- About the Book
- About the Author
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Looking for more suspense?
- Begin Reading
About the Book
In trouble with the KGB, Rostnikov is sent to investigate a death in Siberia.
After three decades serving with the Moscow police, Porfiry Rostnikov is back at the bottom. When forced to choose between the law and the party line, he fights for justice - a disturbing preference that has won him no friends at the Kremlin. Now his enemies in the KGB have transferred him to the lowest rungs of Moscow law enforcement, a backwater department assigned with only the most token murders. But, peculiarly, Rostnikov’s newest assignment is no token at all.
While in Siberia investigating the death of a dissident’s daughter, a corrupt commissar is stabbed through the eye with an icicle. Finding his killer should be a top priority, yet the KGB hands it off to the disgraced detective. Someone doesn’t want this murder solved, and there are people in Moscow who may be plotting to ensure Rostnikov does not live to see the end of this Siberian winter.
About the Author
Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934-2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema - two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life’s work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life.
Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as “the anti-Philip Marlowe.” In 1981’s Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009.
A Cold Red Sunrise
An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery
Stuart M. Kaminsky
This book is dedicated to Shirley, Belle and Al in St. Louis, which is, I am told, rather a long distance from Siberia.
I stood there and I thought: what a full, intelligent and brave life will some day illuminate these shores.
1890, in his travel notes,
on seeing the Yensei River in Siberia
COMMISSAR ILLYA RUTKIN TUCKED his briefcase under his arm, adjusted his goatskin gloves, pulled down his fur hat to cover his ears and tightened the scarf over his mouth before opening the door of the wooden house and stepping out into the Siberian morning.
He had been reluctant to get out of bed, reluctant to dress, reluctant to light the small stove, heat his day-old tea, eat the smoked herring left for him in the cupboard. He was a Commissar. The old woman should have prepared his breakfast, given him some attention, but he had been warned.
Tumsk was not only Siberia but a small weather outpost near the Yensei River between Igarka and Agapitovo well within the arctic circle. Tumsk had barely been touched by the move to modernization which had, since the days of Stalin, been part of the propaganda of a harsh but promising new land beyond the Urals. Siberian towns sprang up to mine copper, diamonds, gold, to develop power from wild rivers, to revive the fur trade with the Evenk natives who have paid little attention to six hundred years of history.
Tumsk had not resisted change. Tumsk had not even been threatened by it. No one had cared. A few dozen people lived in the town just beyond the banks of the river, worked in the weather station, lived out their days as political exiles, made plans or hid. Tumsk was not a town in which to invest one’s reputation and future.
Rutkin put out his right foot and tested the snow. It was brittle on top and took his weight reasonably well. In a few minutes or so the plow from the naval weather station on the slope would come to begin its rounds creating temporary paths, but Illya Rutkin did not have time to wait. He took another step out into the frigid, dark morning clutching his briefcase tightly and stood panting. What was the temperature? Sixty below? Ridiculous. Probably more like forty below. He stood with his arms out at his sides like an overbundled child in his fur coat under which he wore another coat and thick underwear.
The Commissar waddled rather than walked toward the People’s Hall of Justice across the town square, glanced at the statue of Ermak Timofeyevich who had, with a band of cossacks, conquered most of Siberia in the name of the Czar early in the sixteenth century. Ermak, in full armor, a cap of snow on his head, was pointing east, contemplating the Siberia which he had taken. Ermak was badly in need of repair.
Rutkin took a few more steps, stopped and looked west, toward the Ural mountains more than a thousand miles away that stood like a great wall stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Arctic Ocean and separating Russia from the vastness of Siberia.
There was no one on the square. Something sounded to his left and Rutkin turned awkwardly to look toward the river, but the river was hidden by a low ridge covered, as was the world, with snow. He looked toward the taiga, the massive forest that came within a hundred yards of the town on three sides. Nothing. No one.
