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“The name Hierapolis means ‘sacred city,’” the guide explained when they had reached the site. “It was believed by the ancients to have been founded by the god Apollo. Famous for its hot springs, it was used as a healing centre and spa since the second century B.C. It boasts a large number of sarcophagi. See over here the monumental Frontinus Gate, with its three elegant travertine arches which mark the entrance to the city. We will walk now to the amphitheatre, which is sure to impress you.
“This theatre was probably constructed under the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian after the earthquake of 60 A.D. In subsequent earthquakes, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The stacked seating has a capacity of 15,000 with an imperial box for the emperor.”
Helen wandered away from the group to take some panoramic shots from the very top row of seats. Out of the other tourists milling about, she spotted a few women in burqas which made her more than a little nervous. But of course maybe one of them was the female agent supposedly assigned to protect her. Bruce and Jasmin came up to join Helen, while the Persian sisters stayed below arguing about finding a souvenir shop. Helen asked Jasmin to take a photo of her with Bruce.
“Smile. Say peynir! I mean, cheese!” said Jasmin.
“Here, I’ll take a picture of you two beauties now,” said Bruce. He and Jasmin started to change places. Suddenly from behind Helen a powerful arm grabbed her. Black robes engulfed and pulled her in.
“What are you doing? Stop! Help! You’re hurting me!” screamed Helen.
“Be quiet you stupid woman!” a man’s voice answered. Jasmin immediately recognized the voice. It was her husband.
“I have a bomb in my backpack and it will detonate in a few minutes,” he snarled. “You and I are going to leap from here to the bottom. We are blowing up this pile of rocks in the name of the PKK.”
With one hand, he pulled the burqa up over his head and tossed it to the ground. There was a backpack strapped to his shoulders.
“Samir!” cried Jasmin. “What are you doing?”
Helen used that moment to swing her elbow forward and then back as hard as she could into Samir’s ribcage and heard him yowl, and next thing two people were tackling him from behind. Bruce yanked the backpack off of Samir and yelled, “Everyone down, now!”
Bruce ran like the wind to the end of the amphitheatre and dropkicked the backpack over a ridge into an empty field. A loud explosion went off as he and everyone else sank to the ground.
Helen sat on a chair by Aslan’s hospital bed.
“We can’t find words to express our gratitude for your help in ending this threat. Our intelligence has uncovered thatSamir was a Kurd who relocated to North Africa after his first wife and child were killed by police in a demonstration here in Turkey. He was a broken man, first devastated and then angry, and finally dangerous. He travelled to Germany, then the U.S. We don’t believe Jasmin had any knowledge of his actions but we have her in custody until we figure it all out. He hasn’t said a word since his arrest.”
“What I don’t understand is why he wanted to hurt me?”
“We found from his accomplice in Istanbul that a kidnapping was initially planned but that wasn’t enough for Samir. He decided that more impact would come from a bombing incident and he devised the plan to join a tour group. His new wife was merely a cover. He was set upon making a deadly statement and was willing to martyr himself. He wanted to destroy property and kill a few tourists. The point would be to cause economic damage, to hurt tourism. You, my friend, were just a random victim in his mad scheme.”
“Well, he didn’t count on my one self-defence move. And that Bruce was an all-star rugby player in his day.”
“Yes, Bruce’s kick landed the explosive device far from any people. A few ancient walls were destroyed but the crater left by the explosion actually uncovered part of the old thermal baths — which will now be excavated. So out of chaos, comes order. What are your plans now?”
“Me, well I guess I’ll head home soon. I believe I’ve had enough excitement to last me until my next holiday.”
“Where will you go?”
“I was thinking Russia. What could happen to a girl in Moscow?”