The Hagia Sophia.
He had been told not to travel, but people had been offering him rules to follow all his life and, as with offers of inferior brandy or lifelong commitment, he had charmingly but firmly declined them. Time had grown short and Daniel was a man of the world in every sense and could not bear to leave without saying goodbye to a few places and one person.
He had to say goodbye to the Hagia Sophia. Turkey had always been a special place to him, a place he associated with both his father and his son, but that great building above all, held precious, if painful memories.
It also held a reminder of his cowardice. His father who, truth be told, never found it much easier than he did to say things that needed to be said, had found the courage to make a proper farewell. On their last trip to Turkey together, his father had brought him to this cool and elegant place, partly because it was public and neither would cry easily in front of others, partly, he suspected, because it had been a church. There was strength in that place and a calm that came from long centuries of worship and faith.
Walking through the entrance now, feeling the stone-cooled air on his over-heated face, he thought for a moment that he heard three sets of footsteps, his own, his father's and those of the fifteen year old Harry.
He had taught his son, who did not and would never know that he was his son, to deceive everyone else, but never himself, and that piece of good advice, he had lived by as well as dishing out. He knew what he was. He had made mistakes and bad choices and had lost his son because he had not been able to leave behind a life of crime without doing one last thing to provide wealth and comfort for the future he planned with the woman he loved.
He acknowledged himself a sinner, a rogue, a liar and a coward, and forgave himself all but the last. He knew with hindsight, that most useless of senses, that he should have told Harry who he was the day they met. He should have weathered the storm then and explained to the boy why he had ended up alone on the streets of London. There had been times, many times, when he had almost told him, but the words had died in his throat as he thought of how Harry might take it and whether he could ever love the man who had abandoned him, whatever good excuse he might have.
He thought about his own father as he looked at the glorious mosaics, their artistry infinitely preferable to any sunflowers in a cracked vase. He remembered him saying, "We make our prayers of what we have. Some men are poets and write psalms, some are musicians and send music soaring to Heaven, some are artisans and make their prayers in mosaics and marble."
He wondered now, whether anything in his own life qualified as a prayer. He doubted that God was greatly impressed with his nefarious activities, although he did not feel that the God who had instilled cunning in so many of his Old Testament heroes and heroines would be entirely indifferent to its skilful use now.
He had helped people, where he could, but he had helped himself more. He had taken Harry into his home and his life for the most selfish of reasons and had loved and lost Harry's mother for the same.
Kathleen Cavanagh had been beautiful and wise and so full of love and goodness that he had longed to be more worthy of her. To her, he had confessed what his life had been and she, her blue eyes alight with grace, had offered him an absolution that had soothed his soul. Their time together had been brief and he had ended it with his stupidity. She had begged him never to steal again, but he had wanted to give her the life she had deserved. In chasing after the money she had never wanted, he had lost his freedom and left her to the mercies of a family to whom her love for him and her pregnancy were an unwanted disgrace.
It wasn't just stupidity, it was his fear then too. He had not felt he was good enough for her, and he wanted to lay treasure at her feet to make up for being such a sorry catch himself. It was the same impulse that had made him try to get his son a noble inheritance.
He was under the dome now. He looked up. Islamic calligraphy covered hidden mosaics there, as Daniel Chalmers covered Harry Sinclair. He wasn't sure which he was now. He had been Harry Sinclair when he came here with his father, to hear the news that could not be spoken anywhere else. His father had told him gently, apologetically, that their time together was ending. He had been diagnosed with something he couldn't shake off with his favourite cure of aspirins and brandy followed by a night bundled in blankets.
They'd never talked much about feelings and fears. They could be a thousand miles apart in the same room. There had been a moment when he hadn't even known what to feel, even anger had flashed through his mind, hot and irrational. Here, in this place, holy to two religions of love and trust, he had taken his father's hand as if he were a child again and said, "You know that I love you, don't you?" and his father had hugged him.
Public place or not, they had both shed a few tears as they had talked in a way they never had before, confessing mistakes, expressing old fears, remembering times when their similarities had caused friction or their differences incomprehension. His father had been a devout man. He had not been afraid of death. He feared leaving those he loved.
"How long?" Daniel had asked, unable to manage a longer question, finding it hard enough to force out those two words.
"Months." said his father, "I won't see Christmas."
"I think they celebrate it where you're going." Daniel had said, surprised that he could joke when he felt like his anchor had been violently torn away. "I'm going to stay with you." he said.
"You have your own life to lead." his father had said. And it had occurred to him then that his father had never asked many questions about what manner of life that may be.
"That can be postponed." said Daniel.
"No, it can't. Live every moment you have, Harry." his father had said.
"Time with you is more precious." Daniel had said.
He smiled now to think he had felt a need to say that to a man who knew the value of time very well. Only with his own diagnosis and that cruel prognosis that gave him months, and not a lot of those, had he realised how precisely a dying man knows the value of every second. He knew where he longed to be and with whom. He knew that every moment he was away from his son was a moment that could have been better spent, but he was still afraid.
There was a madness that came upon him sometimes, it had always been there, but now that he hated the ticking of a clock, it had become more insistent. It urged him to tell Harry the truth, to say, "I'm your father and I love you." before it was too late, but that was his selfishness again and his stupidity.
