- 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
On the eve of a show trial, a Soviet dissident is stabbed through the heart.
On a frigid night in silent Moscow, Aleksander Granovsky paces the floor of his government flat. He has dedicated his life to exposing the brutality of the Russian penal system, and in two days he will be tried for the crime of smuggling essays to the West. Granovsky is drafting a speech to deliver in court when an assassin appears and pierces his heart with the point of a rusty sickle.
The case falls in the lap of Porfiry Rostnikov, a Moscow police inspector whose three decades on the force have made him an expert in navigating the labyrinths of the Soviet bureaucracy. But it will take every ounce of Rostnikov’s skill to find the killer and survive the investigation, as every question he asks takes him closer to the heart of the KGB.
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.
Death of a Dissident
An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery
Stuart M. Kaminsky
THE PORFIRY PETROVICH ROSTNIKOV SERIES may never have been started had it not been for the constant rejection by publishers of a pet project of mine.
For years I nurtured the idea that within me was a vast, long multi-generational novel based very loosely on my own family and its history. I outlined the novel, did the research, wrote over 100 pages and sent it to my agent, who tried without success to interest a publisher.
Since the first two chapters of the rejected tome took place in the Soviet Union, I decided to use some of what I knew and had already done, pour in some things I loved and write a mystery novel. I knew a great deal about Russia and about my family. All of my grandparents were born in Russia and I had many a remembered tale to draw upon. I love Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels, as, you will discover, does Porfiry Petrovich. I also love Georges Simenon’s Maigret novels, and John Creasy’s Gideon novels were favorites of mine in high school. Above all, I love “classical” Russian literature, particularly Dostoevsky and, even more specifically, Crime and Punishment.
There was no grand plan to combine all of the above when I outlined and then wrote Death of a Dissident. I knew they would come together, not by calculation but because they were a part of me.
What surprised me a bit when I did begin to write was the realization that I had adopted the style of the Russian novels I had read and I liked what I was doing. It came naturally—like affecting an accent without realizing it. I was writing about Russians, so I wrote in the style that I remembered as Russian. I still write the Rostnikov tales in this style, which goes against the grain of much contemporary Soviet fiction which, in turn, strives to have its own modernist identity and to get away from the very style with which I feel comfortable.
I also found that, from book to book depending on the tales told, I adopted the style of whatever specific Russian author most suited that tale. This led to a discovery. As much as I admire Dostoevsky and Chekov, I am clearly, at least in my own mind, most influenced by Gogol, who may be the least appreciated of the Russians.
So, I had written what I thought was a Russian police procedural tale influenced by such diverse sources as McBain, Simenon, Creasy, Dostoevsky and Gogol. I liked what I had done. My agent liked what I had done. However, no hardcover publisher liked what had been done so the book came out as a paperback original.
Death of a Dissident was submitted to the publisher and accepted almost a year before it was published. Death of a Dissident suffered the fate of most paperback originals: no reviews. It also happened that Gorky Park was published a little over a month before Death of a Dissident. Though I had enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith’s novels—and still do—I couldn’t read Gorky Park. The reviews made it clear that our books bore only a superficial resemblance to each other.
Since I thought the series was ending, as much as I liked it, I decided to kill off a major character. In the first of several drafts of Black Knight in Red Square, Emil Karpo is killed. My editor and agent liked the character so much that they persuaded me to let him live. There’s an interesting parallel here with the 87th Precinct series. At the beginning of the series, Ed McBain tried to kill Steve Carella, his central character.
My next brilliant idea was to let Rostnikov get out of the Soviet Union, have him move to Chicago where he would become an avuncular problem solver for the Soviet community. It wasn’t that I thought it was a great idea. The fact is that it is damned hard to write about characters living in a city I’ve never seen and about which I must do an enormous amount of research with each book. Ed McBain tried to deal with this problem by having his tales take place in the non-existent (but really New York) city of Isola. He discovered, as the series went on, that it was more difficult to do this than to do the research on a real city. Each time you create a detail, give a description, in your mythical city, you’ve got to remember it, make it part of the whole that you must repeatedly bring to life.
In my case, once again, agent and publisher persuaded me.
Black Knight in Red Square was nominated for an Edgar as Best Paperback Original and had a new life.
I am now not only comfortable with my characters and comfortable writing about the Soviet Union; I’m sure I’d continue writing the novels even if I had no publisher. I simply want to know how they are doing, what they are doing, and what is going to happen to them. I guess I’m a fan of my own series.
What do I like most about these books? The three central characters who have their roots in literature and my imagination.
Rostnikov himself bears more than a passing resemblance to Jules Maigret. His methods are similar, but his milieu is much different. Rostnikov is, like George Gideon, a man of action. And it is no coincidence that Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov bears the name of the magistrate who drives Raskolnikov to a confession of murder. Rostnikov, finally is my fantasy of my Russian grandfather, my father’s father, who died when I was about six.
Actually, I had two Russian grandfathers. My mother’s father was a model for the old man who is murdered in his bathtub at the beginning of Red Chameleon. Rostnikov, like my idealized grandfather, is loving, determined, whimsical, loyal, romantic and pragmatic. He is a man who loves his job, his wife, his son, his country, his co-workers. He is a man filled with contradictions who often takes chances, challenges the system because the challenge keeps him alive and gives his life meaning. He is a man with a sense of humor that is peculiar to a Russian.
