phone. In front of him was a pile of papers including my missing journal pages.

“You son of a bitch,” said the Captain as he grabbed the papers and handed them to me. I stuffed them in my journal.

Gram kicked in another wall that led to a hallway with an exit door. We ran down an alley to the back of the building where we were met by another group of soldiers. They handcuffed us and threw us in the back of a truck.

Chapter 13 (in the bookstore)


We walked down a long dark alley that fed into a dimly lit atrium. Women and children tried to sell us candy, old stereo equipment and brittle camera film. Four men were sitting at a table drinking apple tea and smoking from a hookah. Three of them were meek and wiry, with long veiny arms that reached across the table like the legs of a spider. The fourth man had a cup of apple tea resting precariously atop his colossal stomach. He held the mouthpiece of the hookah to his lips with hairy sausage-like fingers. Iseri walked over and said something to him in Turkish. The man gulped down the last of his tea and stood up from his chair. He gestured for us to follow him.

He took us behind the kitchen, past the dried lambs tongue and pickled eyeballs and led us to the end of another atrium filled with rolled up Persian rugs stacked floor to ceiling on both sides. We walked through a beaded curtain into his store.

There was a young boy sitting behind the counter reading a Russian comic book loaded with pictures of naked women. When he saw us come in, he threw the comic to the floor and pretended to be cleaning.

The store smelled like on old closet. On one side was an encyclopedia of military weaponry from Argentina, sitting neatly on a display case full of knives and jewelry, in front of a poster for “Gone with the Wind.” On the opposite wall hung three shiny metal hands with a sign above them reading “the Silver Hands of Nuada Airgetlam.” Next to that was a human skull on top of a pedestal with the name ‘Amelia Earhart’ inscribed below it.

There were stacks of books about the Great Barrier Reef and the Fall of Rome, Jewish Mysticism of the Ukraine and Life Magazine: The Year in Weddings 1888. The Captain picked up an enormous book entitled “The Federalist Papers” and began to flip through it. He dropped it down on the glass counter with a thud.

“Speak English?” he asked the storekeeper.

“I do,” replied the man.

“Good,” said Gram. “I’m looking for a decorative bronze carp, with smooth black stones for eyes. Ever hear of such a thing?”

“Certainly,” said the storekeeper. “I have the most exquisite collection of jewelry in all of Istanbul.”

“It’s not really jewelry I’m looking for. It’s more of an antique. It’s very old, came from China. Does that make sense?”

“This is made from real gold. It comes from Arabia.”

The storekeeper held up an ugly pendant shaped like a horse.

“No, I need something specific. It’s a fish…a Koi, it’s Asian, you know?”

The storekeeper put down the horse pendant and picked up a handful of pearl necklaces.

“Your wife would love these pearls. I will make for you a good price.”

“Look Jack, I’m not looking for a damn necklace,” said the Captain. “Lewis, hand me your journal.”

I handed him my journal and he flipped to my notes from the British Museum. He showed it to the storekeeper; pointing at the lines he wanted him to read.

“It’s called the Koi of Hungwa. It was built in Beijing in 1419. It ‘s a bronze carp with smooth dark stones for eyes.”

The Captain scrolled down the page.

“See here? It was brought to Istanbul in 1424. After that, we don’t know what happened to it. Is this something you can help us with?”

The man’s eyes moved feverishly as he read my notes.

“What is this part here where it says ‘any command the Emperor whispered to the Koi came to be’?” he asked. “Or here where it says ‘enemy ships were destroyed by waves the size of mountains’?”

“That’s nothing. Just folklore. It doesn’t mean anything,” said the Captain.

The storekeeper looked at Gram with dark, suspicious eyes.

“I can help you. My brother-in-law is a book dealer and has a great knowledge of history. Allow me to borrow this journal and I will see what information I can find for you. In the mean time, feel free to look around my store.”

“Certainly,” said the Captain, “but the kid goes too.”

He turned to me and smiled.

“Alright Bud, don’t let that journal out of your sight.”

“Sure Captain,” I said trying to smile.

