Origins

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Two foreign students, Rachel and Yama, both with ties to the missing archaeologist, leave Russia after his disappearance. Najwa, who finds out about the story, decides to dig in as part of her research for LVA. Thinking that she could trace AF's Jewish origins to the Middle Age, Najwa stumbles onto her own past as she transit through Montreal, her father's birth city.

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MADRID BARAJAS AIRPORT

Madrid Bajaras Terminal 4

Najwa walks out of Emirates flight 141 into Terminal 4 of Madrid's airport. Looking at the departures board, she notices that Iberia flight 6621 to Havana is only scheduled for 17:00. She's got 4 hours to kill. She loafs through the terminal admiring the wavy wooden roof. She's hungry. A man at a coffee stand suggests she tries a tapas joint at the other end of the terminal.

TAPAS BAR, TERMINAL 4, MADRID BARAJAS AIRPORT

Najwa is having a cazuelita con patatas, huevos y jamon serrano along with a glass of red wine at the tapas bar. She scrolls trough her Skype contacts on her iPad but no luck with Alexander. Yama pops up online. She pings her.

-MY TURN TO BE IN AN AIRPORT ;)

A few seconds later...

-WAY

-MADRID... ON MY WAY TO CUBA.

-LUCKY YOU, IT'S FREEZING HERE. WHICH RESORT?

-MEETING MY BF IN HAVANA. HE'S ON A BIZ TRIP THERE. WE'LL STICK AROUND FOR XMASS.

-I LOVE HAVANA.

-I THOUGH YOU GUYS COULDN'T GO THERE.

-OF COURSE WE CAN. AMERICANS CAN'T. FOR US IT'S LIKE CHEAP ESCAPE FROM A LONG WINTER. THERE'S LIKE AT LEAST THREE FLIGHTS A DAY.

-WOW.

-ANYWAYS, SORRY FOR BEING BLUNT YESTERDAY. I WAS STILL UNDER SHOCK FROM THIS WHOLE THING AND YOU POPPING OUT OF NOWHERE SEEMED KINDA SKETCHY.

-NO. IT'S ALL RIGHT. ANYWAYS. SO WHAT'S YOU'RE TAKE ON THE WHOLE THING? DID YOU NOTICE ANYTHING STRANGE ABOUT HIM BEFORE HE DISAPPEARED?

Yama hesitates to divulge more but still feels the urge to get it off her chest.

WELL THERE WAS THIS GIRL WHO APPEARED ON SITE A COUPLE OF DAYS BEFORE...I DON'T KNOW... I FEEL KIND OF FUNNY TELLING YOU THIS.

WHY?

I'D FEEL BETTER IF WE WERE FACE TO FACE. YOU SHOULD COME TO MONTREAL ONE DAY. WAIT FOR SPRING THOUGH...

Najwa is pensive, looking at people around her, running in circle.

MAYBE I WILL.

Alexander pops up on online...

SORRY BABY, I WAS AWAY. YOU IN MADRID? GET ON VIDEO IF YOU CAN..

HOLD ON LET ME SAY BYE TO MY FRIEND...

Najwa switches conversation.

YAMA, MY BF JUST GOT ONLINE. GOTTA HOOK UP WITH HIM.

NOT A PROBLEM... SORRY I WASN'T OF MUCH HELP.

Najwa accepts Alexander's video call. His face pops on her screen.

-HI BABY. ARE YOU IN MADRID?

-YES, I GOT 4 HOURS TO KILL. HOW ARE YOU?

-OK... JUST GOT IN YESTERDAY. MY APPOINTMENT GOT POSTPONED TILL TOMORROW SO I'VE GOT TIME TO KILL AS WELL. TOO BAD YOU'RE NOT HERE YET. COULD HAVE SHOWED YOU AROUND. NOTHING HAS CHANGED HERE.

-YOU'LL SHOW ME AROUND TOMORROW. DON'T WORRY.

Najwa hear knocks on Alexander's door who doesn't react, as if he hadn't heard to knocks. Then after a pause, noticing that Najwa must have heard, he reacts.

-HOLD ON GOTTA GO CHECK THE DOOR.

Najwa, interjects before Alexander presses on pause.

-NO, BYE, I'M LOGGING OUT. SEE YOU THERE TONIGHT.

The knocking on the door is repeated. Alexander looks nervous.

-OK BABY. I LOVE YOU.

Alexander's face disappear from Najwa's screen. She stares at it then notices that Yama is also on Skype now. She hesitates but doesn't contact her. She stares back at the crowd of people walking around the airport, looks back at her screen, opens Momondo's travel search engine and types Madrid-Montreal-Havana in the multiple destinations boxes.