The Commissar sighed and started again toward the low stone building where he was to conclude his investigation into the death of the child. Normally, a Commissar would not have been dispatched from Moscow to Siberia for such an investigation, but there were two factors which made it a reasonable action. First, the child was the daughter of Lev Samsonov, a well-known dissident physician and scientist who had been sent by a court tribunal to Tumsk a year earlier. The hope had been that the world would forget Samsonov while he was in exile, but, apparently, the world had not forgotten him. Somehow word of his thoughts, life, efforts to return to Leningrad got to the outside world, even as far as the United States. The decision had been made only a month ago to allow Samsonov, his wife and daughter to leave the country. Arrangements were being made. The date of departure was only days away and so, now, the suspicious death of such a man’s child had to be given serious attention, a Commissar at least, and, Rutkin had to admit to himself, he was probably considered one of the least busy of all available Commissars.
Rutkin had been given careful instructions. He had made “mistakes” in the past, he had been told by Party District Leader Vladimir Koveraskin, mistakes relating to certain alleged abuses of power for personal gain. Rutkin knew well what he meant, knew that the assignment to Tumsk was a warning, a taste of the Siberia in which he could easily find himself on a permanent basis. Illya Rutkin, who puffed his way through the snow, was expendable. If he failed to resolve this situation and it led to negative outside publicity, it would be Rutkin who would be blamed, demoted and punished. If he succeeded, he had a chance to survive, keep his title, his influence, his dacha near Yalta. At the age of fifty-four, he did not look forward to starting a new life above the arctic circle. His wife, Sonia, would certainly not join him. She would keep the apartment or, if necessary, go to live with their son and his wife and child in Odessa. Rutkin had no doubt and mixed feelings about the knowledge that Sonia would not be at his side blaming, grinding her teeth in sleep, hating his failure.
Barbaric, he told himself, looking at the ring of concrete buildings alongside almost ancient wooden and brick structures. The buildings around the square and the houses on the slope circled Ermak, who looked ever eastward. These people, he thought. Some of them, the older ones like that fool of a caretaker, still said spasi bog, may God save you, rather than spasibo when they wanted to say thank you. The place, even the wooden church building where no services were held, was part of a useless past that would not simply die. The entire town had no reasonable function for existing other than the weather station. Well, there was another reasonable function: to isolate people like Samsonov. Siberia was dotted with exile towns to receive those who, for various reasons, the State did not want to put into the more formal prisons farther east. One cannot be a martyr if he or she lives to a ripe old age.
But Illya Rutkin did not want to think of such things. He was, in fact, feeling good this morning, hopeful about the future. He knew something, had through careful investigation discovered something startling about the case that would save his career. Well, if he were to be honest, the information had come to him through luck and not investigation, but he had no need to be honest about this and nothing to gain from such honesty. So he trudged on, wanting to be the first person present for the hearing, to give the impression to these exiles, hooligans, ancients that he was constantly alert, that the State was constantly alert.
He would show these people, show Samsonov and the outside world that Commissar Illya Rutkin was not a man to be fooled, trifled with. He would be swift, efficient, and then he would make a show of presenting his information and the documentation on the child’s death, closing the hearing and re-packing his briefcase before he departed. He had already made the call to Igarka to pick him up that afternoon, told them that he would have the entire matter settled, but he had refused to tell Famfanoff, the local MVD officer, what he had discovered. No one was going to take credit for this but Illya Rutkin.
He looked up, took a deep breath and another step toward the People’s Hall of Justice. He had no more than thirty yards or so to go but he could not hurry. The icy air would not let him hurry, the snow would not let him hurry, his heavy clothing would not let him hurry and years of neglecting his body would not let him hurry. So, he did not hurry.
Were his hat not so tightly pulled against his ears, Commissar Rutkin might have heard the sound, the slight wooshing sift of snow, but he did not hear and so the sudden apparition was all the more startling.
“Wha …” Rutkin cried at the hulking animal-like figure before him. The creature had risen from the snow like an extension of it, a massive snow man.
Illya Rutkin was startled but not frightened. He was a practical man who represented the Soviet Union. He faced the creature and waited for it to move away or speak, but it did neither. It stood facing Rutkin.
“What do you want?” Rutkin said.
The creature said nothing.
“Are you drunk?” Rutkin went on. “I am a Soviet Commissar. I am conducting an important investigation and you, you are in my way.”
The creature did move now. It moved toward Illya Rutkin who stepped back, clutching his briefcase protectively to his chest.
“What do you want?” Rutkin shouted. “You want trouble? You want trouble? That can be arranged.”
The creature closed in on him.
