I’ve been knee-deep in non-creative stuff lately, so this is my attempt to remind myself to be creative. Or to remind myself that I do have a book in mind! Here is the opening of Chapter 7 of my novel-in-progress, introducing the policeman who will help our two main protagonists to resolve the murder mystery. The action takes place in a small town in the sub-Carpathians in Romania. This is a slow, descriptive start to a chapter after some rather action-packed scenes, because it introduces a new character, one who will become important in the course of the investigation. Do you feel it gives you a bit of insight into the character – too much, not enough? Would you read on? And does it give you a bit of the local atmosphere?
Sergeant Dinu Vlăhuţ was up the stepladder, adjusting the flags in front of the Town Hall. One of the flagpoles had got stuck again, so he had to get fiercely manual with it. After all, you couldn’t have the national flag flying half-mast, as if it was a day of national mourning.
He’d climbed up there while it was still early and relatively cool, and he was in no hurry to get down. It wasn’t like he had any exciting cases waiting for him in the office. Meanwhile, Gina and Lili at the public counter were more than capable of dealing with the ID card applications, criminal records checks and traffic fines. Not that many of those ever got paid.
The Curtea de Argeş Police Station was located on the ground floor of the Town Hall, on the left. It didn’t even have a separate entrance, and they’d often get people wandering in asking about permits to open up shops or property certificates. Dinu believed in helping people out and mucking in, but he did wish he could have a more slick, streamlined operation. A couple of computers wouldn’t go amiss, either.
However, according to the American cop shows he liked to watch on TV – and which now, after the Revolution, were plentiful on all TV stations – NYPD didn’t have much better premises either. Lots of open-plan offices with dingy furniture and everyone talking over each other while manning the phones… Let’s face it, a darn noisy and tiring environment! Surprising anyone ever got any work done, let alone solved complex crimes and hunted down serial killers, as they all seemed to do on a weekly basis.
He surveyed his surroundings from his superior vantage point. Although Curtea de Argeş boasted a history dating back to the Middle Ages, the Town Hall was a modern building, designed to be functional rather than architecturally memorable. It looked exactly like a school or a hospital, or pretty much any public building in Romania since the 1970s. But Dinu was quite fond of the old place. At least it hadn’t been painted over in garish colours, like some other public buildings in recent years, in an attempt to freshen up after years of Communist decay. There were even some flower arrangements on either side of the steps. And, because the gardener was paid directly by the Town Hall, he did actually bother to use the sprinkler every other day, so the grass was much greener than anywhere else in town in mid-August. And…
‘Excuse me,’ came a voice from below, ‘Are you a police officer?’
Dinu looked down. A pretty young woman was looking up to him. Instinctively, he put his hands up to adjust his hat, then realised that he had left it down at the bottom of the stepladder. It had the annoying habit of falling off, being ever so slightly too large for him.
OK, time to get down. He scooped up his hat as he descended and set it smartly on his blonde wavy hair, his mother’s pride and joy. He folded up the stepladder. ‘Yes, I’m a policeman. How can I help you?’
‘I wanted to find out more about the accident that occurred here a few days ago. I am a friend of the deceased. Who would be the best person to talk to about that?’
She was indeed quite a looker. Surely there was no harm in being polite and helpful, although he was – of course – a married man.