CAFE NEVE, MONTREAL, CANADA

Yama walks into the cafe and scouts the room looking for a 30 something woman amongst dozens of WiFiers. She notices the stare of a woman wearing a scarf at the tip of her chignon and walks up to her.

-Najwa?

-Yes, Yama! responds Najwa as she stands up to greet her. Please sit... Would you like something? I think that they only serve at the counter.

Yama hangs her bag on the chair and follows Najwa who leads her to the counter.

-Wow, what a surprise when I got your message. When did you get here? asks Yama.

-Last night. When I realized I could transit through Canada to go to Havana, I thought it'd be a great way to meet you. How have you been?

-What can I get you? asks the man behind the counter.

-Hmmm... Hesitates Yama.

-The coffee's great, claims Najwa.

-Ok. I'll have a latte then.

-Medium, large? asks the man behind the counter.

-Small. Please.

-I'll have the same, continues Najwa.

CAFE NEVE, MONTREAL, LATER

The two women have moved to a counter facing a window where they can speak privately. Najwa tries to get a grasp on how Dmitriev disappeared.

-And this girl, Rachel, she just popped out of nowhere to interview him?

-Yes. Well first she approached me I guess as she figured I was Canadian and all. She saids she was a journalist and was working on an article about Russia for a travel magazine. I thought she was some kind of blogger drifting around... We went out with friends from the University and she mingled in easily. The guy I was with thought she was odd though....

-You had a boyfriend there?

-Yeah... I met this Engineering student soon after I got there... Not my type at first but he was kinda cute.

-My boyfriend is Russian too, saids Najwa smiling.

-Anyways, so a couple of days later she asked me if she could accompany me on the the site, the excavation site. And that's where she completely changed and got into this full cat-woman mode and virtually hypnotized the man.

-Your boyfriend?

-No, Dmitriev... Well maybe she was flirting with him too, but it was clearly Dmitriev she was after.

-How did he react?

-Well, he's kind of straight edged, you know. Like there's no way she would have found him attractive. And it's not like he's got money or power. He was just this plain Russian man.

-Was he married?

-Not that we knew. But I think he was from Moscow so he might have had family there. But we never saw or heard of anyone.

-How old was he?

-Like 50 something...

-And you never saw her again.

-No... She vanished the same day he did.

-She didn't leave her e-mail or cell number to anyone.

-No she claimed her SIM didn't work in Russia, which is possible. Otherwise she just hooked up with us at this hang out joint near the campus.

-Rachel what? Did she tell you her last name.

-Bowie! Rachel Bowie.

Yama is thoughtful then continues.

-It didn't occurred to me that she might have been involved then, but now that I think about it...

JOSE MARTI AIRPORT, HAVANA, CUBA

Alexander drops Najwa's hand luggage on the back seat of a 1965 Land Rover before opening her the passenger door. He kisses her as he gets behind the wheel.

-So? Did you find him?

Najwa looks at Alexander and poses for a few seconds.

-You've got some memory. Or you're spying on me.

-Both, answers Alexander as he kisses her again.

-No... I didn't...

STREETS OF MONTREAL, THE PREVIOUS DAY

Najwa and Yama walk out of the cafe where they spent the afternoon as night falls on a cold wintry evening. Yama zips up her jacket.

-You're not too cold, coming from Dubai?

-Yes, very cold... But I grew up in Hungary and traveled to northern places. So it's not like I've never seen snow. But I reckon this is the coldest I ever felt.

-Keep moving and after a while, you'll get used to it.

-I will thanks.

-Well, this is my bus stop. It was very nice to meet you in person Najwa. I guess we'll stay in touch.

-Yes definitely, I'd like that...

-Sherbrooke street is about five or six blocks this way, saids Yama pointing south.

-Cool, thanks again for meeting with me.

Yama smiles and kneels towards Najwa to kiss her goodbye.

BOULEVARD SAINT-LAURENT, MONTREAL

Najwa walks down Montreal's boulevard Saint-Laurent. Her sneakers crunching over the packed snow.

Boulevard Saint-Laurent historical board

She notices boards posted on various buildings recounting the city's history. Some written in English but most in French. She reads the story of a Jewish couple who emigrated to Canada from Europe after the Second World War.

She thinks of Anne, her imaginary alter-ego, who could have well landed here instead of in Buenos Aires. She thinks of her father of whom she knows nothing, except that he was named Axel, that he spoke French and that he bore an A tattooed on his arm.

