17 December 2016

A Most Fateful Walk

Bill Allen, 38, of Wicketsborough Connecticut went out to get a loaf of bread one night last year. It was a little after 8:00 on a cold autumn night. Three days later he was in a Turkish prison being raped by Bahar Aslan, a suspected murderer. It seems that Bill Allen, photography store owner and notary public, bore a striking resemblance to a Russian spy, one Yuri Ivanovich.

In the aftermath of his abduction no one back in Wicketsborough, nor anywhere else in the US, had the foggiest notion where Bill Allen was. His wife of 15 years, Debra Allen and his daughter Lisa (9) and son Buster (nee Robert) (6) were, unsurprisingly worried. So too was the family dog, Chester, (4) who could sense unhappiness within the family circle. The Allen’s cat, Rusty seemed to be carrying on as usual.

A month prior, Bill Allen had been in New York city to check out some new photography accessories being previewed at an exhibition. At some point while strolling through Manhattan, Bill was spotted by a Turkish agent who was in New York tailing a Saudi operative. The agent notified his superiors who sent a man to do what used to be called in movies, a tail job. Allen’s resemblance to Yuri Ivanovich was unmistakable, right down to their short blonde hair parted on the left. It also was a fact that Ivanovich, very much wanted by the Turks as well as other nations, had not been seen in two years. Apprehending the Russian spy would be quite a coup as he was the bearer of many secrets that the Turks dearly wanted.

What no one then knew was that Yuri Ivanovich was no longer of this Earth having drowned while fishing in Australia and subsequently being feasted upon by a seawater crocodile. What remained of him could hardly be used to certify identification, especially given the amount of time said remains had been in the water.

That fateful night two Turkish agents had lured Bill Allen toward their van under the pretext of asking for directions. Bill was a notoriously trusting fellow who had no reason to suspect that anything was amiss. He took things at face value. Sadly for this trusting fellow, the agents very neatly and quickly rendered Mr. Allen unconscious and tied him up in the back of the van. By the time the man who resembled a Russian spy regained consciousness, he was somewhere over the Atlantic. Needless to say Allen had no clue what was happening to him and was quite frightened. Actually more like terrified.

None of the Turks spoke to their captive, not even to answer any of his questions. Their silence continued after the airplane arrived and he was driven to the prison. As a tactic of many agencies when having captured a foreign spy; Allen was left to wonder at his fate even as he was thrown into a prison cell alongside the aforementioned Mr. Aslan.

One might wonder if the Turks were at all suspicious of the fact that their captive was not speaking a word of Russian and that his English was fluent and without an accent. However the late Mr. Ivanovich was known to be fluent in several languages betraying nary an accent in any of them.

It was five days before Bill Allen was brought out for interrogation. By this time he had cried, screamed, wailed and nearly gone insane contemplating the horrific and unknowable events that had visited him. He was ordered to sit in a chair at a table facing two Turkish men in suits. The room was absolutely sterile ,windowless, clean and stark. A bright overheard light shone on the middle of the table. A uniformed guard stood by the door.

Mr. Allen was addressed as Yuri Ivanovich by one of the men across from him and spoken to in Russian. The confused and terrified Mr. Allen cried that he didn’t understand them and demanded to know what was happening. He then sobbed. One of the two men then spoke English to the prisoner saying that they would “play this portion of the game” his way. He then asked Mr. Allen, “what have you to tell us?”

Bill Allen, owner of a photography store and notary public, wailed that he didn’t even know where he was or why he was here. “Very good Yuri Ivanovich, we’ll just have to allow you more time in your cell to decide that you will talk to us and tell us everything we ask.”

The men started to get up. Bill Allen, in a loud, desperate, pleading voice cried, “wait! what did you call me? You’ve got the wrong guy. I'm not even Russian!”

“Surely,” one of the men said, “you can do better than that. Why don’t you quit this charade and save us all precious time by talking to us.”

“I’ll talk! I’ll talk!” insisted Mr. Allen.

The two men retook their seats. “Let us start by you telling us who was responsible for the killing of our man in Athens and why he was killed.”

Bill Allen was dumbstruck. He did not possess a great intellect. Yes he’d managed good enough grades in school, but he merely learned what was required and possessed no intellectual curiosity. He was a simple man of simple tastes who, besides spending time with his family, enjoyed nothing so much as watching TV with his wife. But it was now clear to him that he was mistaken for a spy, probably a Russian one, as he correctly believed that that was the language they’d spoken to him in.

“Do you think I’m a Russian spy? Is that what you think? You’ve made a mistake, a terrible mistake. My name is William Allen, I own a photo shop in Wicketsborough. That’s my hometown, you see. You can ask anyone there about me. I have a wife and children and they must be desperately worried. Oh please, take me to the American embassy and we can straighten this whole thing out. I’ve just got —- ”

“That’s enough, Mr. Ivanovich,” said one of the men as he raised a hand. It seems you’ve chosen not to cooperate. I must say you are a splendid actor. I could well imagine you fooling many people.” Then the man nodded at the guard.