Chapter 12 (The Grand Bazaar)

September 30th


An hour later the rest of the men were awake, including Iseri and the Captain. We left the apartment we’d broken into the night before and walked to the Grand Bazaar. Iseri had to leave but said he would find us in the Bazaar later. Gram and I sat at a counter drinking apple tea while the rest of men picked pockets in the crowd. Earlier that morning we watched them rob and beat to death two Chinese businessmen.

Gram received a message on his mobile.


Thank you for updating me on your progress. I’ve dispatched an associate of mine, Alexander Grealish, to Europe, in order to expedite your mission. I’ve been informed that the two of you went to University together. He has your information and will contact you within the next few days.

L. Murikai

 “Son of a bitch,” said the Captain.

On the way back to the counter, the men came upon two teenagers kissing behind a tent. One of the men hit the boy over the head and started going through his pockets. Another grabbed the girl and threw her to the ground. He flipped her on her stomach and got on top of her. He got his pants down to his knees before Gram ran up and punched him in the face. The man spit out a mouth full of blood.

Two of the other men attacked the Captain while the third pulled out a knife and came after me. He threw me to the ground and held the knife to my throat. I could feel the point on my neck as I tried to fight back. Gram came up from behind and broke the man’s arm, knocking the knife to the ground. Then he grabbed my hand and helped me up. He looked at my neck.

“You’ll be alright bud. Let’s go.”

We fought our way through the crowd to the front of the Bazaar. We made it to the street and were stopped short by a column of Turkish soldiers at the end of the block holding machine guns.

“Oh shit,” said the Captain.

A homeless man with his face covered reached out a filthy hand and grabbed my wrist. I realized quickly it was Iseri.

“Come with me,” he said. We followed him around the corner and down an alley.   

“What’s going on? Why are there soldiers everywhere?” asked the Captain.

“This morning two business men from Hong Kong were found murdered. Those guards are looking for anyone suspicious.”

“Yeah, it was your chicken shit friends who killed those guys, we saw them do it.” said Gram.

“They are not my friends,” said Iseri. “I have been following them for weeks, hoping to find some information about my…well that is another matter. Now is not the time.”

Iseri became quiet and walked away. Gram caught up to him.

“Iseri do you remember last night when I was telling you about the thing Lewis and I are looking for? The metal Koi? Do you know anyone who could help us locate it or at least give us some information about it?”

Iseri stopped walking and began to rub his temples.

“There is a man who owns a store not far from here,” he said. “He is a collector of information. I will take you to him.”

Chapter 11 (on the roof)


At dawn the call to prayer came blaring from the loud speakers of the Blue Mosque, waking me up. I looked around the room. Everyone was asleep. I went to the roof to smoke a cigarette. The morning was cold and I could smell the frost in the air. The Sun began to rise over the glass skyscrapers of New Istanbul. The bay was cluttered with tankers and fishing boats.

When I was a boy, my mom and I would break into buildings like this one, looking for a place to sleep. Sometimes I’d wake up and she’d be gone. I’d find her on the roof smoking cigarettes. She rolled them quickly and expertly with her long thin fingers. We lived like that for years, sleeping in strange places. We were never in one place for more than a night.

Days before she was murdered, my mother gave me a worn out piece of paper covered in strange writing, that I keep folded up in my wallet. She told me one day a man would come looking for it and not to give it to him, no matter what.

Chapter 10 (Istanbul)


I handed the customs agent my fake British Passport. He took one look at me and called a group of soldiers over. I was strip searched and interrogated before I was allowed to enter Turkey.


Our cab dropped us off in front of Topkapi Palace in old Istanbul. The palace looked abandoned. All the windows were boarded up with plywood and covered in graffiti. I could see the Hagia Sophia rising up from the murky water like a great stone mountain. It was late and we needed a place to stay. The only thing open was a bar called Woody’s.

Inside there were five guys sitting at a table in the back smoking hookahs and drinking. Gram ordered two beers at the bar.

“I’m not serving him,” said the bartender as he glanced at me.