“Stop,” Rutkin shouted, hoping someone in one of the shuttered houses on the square would hear and come to his aid, but no one responded and the statue of Ermak continued to point east.
The creature did not stop and fear came to Commissar Illya Rutkin.
“Stop,” Rutkin repeated, seeing something now in the hand of the creature, something that made him want to run, run to the safety of the People’s Hall of Justice.
He tried not to think about dying. Not here, he thought, not here. All thought of the hearing, of his future, was gone. Rutkin couldn’t take in enough air. There wasn’t enough air in the world to satisfy him and so he stumbled, mouth suddenly dry, nostrils acrid. He clutched his briefcase and trudged, stumbled, fell and rose to look back at the creature that was now a few yards from him. Yes, he was much closer to the Hall of Justice, much closer but it was still so far. Rutkin tore off his hat, hurled his briefcase at the creature and tried to force his iron legs to move, to hurry, but they did not move.
Rutkin screamed, now only a few feet from the door. The creature hovered over him and he screamed and from far beyond the village an animal, perhaps a wolf, perhaps the companion of this creature, howled into the dawn.
The door. If he could simply open the door, get inside, close it and throw the latch. Was that too much to ask of his body, his legs, whatever gods might exist and in which he did not believe?
His hand actually touched the wooden panel next to the door but he did not get the opportunity to clasp the handle. He had a moment, however, before he died to regret what he did next. He turned his head to see how far behind the creature was, and the icicle in the creature’s hand penetrated through his eye and into his brain.
It should be cold, Rutkin thought. I should be dead. He shivered once and slumped against the stone stoop of the People’s Hall of Justice thinking that he would survive this, that he would pretend to be dead and that he would be found and taken by helicopter to a hospital where he would somehow recover. Yes. It did not hurt. He would survive. And with that thought, Illya Rutkin died.
Inside the People’s Hall of Justice of the Village of Tumsk, Sergei Mirasnikov looked out of the frosted window and adjusted his rimless glasses. Sergei clutched his broom and watched the creature gather in something brown that looked like a huge book. Sergei’s eyes were not good even with the glasses. At the age of eighty-three, he was content that God had allowed him to live this long in relatively good health. One sure way to end that life and show his ingratitude to God would have been to open the door and try to come to the aid of the fool of a Commissar who had strongly hinted that Sergei was too old to continue to hold his job. Had he gone through that door to face the creature with his broom, Sergei was sure that there would now be a dead Commissar and a dead caretaker in the square.
Now there would be another Commissar coming, another investigation. It wouldn’t end. Sergei watched the creature amble into the far snow, move toward the taiga, and then disappear into a clump of birch trees.
Sergei put down his broom when the creature was out of sight and looked around to be sure no one was there to see him. It was then that he saw the other figure standing silently near the row of birches at the edge of the forest just beyond the square. He could not make out the face of this other figure, but he knew from the stance, the fur parka, who it was. This other figure had also witnessed the death of the Commissar. Sergei blinked and this figure near the forest disappeared. Perhaps the figure had never been there. Perhaps the memories of age were playing tricks on Sergei. Perhaps the Commissar wasn’t dead at all, hadn’t been murdered by the creature.
Before he went to the door to check, Sergei Mirasnikov backed away from the window so he couldn’t be seen, and crossed himself.
PORFIRY PETROVICH ROSTNIKOV PUSHED AWAY the sleeve of a jacket that brushed against his cheek and shifted his weight on the battered wooden stool to keep his partly lame left leg from growing too stiff. He would probably need to move quickly when the moment came to act.
He was sitting in the closet of an apartment on the third floor of a building on Babuskina Street in Moscow just four blocks from his own apartment on Krasikov Street. In his left hand, Inspector Rostnikov held a small Japanese flashlight whose bulb was threatening to reject the Czech batteries which he had recently put into it. In his right hand, Rostnikov held a paperback copy in English of Ed McBain’s The Mugger. He had read the book five years earlier and about four years before that. It was time to reread it and so, while he waited for the three strong-arm robbers to return to the apartment, Rostnikov sat silent, shifted his more than 220-pound bulk, and hoped that the batteries would hold out.
If the flashlight did fail, Rostnikov would put the book away and sit silently waiting, contemplating the dinner of chicken tabaka, chicken with prune sauce and pickled cabbage, that his wife Sarah had promised him for that night if she did not get another one of the headaches she had been plagued by for the past few months.
