For this story to make sense, it’s better to read the chapters in order, like this:
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six copyright 2020, all rights reserved
Chapter Seven: Ivona
Ivona lived on the fifth floor of an apartment building about 12 blocks from the downtown center. The building had been painted a bright aqua that had since faded and peeled. Both its location far from the commercial district and the fact that the apartment was up five flights indicated that Ivona and Oleg were neither rich nor powerful. Ivona was a pale blonde who seemed as though she might collapse at any moment. Roza had the feeling that only her child was keeping her from giving up altogether. She allowed them into the small, dark apartment, gestured towards a sagging love seat, and sat waiting in the only other chair in the room. Apparently it would be up to them to initiate the conversation. Roza cleared her throat. “First of all, Ivona, we are so so sorry for your loss,” she said. Ivona’s blue eyes immediately filled with tears that continued to trickle down her face during the remainder of the interview. “Do you know what happened?” she asked. When they informed her that her husband had died of a drug overdose, she straightened briefly. “Oleg did not take drugs!” she insisted.
The rest of the interview was painful. Ivona had not known that her husband sometimes went to Marina, that he had used drugs, or that he had been diagnosed with a very serious lung disease. Roza reflected that Ivona might as well have been 100 miles from downtown. The distance was too far to walk during the winter, and the couple did not have a car. A co-worker drove Oleg to work each day. She was essentially trapped with her child in this tiny dim apartment. Roza hated to think about what Ivona’s life would be like as she coped with the loss of her husband. Further complicating Ivona’s life was the fact that she was visibly pregnant. After about 15 minutes, Slava and Roza exchanged an imperceptible nod of agreement that there was nothing further to be gained by imposing on Ivona’s hospitality, and they left.
Back at the station, Roza and Slava talked about the case and agreed to ask one of the night shift officers to return to Marina. Hopefully the officer might find out more about whether there had been other overdoses, who was making the ‘steam heat’ methedrine, and any entanglements or enemies that Oleg might have had. Roza regretted handing the Marina investigation off to someone else, but recognized that she could not work both day and night shifts. While Roza filled out paperwork detailing the course of their investigations, Slava returned to his computer investigation of the call reporting a missing child.
At 2:00 that afternoon, he announced that he had successfully pinpointed the source of the call. Roza did not try to follow the technical details, but was very interested to learn that the call had come from one of the empty buildings. There were more than 25 multi-story apartment buildings in Norilsk that either had never been completed or had been abandoned. After Norilsk’s status as a gulag officially ended in the early 1950s, its population decreased by about 50,000. In order to save energy, rented apartments were consolidated into fewer buildings, unused buildings were vacated, and unfinished apartments were abandoned. Predictably, these were an ongoing source of problems for the police, who hated investigating them. There were no utilities serving the vacant buildings, which were freezing, dark, dirty, and generally unsafe. Nonetheless, it appeared that Slava and Roza would be visiting an abandoned apartment in order to follow up on the call about the missing girl. By the time they finished discussing this, it was too late to go there, and they were both happy to postpone the trip until the next day.
Roza and Slava finished their first day of partnership generally pleased with each other and with their progress. Neither of the two officers had seen their worst fears realized in a partner, they had obtained useful information about both of their cases, and were ready to pick up the trails the next day. As it turned out, however, it was several days before they had any further involvement with either the missing little girl or the methedrine overdose.