I took an hour today and visited an infamous spot at the train station in Iasi, Romania. On a cold March morning in 1997, a customs officer was found here, dead, half dressed, having fallen From the Rooftops. Was it suicide? Was he pushed?
It was a rather unnerving twenty minutes, standing on this corner writing down everything I saw, smelled and heard — and there was more than enough to fill a few pages in my notebook!
There were young children, no older than six years old wandering between the kiosks and the platforms unattended. A skinny, old Russian woman in a dirty t-shirt, smoking one of the longest cigarettes I have ever seen, shouted aggressively into a mobile phone, “How am I supposed to get home now?” Grungy workmen carrying large loads, either coming or going to work stopped into the bar for a beer – because there is nothing better to do in this alley while waiting for a train to arrive or depart.
Those coming out of the Cafe-Bar under the blue awning threw me a few suspicious looks and then became a bit too curious about me and my project of making notes and snapping photographs. I had to move on rather quickly.
There is no substitute for visiting the places that I am writing about. It always helps to improve the final product. Here is what I wrote before visiting. Tune in next fall to read how the final version turns out.
The following excerpt is the (draft) scene from the upcoming novel From the Rooftops (October 2019)
Stelian lead his sister to his unmarked police car, a light grey Dacia from an unknown year, badly in need of replacement. Before he put the idling car into gear, he gestured to a building just to the left of the station, a block of apartments, seven stories tall with a flat roof.
“That’s where I found him.” Stelian said.
Elena turned her head ninety degrees to face Stelian across the narrow automobile with horror in her eyes, “You found him?”
“Da, that’s correct,” Stelian said and turned to avoid her horrified glare.
After a moment of indignant hesitation, Elena pushed her car door open and asked to be shown where Ion had died, and climbed out. Stelian sprung from his seat and stood with one leg out of the car, begging Elena to get back in the car.
“Elena, please, little sister, you don’t want to see this. It’s too early, its too much! We need to finish the police business first,” he hollered after her.
Turning, Elena huffed, “Since when is a Romanian policeman worried about finishing official business in a timely way?” and stomped across the parking lot towards the apartment block, with her heart in her throat.
Stelian slammed his car door and followed after her cursing under his breath. He caught up to Elena just as she reached the entrance of the building. Reaching over her shoulder, Stelian held the door closed with a strong, stiff arm.
“We didn’t find him inside. We found him to the side of the building, near the tracks,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Elena said still tugging on the door, not wanting to look at the commanding policeman now standing over her shoulder. She began to tremble.
“We found him on the ground, face down on the pavement close to the train tracks. If you want to see where, please follow me,” Sergeant Enescu ordered.
To Stelian’s relief, there was no longer any trace of death on the ground. No blood stains, no imprint in the mud. Foot traffic had destroyed any evidence of the impact that Ion had made when he landed. Elena looked up, left and right, turning, trying to understand how he died.
“Was he shot? Beaten up? Why was he lying here?” she asked.