“He’s ok” said Gram and slipped the man twenty dollars.

One of the men from the back table bumped into me on his way to refill his pitcher. He turned around and said something to me I didn’t understand.

“Sorry man but I don’t speak Turkish,” I said.

He got in my face and said it again. Droplets of spit hit my cheek. Another man at the table, much bigger than the first, stood up.

“Excuse my friend, he is drunk….come smoke with us.”

We walked over to the table and sat down. The man shook my hand and told me his name was Iseri. His clothes were torn and greasy. I could hear his chest rattle as he took a long pull from the hookah.


After last call we left the bar and broke into an abandoned house down the street. The house was cold and dirty. The floor was lined with torn cushions and Persian rugs. Each of the men from the table passed around a needle and took turns shooting up. Iseri, Gram and I sat in the corner talking about history and religion. Gram asked Iseri if he had ever heard of the Koi of Hungwa.

Chapter 9 (Budapest)

September 29th


I knocked on the Captain’s door and eventually he answered. The girl he picked up at the bar was gone. The floor of the hallway was sticky and covered in little baggies and cigarette butts. There was a guy pissing in the corner by the elevator. Last night a different guy was in that same corner masturbating.


We walked across the bridge into the Pest part of the city. Russian soldiers lined the street, smoking and talking to each other. Some of them were kicking around a football with local children. An old woman holding a tray of espresso gestured for us to come have breakfast in her café. My stomach was growling.

Gram knew what to order. We ate steak sandwiches with korozotto cheese, kolbaz sausages, black pudding, sliced beef tongue, liver pate and honey strudel. I thought I was going to burst. At the end of the meal, the old woman brought us each a shot of her homemade plum brandy.


Our train today was much larger than the one from yesterday. It was seven stories tall and over 100 feet across. The track was a long concrete canyon stretching for miles. Outside the window the landscape was barren, stripped of all trees and grass, the way I’ve heard Gram describe west Texas. Forty miles outside of Sophia, Bulgaria we passed the wreckage of a train that derailed 3 years ago, killing hundreds of passengers. You could see the light from the fires of the people living in the scattered wreckage of the train cars.
Back in the ‘80’s Captain Gram ran cargo for the USSR. He knows a little Russian and can maneuver in and out of Soviet territory with ease. This affiliation with Russia makes him an enemy of China. Sides don’t matter to him, the Russians pay better.


We were 10 miles outside Budakdoganca, on the border of Bulgaria and Turkey and I was feeling anxious. I bummed a cigarette from a fellow passenger and went up to the observation deck to smoke it. My heart started racing when I saw a long concrete wall lined with gun turrets and Chinese soldiers in the distance.

Chapter 8 (on the train)

September 28th

2:45 am

Just after we crossed into Hungry, the train stopped. Everyone sat up and looked at each other with nervous eyes. I heard the Captain say “mother fucker” under his breath. Outside there were a dozen figures in the darkness, holding machine guns.

A shot rang out and a woman started screaming. Two figures in black coats and gas masks entered the train. They both had machine guns and were pulling luggage down from the racks above the seats. One started going through the suitcases while the other went passenger-to-passenger collecting wallets and jewelry. When he came to the Captain he muttered something in Russian. The Captain did nothing.

“He wants your coat,” the man next to us said.

“He’s not getting my coat,” said the Captain.

This message was relayed to the man in the gas mask, who then took the blunt end of his gun and slammed it across Gram’s face. He asked again for the coat and the Gram shook his head. The Captain’s hand was in his right pocket. He was going for his knife.

Another man, wearing goggles and a respirator, walked up and pushed the man in the gas mask to the side.

“Are you American?” the man said.


“Why are you here?”

“I came to fight the Chinese.”

“Do you have any money?”

“No. I spent everything I had on my train ticket.”

The man nodded his head and walked back to the front of the train. The other two men followed him.

5:04 am

The Captain and I are sitting in a basement bar, across from the Hungarian Parliament. This is where all the hookers go after work and there are never any soldiers there. We sat there silently getting drunk.