Rostnikov read: “For as the old maid remarked upon kissing the cow, it’s all a matter of taste.” He had read the line before but for the first time he thought he understood the joke and he smiled slightly, appreciatively. Americans were most peculiar. Ed McBain was peculiar, including in his police novels pictures of fingerprints, maps, reports, even photographs. Delightful but peculiar.
And then Rostnikov heard the door to the apartment begin to open. He turned off the flashlight and stood quickly and silently in spite of his bulk and muscles tight from years of lifting weights. As the three men entered the apartment talking loudly, Rostnikov placed the flashlight in the left pocket of his jacket and in the right he carefully placed the paperback book. He did not use a bookmark, would never consider turning down a corner of the page to mark his place. He had no trouble remembering his place in the book.
The first man through the door was named Kola, Kola the Truck, a great bear of a man with ears turned in and curled by too many drunken battles. Kola, who would be celebrating his thirty-ninth birthday in two days, shaved his head and wore French T-shirts that showed his muscles. Unfortunately, T-shirts did nothing to hide his huge belly though no one would have the nerve to tell this to Kola, not even Yuri Glemp who was the second man into the apartment. Yuri was even bigger than Kola and ten years younger, probably even stronger, but Yuri was afraid of the older man who didn’t seem to mind being hurt, didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. Yuri, on the other hand, did not like to be hurt though he thoroughly enjoyed hurting others.
Together, for almost two years, Kola and Yuri had made a more-than-adequate living by robbing people on the streets at night and beating them severely if they did not have much money. They also beat them if they had money, but not with as much zeal. Watches, wallets, belts and even shoes they sold to Volovkatin.
Yuri, who paused in front of the small mirror to admire his neatly combed hair, kept track of the number of people they had robbed and beaten. His count was fifty-one. Kola had no idea and no interest in the number. He didn’t even seem to have a great interest in the amount of money they had made. Between robberies Kola tended to be quiet and morose, drinking vodka, looking for arguments and watching television.
Yuri didn’t know how to record the last two robberies since they had taken on the “kid,” Sasha, the third man to enter the apartment. Yuri didn’t like Sasha who had met them in the National Bar on Gorkovo. Sasha, who looked as if he should be in school with his hair falling in his eyes, his teeth white, had bought them vodka and mineral water chasers, started a conversation. Later, when Yuri and Kola had had enough of him, they had left, more than a little drunk, and started toward their apartment. No more than a block from the hotel, Sasha had stepped out of a dark doorway and pointed an old Makarov 9mm pistol at them. He meant to rob them. Kola had smiled and stepped toward the kid. Yuri had touched his partner’s arm to stop him. The kid looked like he meant to shoot.
“Just give me your money, your watches,” the kid had said, holding the gun steady and looking around to be sure they were not interrupted.
Yuri had cursed and reached for his wallet. Kola had stopped and laughed.
“We’re in the same business, boy,” Kola said.
“Good,” Sasha had answered. “Just give me your money, and do it fast.”
“How long have you been at this?” Kola asked. Yuri had already handed over his money and his watch.
“A few months. No more talk. Give me the money.”
“I like you,” Kola had said. “You’ve got a stomach for this.”
“Shit,” Sasha had answered, his hair falling even further over his eyes. “Money.”
“You’re not afraid of a little blood, are you, boy?” Kola had said.
“You want to find out?” Sasha had hissed.
“Join us,” Kola had said.
“Just give him the money,” Yuri had whispered.
“Why should I join you?” Sasha had asked.
“You’d be a good front. Yuri and I look like robbers. You look like a kid. No one would be afraid of you. Can it hurt you to talk about it?”
“We can talk,” Sasha said. “But I’m doing fine on my own.”
They had talked; at least Kola and the kid had talked after the kid returned the money he had taken from Yuri. The kid agreed to join them for a while, to see if he made more money, if they were careful enough for him.
“I like this boy,” Kola said to Yuri, putting a huge arm around Sasha’s shoulder.