He knew how it would seem to Harry. It would be cruel and wrong to tell him that he had been lied to all his adult life by the one person he had trusted and to give him the father he had longed for only to tell him that he would soon be at that father's graveside. What did Harry need with a father now? He had needed one for the times in London when he had been a terrified kid sleeping under bridges and sneaking into movie theatres for a bit of warmth and a few hours of fantasy.
He had brought Harry here for his fifteenth birthday, although, obviously, Harry had not known he was fifteen that day. Daniel had needed to be somewhere where the past's noisy ghosts could not trouble him. He had hated every anniversary of his son's birth and Kathleen's death, a constant reminder of how catastrophically he had failed them both.
He had told Harry about the earlier visit with his father and Harry had feared for a moment that their trip there had the same purpose. He remembered the relief in his son's eyes when he had assured him no such death sentence hung over him. He wondered whether it would be more selfish to tell Harry that now it did, or to lie to him and pretend all was well.
Harry had a tender heart, his mother's legacy, Daniel knew. He had tried to offer words of comfort. He had been an odd mix in those days, the lost child and the teenager, burdened like an old man, the street urchin, full of rage, fear and bravado and the young man Daniel was educating him into. He had spoken so kindly, with such understanding and Daniel had almost told him, but hadn't been able to, because he was weak and selfish and could not bear to be hated by the person he loved most.
He needed to see him again, though. He needed to know that he had all he needed and he needed to be sure that all was well between him and Daniel's nemesis, Laura Holt. He didn't hate her. It had never been in his nature to hate lovely young women, even if they did combine intelligence and honesty and use words like "integrity" in cold blood and without disclaimers.
No, he didn't hate Laura, or resent her effect on Harry, though at times he had found it difficult to endure. She had always frightened him more than a little, because she had the power, if she ever chose to use it, to persuade Harry to ditch his old mentor. As his worst nightmare was the prospect of losing Harry, he had tried, from time to time, to make her back off a bit, but now he was glad of her staying power, because she would take care of Harry for him.
Harry would see his death as a betrayal, just as he, immediately after his father's death, had thrown a bottle of brandy at the wall because it was easier to be angry than to feel the pain of being alone. He would need someone who wasn't afraid of his anger and his dark moods, someone who would understand that just because Harry smiled a lot and pretended not to care, he wasn't fine. The more he pretended not to care, the less fine he was, and Laura would see that and she would be there to listen or to say all the right things or just to hug him.
He went to the Madonna and Child he had seen with Harry, remembering that longing in Harry's eyes. Daniel was glad he aimed all his rage at his father and none at the mother he had never known. Somewhere in his heart, he harboured a dream of a loving mother who must have held him and kissed him.
Maybe there was some secret memory in the heart of every child of the love their mother had for them before they were even born. Most never used it, replacing it fast with memories of childhood scrapes healed with a kiss and freshly baked cakes at raucous birthday parties, but the orphaned and the lost could perhaps cling to that time of having been loved. He hoped so.
He began to cough and was angry with himself for disturbing the immortal calm of the place with his mortality. He felt suddenly weak and wondered if he should try to make it outside or look for a wall to lean against.
A museum attendant came over, addressing him first in Turkish, then in English. "You're not well, sir."
"A little dust in my throat, I think." said Daniel.
The man gestured to a colleague. "Get a chair for the gentleman, and some water."
"There's no need." said Daniel, but he knew it was useless. In Turkey, kindness came as naturally as breathing and he almost laughed at the thought of how unnatural his breathing had become.
The chair was brought and so was cool, refreshing water. He nodded his thanks to the two young men and drank until the coughing subsided.
"Do you need us to call anyone for you?" said the first man.
"No." he said, "My son is in Los Angeles." It felt good to say it, to feel the shape of the words, even though it didn't really count as telling the world. "I'm going to see him soon." he said, "A surprise visit."
"He'll be glad to see you." said the attendant.
"I hope so." said Daniel, "I brought him here once, when he was a boy. My father brought me here, too."
"My father brought me here." said the attendant, "It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen."
Daniel glanced at the Madonna and Child again. "This place is special. Do you pray?"
"Yes, sir, but I am not a Christian."
"I don't care what team you're on. We're all playing the same game. Please pray for my son."
"I'll pray for both of you." said the attendant.
"I don't need prayers, I threw the dice and I accept whatever comes to me."
"I'll pray anyway." he said, "Allah has time for everyone."
"You're a good man." said Daniel.
"I think you are too." said the attendant, "Your son must be proud of you."
Daniel smiled. "All I care about is that he loves me."
When he had recovered enough, he went out into the sunlit street. A pickpocket jostled him and hurried away with apologies and Daniel watched his empty wallet running off into the distance without regret as he counted the money he had taken from the man's own pocket. "No need to apologise." he said, "These things happen."
It was time to leave Turkey and head for cooler climes. It was time to face the hardest thing he would ever have to do, to look at Harry, knowing he would never see him again and not give a man he had taught to read every expression and gesture and that Laura had turned into an excellent detective enough clues for him to know it too.