Najwa continues her stroll down The Main, looking at snowflakes falling in front of street lights. Every man in his mid forties could be him. He was seventeen when he met her mother in Berlin. Is he dead. Is he here. Does he know. What would happened if they'd met?

In the street, most women wear a hat or a scarf, hiding part of their head. This time she doesn't stand out. In the middle of the street, a bike messenger riding against the traffic jumps on the sidewalk right besides her, missing her by inches. How can he ride with all this snow?

BOOKSTORE, BOULEVARD SAINT-LAURENT, MONTREAL

Najwa stares at the window of a bookstore. Could one day her own book be amongst those displayed. Christmas music echoes through the street, reminding her of her childhood in Budapest. The bike messenger whom she saw earlier exits the bookstore and smiles at her.

-I'm sorry if I surprised you before. I had to make it before the store would close, saids the messenger in French as an employee locks the store from inside.

-It's okay, I slipped but didn't fall, answers Najwa smiling back.

He kneels down to unlock his bike.

-You should get boots! That's where you get cold from.

-Yes, I'm starting to feel that... How do you manage to ride in the snow?

-Experience, saids the messenger laughing. Plus I have studs on my front wheel.

-You're like Mad Max!

The messenger looks back at her in silence... then continues.

-That's my name. No jokes. My name is Max.

Najwa extends her hand.

-Nice to meet you, I'm Najwa.

Max pulls his orange leather gloves to shake her hand.

-Could I offer you a coffee or something to make up for nearly hitting you with my bike on the sidewalk?

-Don't you have to rush for another delivery?

-No, this was my last one. Businesses close at 6.

-Oh, well I actually just had two coffees... But I wouldn't mind warming up for a few minutes.

-I don't drink coffee either. Tea, water and booze!

-Tea would be good.

HOTEL NACIONAL, HAVANA, CUBA

Alexander parks the Land Rover at the front entrance of the Hotel Nacional where an attendant takes his keys. Najwa walks across the hall into the garden followed by Alexander.

-You want to go to the room first or have a drink here?

-We can stay here... I'll have a fresh orange juice if they have.

-Right on.

A waiter arrives at their table.

-Buenas tardes...

-Buenas tardes. Un jugo de naraja para la segnora i un run doble, asks Alexander in rough Spanish with a strong Russian accent.

-Anejo? asks the waiter.

Alexander looks at him perplex.

-El run... Old... Siete anos?

-A si, por favor, replies Alexander.

Najwa turns towards Alexander as the waiter leaves.

-Wow, I hear you've practiced.

-I was briefly stationed here in 1992.

-That's where you learned to dance? replies Najwa smiling.

Moments later.

Najwa is sipping on her orange juice as Alexander has finished his rum.

-You know I can find him for you if you wish.

-No... Please... I'd rather not. I'm not sure I want to meet him. Not sure if I'd have something to say. If I'd be disappointed. If he'd be disappointed... I'd rather leave it to faith.

-Inshallah... saids Alexander looking at the waiter as he realizes his glass is empty.

-Inshallah... replies Najwa.

-Yet you pushed you're luck by traveling to Canada.

-I wanted to meet this student related to the Caspian Sea incident.

-And, how was that?

-Okay, I guess. We had coffee. It was nice, saids Najwa absently.

Alexander senses that Najwa is not in a talking mood and pulls back his chair to stand up.

-I'm gonna go take a shower. Remember we're going to my friend's house tonight.

-Right. What time is it?

-5, answers Alexander looking at his phone.

-Okay, I'll finish my juice and I'll meet you. What's our room?

-535, 5th floor. Here...

Alexander pulls a key card from his wallet and hands it to Najwa who smiles at him.

-I'll see you in a minute.

Najwa stares back at the sea as Alexander walks away.

MAX'S LOFT, FACING THE SAINT-LAURENT RIVER, MONTREAL, THE PREVIOUS DAY

Large windows span the width of the sparsely furnished loft. Najwa stares at a boat sailing through ice patches floating down the river. Max hits shuffle on his track list. Hope by R.E.M. starts playing. The port flood-spots back-light Najwa silhouette as she slowly unties her hijab. The kettle whistles in the background. Max, not knowing how to react to the rapidly unfolding events, attends to the tea preparation.

-Here you go. Oolong from China... and oranges from god knows where, saids Max as he places the tray on a flipped wooden fruit box in the living area.

Najwa approaches and sits on the torn leather sofa. Max kneel on his knees to serve the tea.

-So... are you a student?

Najwa smiles at Max and places her palm on the spot next to her.

-Come...

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