He’s turning queer, Yuri had thought, possibly with some jealousy that he did not acknowledge to himself. But Yuri had said nothing. Now, more than a week later as they entered the apartment and Yuri checked his hair, he was sure they had made a mistake. They had committed two robberies and Sasha had not engaged in the beatings that followed, had even claimed to hear someone coming before they could really teach a lesson to the second victim whom they had left about an hour ago with a closed eye and bleeding nose just outside the Dobryninskaya Metro Station.
“Let’s split it up,” Kola said, closing the apartment door.
Yuri could tell that Kola was not content. He had not finished with the victim, would be looking for a fight, someone to smash, and Yuri was planning to be careful so that it would not be him. Perhaps he could manipulate it so that Kola took out his rage and frustration on Sasha.
“Yes, let’s split it,” said Yuri, moving to the wooden table in the center of the room. Sasha had sat in one of the three unmatched but reasonably comfortable stuffed chairs near the window.
“Now,” Kola said and Sasha got up and joined the other two at the table.
Kola, who held the money from the robbery, pulled it and a watch and ring from his pocket.
“Fifty-four rubles,” he said. “Eighteen each. The watch and ring go to Volovkatin.”
“Volovkatin?” asked Sasha.
“Volovkatin. He has a jewelry store on Arbat Street, gives cash, hard rubles in hand for things like this,” said Kola.
Kola had taken a few drinks before the robbery and he was talking too much. This kid might go back on his own and deal with Volovkatin without them. Kola should have kept Volovkatin to himself. Kola should eat something, but Kola pointed to the closet and Yuri knew that he wanted the vodka from the shelf.
Yuri got up and swaggered toward the closet. If Kola kept drinking like this, Yuri might soon, but not too soon, have enough nerve to challenge him. Yuri Glemp knew he was smarter than Kola but smarter didn’t determine who was in charge. Soon, soon, if Kola kept drinking, things would be different.
Behind him Kola whispered something to the kid and laughed. Yuri knew it must be about him, some joke. Yes, he would get Kola, but first he would get Sasha alone and take care of him. He clenched his fist in anticipation and opened the closet door.
Before him stood a man who looked as if he were waiting for a bus. He was a square, squat man in his fifties with a nondescript Moscow face. The eyes of this man seemed to have a light dancing behind them. The man, who wore a brown shirt and a dark jacket, seemed to be quite at home standing in the closet.
In the same split second, Yuri’s mind registered the figure before him and decided to do two things at once: close the door and turn for help. Both decisions were poor ones. As he tried to close the door, the bulky figure stepped forward, held the door open with his left hand and struck out at Yuri with his right hand. The blow hit Yuri’s midsection, sending him staggering backward into the room.
Rostnikov stepped from the closet as quickly as his leg would allow him. The other two men in the room took in this barrel of a man and Kola rose quickly, pushed past the staggering Yuri and rushed forward with a smile. He roared at Rostnikov knowing that this man, be he police or burglar, was not to be reasoned with and Kola had no wish to engage in reason. He wanted to punish this man who had come from the closet. Kola, his arms out, threw his body into the intruder expecting to send the man staggering back into the closet, but when they met with a loud grunt the man did not stagger back, did not move. Kola was surprised but also delighted. He had expected it to be easy, perhaps unsatisfying. He thought vaguely that if this were indeed a policeman there might be other policemen nearby and if he were to get any satisfaction, have any chance of getting away, he would have to smash this man quickly, but he didn’t want it to happen too quickly.
Kola looked into Rostnikov’s eyes, saw the dancing light and had an instant of doubt, though he clutched the older man in a bear hug, a hug with which Kola had crushed the chest of at least three victims in the past two years. Kola could hear the man’s breath and was surprised that it was not in the least labored. Kola locked his hands and squeezed, imagining Sasha sitting in wonder and admiration. Kola grunted, watching for the fear and pain in the eyes of the man in front of him, but there was no pain, no fear. The man even seemed to smile or almost smile and Kola felt the veins on his bald head swell with strain. Still the man smiled.
Behind him Kola heard Yuri catching his breath, hissing, “Turn him, Kola, so I can shoot.”
