Just south of E80 in Istanbul, hidden beneath Küçükçekmece Lake, and away from the hub of the city, there’s a cave. The entrance is blocked by boulders and kept under observation by obedient servants. In the ComSub, Ahmet carefully navigates the lake’s floor. A grizzly man of forty with equally grizzly stubble, Ahmet has used this cave for research purposes. His submarine, built for two, was retrofitted with additional hardware so only he could enter the cave. Rarely did he have the need for a second passenger, but today he does.
Ahmet has brought along a young lady, who unfortunately frequented a nearby deli. For months, Ahmet studied the young woman’s habits. At least four times a week the woman visited the restaurant to drink coffee and edit pictures. A freelance photographer, the woman was trying desperately to make an entrance in the art world of Istanbul – or all of Turkey ideally. Chosen for her exquisite beauty and fantastic writing, Ahmet couldn’t help but admire the sharp cheekbones and dark skin.
“On approach,” Ahmet says into his headset.
“Copy,” a male voice responds.
Ahmet checks the woman’s pulse – still slow. Good. Ahmet knew the woman’s order by heart and ordered the same thing today. Both orders were ready at the same time, but only one included a sleeping pill.
Steering clear of the boulders and invisible lasers, Ahmet halts in front of the titanium doors. They open slowly. Ahmet throttles his mini-sub into the entry of his cave. Lights illuminate his way now, as the doors close behind him. He maneuvers to the dock chiseled out by workers years ago. The workers found the lake to be a wonderful “retirement home.”
The hatch is opened by Ahmet’s number one supporter, Mehmet. Born in the streets, Mehmet was picked up by Ahmet and raised as his own. Mehmet serves as Ahmet’s security guard and staff manager. This allows Ahmet to further his research into the Holy Chalice, Christianity’s greatest easter egg.
Ahmet lifts the girl onto the deck of the sub.
“Take this woman to the detainment facility.”
“Right away, brother,” Mehmet says.
Ahmet closes the hatch of the submarine and reports to the station master. He logs his trip in the journal and looks at the recent entries and exits of personnel. Groceries. Equipment replacement. Library research. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Ahmet heads towards his research center set fifteen feet above the dock. A collection of bookshelves and two computer workstations, Ahmet’s research station is strictly his. Workers entering the area become “early retirees.”
Ahmet awakens a computer to resume his topic of the week: is the Holy Chalice in the Cathedral of Valencia? Ahmet’s thoughts: no. The Holy Chalice, despite other beliefs, was probably destroyed on purpose or by accident. Why research so much? Ahmet’s wall is hidden by title pages of great historians. And next to these fools: dozens of rejection notices from publishers and schools. For decades, Ahmet’s search for the Holy Chalice was met with laughter and pity. His travels had taken him to the desert of Egypt and the Great Lakes. Ahmet studied every possible document he could legally or illegally get his hands on. Once, Ahmet had bribed a guard to reveal Fort Knox’s inventory. The Chalice was not included.
“Mehmet, is the woman in the room?” Ahmet asks his loyal follower.
“Yes. Why her, Ahmet?”
Ahmet pauses. He’s refused to answer this question for a while.
“She has answers regarding my search for the Chalice. I intend to ask her. Let’s go.”
“As you command!” Mehmet leads the way.
The detainment room is dug into the walls of the cave. A cot and toilet are all that fill the room. The woman stands nervously when the door opens. Ahmet enters after Mehmet.
“Who are you? Why am I here? Where am-” the woman begins before Ahmet holds up his hand.
“I am Ahmet. My quest is for the Holy Chalice. Who are you?”
“Isra. You could have asked me about the Grail instead of kidnapping me. I only know a little.”
Ahmet slaps her.
“The Holy Chalice, please.”
Isra touches her cheek, red like amber.
Ahmet feels his own cheek redden with guilt.
“Sure. Sure. What do you want to know?”
“Where is it?”
“The Gra-Chalice? It doesn’t exist. There’s a bunch of fakes that are way too fancy for Jesus,” Isra quickly explains.
“Is your writing any good like your photography?” Ahmet says.
“How do you know about-“
Isra recognizes Ahmet. She can see him smiling briefly at her and taking a cup of coffee before she does. And the slight change in flavor of her own coffee.
“You fucking drugged me!” Isra shouts.
“Yes. I needed to have you here. Now, how is your writing?”
Isra feels the last remnants of the drugs fade away.
“Decent, I guess. I’ve published a few articles here and there.”
“Excellent. Then you’ll help me write an article on the loss of the Holy Chalice.”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
“So you can live,” Mehmet interjects.
Ahmet glares at him. Then smiles.
“I suppose he is correct. Write for me and live. Refuse and perish before your time.”
“If that’s the choice, I’ll write.”
Ahmet nods and leaves the room, letting Mehmet lock the door.
“Fetch our guest paper and pencil. But you stay with her,” Ahmet says.
Mehmet walks to retrieve the materials from the quartermaster.
Ahmet is tired. A nap is needed. But first, he needs to report this week’s discoveries to his commander.
Ahmet looks for the pdf of the shield with a red cross and white background. He clicks it. A video feed pops up. There is a horse with two soldiers.
“Greetings, my friend. We have had great success this week with the capture of someone who believes the Holy Chalice is no more. She will write an article for us,” Ahmet says.
“Well done, Ahmet. Let us know how it is received. Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini tuo da gloriam.”
The feed goes dark.
“Not for us, My Lord, not for us, but to Your Name give the glory,” Ahmet closes his computer. He heads for a cot near the computer. Ahmet’s quarters are sparse, just like everyone else’s. But he does spy a plain goblet made of red clay.
“Jesus be praised. They will not search for you.”
Ahmet rests his head and closes his eyes.