“But I’m not acting. I really am who I say. I can’t even speak Russian.” But the guard pulled Bill Allen out of his chair and led the sobbing man back to his cell and into the loving arms of his cellmate.

Three days later Bill Allen was brought into the same room and seated in the same chair across from the same people with the same guard at the door. Questions were asked and innocence was pleaded. Allen grew nearly hysterical and the two men calmly watched. Then one stood and slapped the prisoner across the face. Then hit him in the chest. Then spat in his face. Then slapped him again and yet again Then punched him in the stomach.

“You see, Yuri Ivanovich, we can talk calmly or we can be rough. In fact, if we talk calmly you will soon have your own room and be served very nice meals. So what do you say? Will you cooperate?

Bill Allen’s face was crimson and there were flecks of blood on it and his shoulders. His chest ached and it had taken awhile to breath normally after the punch to the gut. He had never been struck before and had never even played a contact sport. The poor man was sobbing uncontrollably, large strings of snot were streaming out of his nose. It was then that two men began to consult with one another, speaking quietly in Turkish. They expressed doubts that this was really Yuri Ivanovich. For one thing, said the man who had struck him, he is so soft, hardly like a Russian agent. Yes, said the other, and this sobbing like a woman does not seem to be acting, it’s too good. Plus, they both agreed, no Russian agent, particularly not one as notoriously tough as Yuri Ivanovich would sob at all, let alone so passionately.

Mr. Bill Allen was placed in a room with a small, but comfortable bed with clean sheets. There was even a window that looked out onto a field. The photograph store owner had not seen the outdoors since going out for the loaf of bread. He was also given clean clothes and allowed a shower.

There he stayed for three more days, receiving decent meals and fresh water to drink. Bill Allen was far from happy but in his misery he was suffering less. He was left to wonder why the change, as welcome as it was, and what to expect next.

Meanwhile the Turkish agents conducted a rigorous investigation (or more precisely had fellow agents in the US do it) into the background of William Allen of Wicketsborough, Connecticut. It took three days to receive a report saying that the man was just who he claimed to be. As for Yuri Ivanovich, there was no trace of him and more importably for Bill Allen, no record of him ever being in Connecticut. Indeed there were reports that he’d last been seen in Australia.

Now it had to be decided what was to be done with Bill Allen. Turning him over to the American embassy was out of the question, it would be far too embarrassing and injurious to US-Turkish relations. There was talk of merely shooting him and burying his remains where they’d never be found but that was dismissed on humanitarian grounds. Finally it was decided to put Mr. Allen right back to where they had taken him. Just leave him on the street where he had been abducted. He could thus re-unite with his family and surely no one, at least not in an official capacity, would believe his story — if he could himself to tell it.

So it was that Mr. Bill Allen was heavily sedated and flown back to the United States. By the time he was in the van — the same one he’d rode to out of Wicketsbourough in, Allen was awake, if groggy. He was alone in the back left to his thoughts having no clue where he was going.

Allen was dropped off on the same street where he’d been picked up at virtually the same spot at the same time of night. Even his loaf of bread was replaced. He wore the same clothes he’d had on that night, nearly two weeks ago. The driver of the van and his companion drove off as soon as they had deposited Bill Allen.

Bewildered, dazed, confused and terribly anxious, the poor man walked on wobbly legs the two and half blocks to his home. When he walked through the front door his wife Debra screamed — half in delight and half in shock. Lisa and Buster, who had been staring numbly at the TV set, leapt to their feet, crying “daddy, daddy, daddy” over and over again. Chester barked and jumped wagging his tail furiously. Rusty looked up from his perch atop the sofa, licked a paw, then resumed his slumber.

Amidst all the weeping and hugging and kissing, Mrs. Allen finally asked her husband what had happened and where had he been. Bill Allen veritably staggered to his easy chair and plopped down. He looked up lovingly at his wife, smiled at his kids and said, “you’d never believe me, not in a million years.” On the walk home Mr. Allen had wondered what he could possibly say to anyone about his disappearance. The real story would seem bizarre and beyond belief. His own recourse was a lie. One he was still trying to concoct as he sat down.

“For heaven’s sake, Bill, tell me!” his wife demanded.

Mr. Allen paused a moment then said, “I don’t know, I guess I fell or something and got amnesia because I can’t remember a thing. The last thing I remember is paying for the bread. The next thing I knew I was staggering down the street with a blinding headache, knowing that some time had passed since I left for the store."

"I wonder where you could have been? People were looking all over for you. Your disappearance was on the local TV news and in the papers. Anyway we're just so glad you're home.

"I'm confounded by all of this too. So tell me, how long have I been away?”

“Almost two weeks, Bill, 12 whole days.”

“Well, I’ll be darned,” Bill Allen replied.

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