Kola was enraged. He had lost face. Yuri could see that the bear hug which had never failed him before was not having its effect. And so Kola changed tactics. He let out a savage growl and stepped back with clenched fists to pummel the man in front of him, but he never got the chance to use his hands. Rostnikov reached out swiftly to grab Kola’s right wrist with his left hand and his corded neck with his right. Kola tried to step back and free himself from the grip of the smaller man but he couldn’t break free. He hit the man’s hand with his left fist and tried to ram his head into the placid face before him but Rostnikov yanked at his left wrist, bent over as Kola leaned forward, grabbed his leg and put his head under Kola’s arm. Kola found himself over the shoulders of the barrel of a man. He screamed in rage and humiliation but Rostnikov lifted him over his head and Kola found himself falling, flying toward Yuri who stood in front of Sasha. Kola hit the table, crushing it, sending wooden legs crashing, skidding into the air and across the room. Before he passed out, Kola thought he heard someone far away playing a balalaika.
Yuri had danced back as Kola’s body shattered the table. He had stood back, gut burning from the punch he had taken, to watch Kola kill the intruder, but it hadn’t happened. Kola had been the one beaten. And so Yuri stood now, pistol held firmly, and aimed at the wide body of this man from the closet who stood in front of him. Yuri had no choice and wanted none. He would shoot if the man moved. He would shoot even if the man didn’t move. There was nothing to think about. He raised the gun and fired, but something had hit his hand and the bullet, instead of entering the intruder, thudded into the leg of the unconscious Kola who jumped, flopped like a fish with the impact.
Yuri was confused, afraid. What had happened? What would Kola do when he was awake and sober and knew that Yuri had shot him? Yuri raised the gun again, unsure of who he should kill first, Kola or the man from the closet who was limping toward him. He was not given the opportunity to make the decision. Something hit his arm again and the pain made him drop the gun which fell gently into one of the cloth chairs. And then, as the washtub of a man reached for him, Yuri understood and looked at Sasha who tossed his hair back and punched Yuri in the face, breaking the bridge of his nose.
Yuri staggered back in pain, hit the wall and slid down, reaching up to try to stop the blood that spurted from his nose.
“Call down to Zelach,” Rostnikov said, checking his pocket to be sure his book hadn’t been damaged. “He’s waiting down in a car.”
Sasha Tkach nodded and hurried to the window. An icy blast entered the room as he threw open the window, leaned out, shouted and nodded.
“He’s coming,” Sasha said closing the window and turning back to Rostnikov. “I noticed him when we came in. I was afraid they would see him too.”
“Yes,” sighed Rostnikov. “Zelach is a bit conspicuous.”
Sasha looked at Kola’s leg while Rostnikov lifted Yuri from the floor after pocketing the gun that had landed on the chair. Rostnikov propped Yuri against the wall as Zelach and a uniformed MVD officer burst into the apartment, breaking the lock. Zelach and the young officer both held weapons. Zelach’s was a pistol. The young man held an automatic weapon that could have dispatched a regiment with a touch.
Rostnikov sighed and motioned with his hand for the two to put the weapons away.
Zelach, his mouth open as usual, looked around the room as Rostnikov went back to the closet to retrieve his coat and hat.
“Call an ambulance for the one on the floor,” Rostnikov said. “Take the other one too. Have someone fix them up and bring the one with the broken nose to my office. Watch them both. Inspector Tkach will fill out the report. And find a jewelry store operator named Volovkatin on Arbat Street. Arrest him for dealing in stolen goods.”
Zelach stood, mouth open.
“Do you understand, Zelach? Are you here, Zelach?”
“Yes, Inspector. Volovkatchky on Lenin Prospekt.”
“Sasha,” Rostnikov said. “Go with him. Get Volovkatin.”
“Yes,” said Sasha, moving toward the door.
“There’s no phone here,” said Zelach looking around the room.
“That is correct. There is no phone,” Rostnikov confirmed. “Why don’t you send Officer—”
“… Karamasov,” the young man said.
Rostnikov looked at the brown-uniformed young man with interest but saw nothing to be particularly interested in other than a literary name and shrugged.
“Karamasov can call the ambulance and you can wait here and then accompany these two to the hospital. Sasha, you and Zelach go to Arbat Street. You understand?”
“Perfectly,” said Zelach, blinking. “Oh, they called.”
“They did. Who are they?” said Rostnikov, buttoning his coat, thinking about dinner, deciding to make another attempt tonight to reach his son Josef by phone.
