BUCHAREST, JUNE 20 -- The sun is shining over Bucharest this morning. Women in babushkas are again cultivating the flower beds in front of the National Theater on University Square, preparing for planting. People on their way to work are lining up for newspapers. A policeman -- the only one in sight -- is directing traffic. No army, no militia and the haze that hangs over the city is smog, not smoke as it was last week from the burning vehicles, burning buildings, blasting guns that enlivened the square. A normal city, one might think, on an ordinary day in normal times.

It is, however, Inauguration Day for President Ion Iliescu. The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. I lent my necktie to Alec Russell, one of the more outstanding of the young British journalists here, because I do not plan to attend. Maybe I'll watch it on television, though I feel I have seen enough, and Alec promised to give me a report. Anyway, if the rumors that tear through Bucharest with the speed of a prairie fire are correct -- this particular one extant for several days now, says another coup is brewing -- there will be another inauguration soon. Perhaps I am becoming too Romanian, as I was told last night at dinner in the house of the American consul general. The Romanian guests, I noticed, spoke very softly. "Do you trust the servants?" one of them whispered. "Is the house wired?" There was a joke here in the old Ceausescu days: "Don't touch the flowers -- they're Phillips's." Phillips is a famous maker of recording equipment.

Perhaps the profound despair that pervades this country -- where I was told in January, "reality is a secret" -- is affecting me as well as the Romanian guests at last night's dinner. Maybe the beating I received last Thursday morning, when the miners were rampaging through Bucharest has affected my mind. But the miners have left. Besides, it wasn't a miner who beat me up but a few soldiers and Fesenistes (supporters of the National Salvation Front), under the control of an army officer. I believe he was a major, but I cannot say for sure; it happened very fast. The government was suitably apologetic, and within a couple of hours I had my credentials back. The next day, perhaps as a reward, I was promised an "exclusive" interview with the prime minister, Petre Roman, on condition that I "promise" to get it printed. The interview never occurred. I said I couldn't make such a promise in any event; I don't control the American press.

Paranoia is endemic here, but not to feel a little paranoid is to be dangerously stupid. Yesterday a tape recording of low-frequency police band radio, made a week ago, was given to the foreign press. A Canadian journalist flew to London with it. No one can guarantee its authenticity, of course, and the government has denounced it -- another provocation, "it is a lie" -- but it certainly sounds convincing. The background noise, the sense of urgency, the confusion are all there, and it seems to confirm what many of us suspected all along: that the terrible violence and the bloodshed that began last Wednesday, leading to the ghastly rampage of the miners on Thursday, was deliberately provoked. Officer 53 says to Officer 52, "Do you see any possibility of informing the president? We are starting to burn all of the buses. This was the agreement."

The recording implicates a Mr. Magureanu. Virgil Magureanu is the head of the new Romanian Intelligence Service, which, unlike in the bad old days of the Securitate, is supposed to be responsible to the parliament, not the president. The organization's purpose, it was announced April 26, is to "make sure that state secrets remain secret" and "to gather data and information on the activity of espionage and terrorist organizations against Romania, of extremists or of individuals who plan subversive actions to undermine the national economy, to destabilize the rule of law."

Rule of law? On the tape Officer 52 says to Officer 53, "I don't know how we can resolve this. Mr. Magureanu retreated, and we don't know where he is. This was his business. ... The prime minister's orders were to keep order until the workers arrived." The workers took care of the rule of law quite nicely. Havoc reigned in Bucharest. I saw it. For 24 hours no one was safe from the clubs and sticks, the most extreme viciousness of the blood-crazed, terrorizing mobs, mostly miners from the Valley of the Jiu, that tore through the center of Bucharest -- not Romanians, not foreigners, not journalists, not tourists (incredibly enough there are foreign tourists here), not embassy personnel. By the end of it, at least six Romanians were dead, hundreds injured and who knows how many arrested. Last Friday President Iliescu thanked the miners for coming and sent them home.

One of those arrested in those days of terror, released, beaten up, hospitalized and, his head swathed in bandages, arrested again yesterday in the emergency hospital here, is Marjan Munteanu, the president of the Students League of the University of Bucharest and one of the leaders of the anti-government protests that began almost eight weeks ago in University Square. His wife is now in the Dutch Embassy, where she sought refuge after her husband's most recent arrest. Another protester arrested is Dimitriu Dinca, leader of the 16-22 December group. He's been arrested before too. When I was in the city on April 23, the crowd was crying "Unde este Dinca?" -- Where is Dinca? Dinca was then in the hands of the police where, presumably, he is again.

Well, I did turn on the television. Iliescu was indeed inaugurated, the event sandwiched between a German language lesson and a Shakespeare play. He spoke of the May 20 elections, which swept him and his party to a victory of what some might say were incredible proportions, as "a fundamental, irreversible option for democracy {and a society} founded on respect for the fundamental human rights and on their guarantees. ... The accusations that the authorities allegedly harshly repressed a peaceful anti-government demonstration and pursued to suppress the opposition are not only unreasonable but also unfounded and untrue." On June 13 there was, he said, "a true rebellion, an organized coup d'etat ... pursued to discredit -- at home and abroad -- the country's lawfully and democratically elected political leadership. It is unacceptable to replace the democratic process with anarchy and street rule." As to the miners? "Unfortunately, on June 14 and 15, there was over-reaction in the public order restoration process. ... We unequivocally dissociate ourselves from all actions that transcended the legal framework." Time, as they say, will tell.

A quick look from my balcony overlooking University Square indicates everything is calm for the moment -- only a group of perhaps a hundred people clustered next to the Faculty of Geology and Geography from whose balcony the anti-government protests began last April 22. Still no army, no police and the women in their babushkas have left, the flowers yet unplanted. Perhaps they'll accomplish that task by Friday. On that date six months ago Ceausescu left in a helicopter from the roof of the Central Committee Building, and as one of the guests at last night's dinner said, "For a few hours, we had our liberty. When you give someone a minute of liberty, they won't put up with anything."

"But the revolution?"

"The revolution ended late in the night of December 22 at the moment Mr. Iliescu took control."

My friend Sofian has just passed by on his way to Victory Square. There is a report that a demonstration is forming there, to celebrate Iliescu's inauguration. That's how it is today in Bucharest.

William McPherson is a former editorial writer and book editor of The Washington Post.