“Colonel Snitkonoy,” said Zelach, trying to remember an approximate message. “You are to report back to him immediately. Someone has died.”
“Someone?” asked Rostnikov.
Kola groaned on the floor and reached for his wounded leg. Yuri, his face bloody, looked as if he were going to say something, ask something, but changed his mind and moaned once. Karamasov looked around once more and hurried out of the apartment to make his call.
“Someone,” Zelach repeated.
It was late, but there might be time to get to MVD headquarters, meet with Snitkonoy and still get back home at a reasonable hour. It was annoying. He was no more than a five-minute walk from his apartment, but Rostnikov was accustomed to annoyances. He would walk to the Profsojuznaja Metro Station on Krasikov and finish his paperback novel on the train.
“Anything else, Inspector?” Zelach asked.
“Yes, don’t break down doors if you don’t have to. It is very dramatic but it makes unnecessary work for some carpenter.”
“I’ll remember, Inspector,” Zelach said seriously, moving to stand over Kola who was now definitely waking up.
Rostnikov clapped Tkach on the arm to indicate that he had done a good job. The inspector surveyed the room one last time, returned to the closet, retrieved the small stool and put it back in the corner near the sink where he had found it.
He stepped past the broken table and broken robbers and headed into the hall on his way back for what he feared would be a long lecture from the Gray Wolfhound.
One hour later, Rostnikov was uncomfortably seated at the conference table in the office of Colonel Snitkonoy, the Gray Wolfhound, who headed the MVD Bureau of Special Projects. Rostnikov had drawn a coffee cup in his notebook and was now thoughtfully shading it in to give the impression that some light source was hitting it from the left. He had been drawing variations on this coffee cup for several years and was getting quite competent at it. From time to time, he would look up, nod, grunt and indicate that he was pensively listening to the wisdom being dispensed by Colonel Snitkonoy who paced slowly about the room, hands folded behind his back, brown uniform perfectly pressed, medals glinting and colorful.
The Gray Wolfhound believed that Rostnikov was taking careful notes on his superior’s advice and thought. This caused the white-maned MVD officer to speak more slowly, more deliberately, his deep voice suggesting an importance unsupported by the depth of his words.
Rostnikov had recently been transferred “on temporary but open-ended duty” to the MVD, the police, uniformed and nonuniformed, who directed traffic, faced the public, and were the front line of defense against crime and for the maintenance of order. It had been a demotion, the result of Rostnikov’s frequent clashes with the Komityet Gospudarstvennoy Besapasnosti, the State Security Agency, the KGB. Before the demotion, Rostnikov had been a senior inspector in the office of the Procurator General in Moscow. The Procurator General, appointed for a seven-year-term, the longest term of any Soviet official, is responsible for sanctioning arrests, supervising investigations, executing sentences, and supervising trials. Too often, Rostnikov’s path had crossed into the territory of the KGB which is responsible for all political investigations and security. The KGB, however, could label anything from drunkenness to robbery as political.
Now Rostnikov worked for the Gray Wolfhound whose bureau, everyone but the Wolfhound knew, existed because the Colonel looked like the ideal MVD officer. Colonel Snitkonoy was trotted out for all manner of ceremonial events from greeting and dining with visiting foreigners to presenting medals for heroism to workers at Soviet factories. Colonel Snitkonoy’s bureau was also given a limited number of criminal investigations, usually minor crimes or crimes about which no one really cared. Rostnikov and the three other investigators who worked for the Wolfhound would conduct their investigations, and if the doznaniye or inquiry merited it, the case might be turned over to the Procurator’s Office for further investigation and possible prosecution.
“Surprise, yes. Oh, yes,” said the Wolfhound, pausing at the window of his office and turning suddenly on Rostnikov who sat at the table across the room in the Petrovka headquarters.
Rostnikov was not surprised, but he did look up from his drawing to make contact with Snitkonoy’s metallic blue eyes.
“We will surprise them, Porfiry Petrovich,” the Wolfhound said. “We will conduct the investigation with dispatch, identify those responsible, file a report of such clarity that it will be a model for others to follow for years.”
Rostnikov adopted a knowing smile and nodded wisely in agreement though he had no idea of what this performance was all about. Snitkonoy began to stride toward Rostnikov who turned over the page of his notebook with the unfinished ...