Emil Karpo, in contrast, is a tall, gaunt, loyal, humorless traditionalist who bears some resemblance to Mr. (not Dr.) Spock. Karpo is a haunted man who had devoted his life and loyalty to the religion of Communism which, as practiced in the Soviet Union, keeps letting him down. Karpo wished to deny his emotions, the needs of his body and the human loyalties which, ultimately, are more immediate than his devotion to duty.
Sasha Tkach is, in some ways, what Burt Kling might have become in the 87th Precinct novels, had life not dealt him a monstrous love life and had he been plunked down in contemporary Russia rather than in Isola. Sasha’s concerns are domestic. Life, the complications of a changing Russia, a growing family, and his inability to cope with women threaten to overwhelm him.
I guess, at one level, Rostnikov lives for the present. Karpo lives for the past and Tkach lives for the future in both the dream and reality that was and is the Russia about which I write.
Stuart M. Kaminsky
“And what if I am wrong,” he cried suddenly after a moment’s thought. “What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind—then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it’s all as it should be.”
Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
MOSCOW WINTERS ARE REALLY NO worse nor much longer than the winters of Chicago or New York. If they seem so, it is because Muscovites like to think of their winters as particularly furious. It has become a matter of pride, an expression of unnecessary stoicism somewhat peculiar to the Russian psyche.
In truth, when the snow falls for three or four days and the temperature drops to thirteen degrees, the huge plows radiate down the wide streets from Red Square, clearing the way for the well-bundled pedestrians, who show no particular discomfort as they flow around the machines and past the dvornik—the teams of husbands and wives with brooms who sweep the smaller streets and sidewalks. Two hundred feet below the ground and the snow, millions of Muscovites travel in the warmth of the Metro to their jobs or to stores to wait in line for a dozen eggs or a pair of Czech shoes that look like those in American movies. At night, the same people and the more than half a million students in the city travel quietly home.
It is the silence of winter in Moscow that most strikes a foreigner. The crowds of the day and evening are enormous, but they hum rather than shout. If one passes the Aleksander Garden at the foot of the Kremlin, however, one might hear the laughing voices of children, who have been skating through the day.
In the evening with the coming of darkness, most of the almost eight million citizens of Moscow stay in their apartments, and the city appears almost deserted except for the bored youth, tourists, criminals and those with enough money to venture to one of the restaurants or movie theaters within walking distance.
It was on such a night that Aleksander Granovsky paced the living room of his sixth-floor apartment on Dmitry Ulyanov Street, not far from Moscow University. Aleksander Granovsky, once a teacher, was now an enemy of the state. As he paced the wooden floor of his living room, the ceiling of the apartment below shook. Part of the fault was in the construction of the twenty-year-old building; bribes and bribe-taking had resulted in corners being cut and floors having less insulation than had been specified. However, part of the fault also belonged to Granovsky, who refused to put even an old rug on the floor to cut down the noise of his nightly pacing. The old Chernovs on the fifth floor had once complained to the manager of the building’s housing committee and they had been visited by the K.G.B., the Committee for State Security—a rather extreme reaction, they thought, to so simple a complaint. As Granovsky became more famous in the neighborhood and the world for his dissident ideas, the Chernovs learned to suffer his noise in silence rather than risk another visit from the K.G.B. man with the flat nose who made them feel guilty. Besides, their complaint had had no effect on Granovsky’s pacing.
Misha Chernov, who cleaned the benches and walks in Pushkin Park, never considered a direct confrontation with Granovsky, a tall, dark crow of a man who never smiled.
On this particular winter night, the Chernovs’ ceiling shook more than ever, but they consoled themselves with the knowledge that their upstairs neighbor would be going on trial in a few days, and with any luck they would finally have their peace.
The Granovsky apartment was exactly like that of the Chernovs and the fifty other tenants in the building: two rooms and a small kitchen. The Chernovs and the Granovskys, however, were unlike most of the other tenants. There were only two Chernovs and three Granovskys. Some of the other apartments held as many as six tenants.
Granovsky’s pacing stopped abruptly as his wife, Sonya, and his daughter, Natasha, came out of the second room of their apartment and faced him. He looked at them clinically. They were of a kind, thin and pale and frightened. Granovsky was driven to near fury by their fear, but he had learned to pretend not to notice it. It pleased him that in seventeen years of marriage his wife had no idea how much her concerned cow eyes infuriated him.
“We thought we’d go to Kolya’s apartment for a little while,” Sonya said so softly that he barely heard her. “That is, if you don’t want us to stay and…”
“Dress well,” he said automatically. “Ask Kolya and Anna if they are going to try to come to the trial.”
“He’ll come,” Sonya said. “Anna cannot. It would be hard for her at work.”
Aleksander smiled, a dark, serious smile.
“Kolya will sit in the back and hide among the old women, the widows, and old maids who have nothing to do but watch the young lose their freedom,” he said. He looked at Sonya for an argument about her brother’s courage but as usual got none.
“We’ll be back soon,” Sonya said, avoiding his eyes and checking Natasha’s red knit hat. Granovsky nodded, turning his back on the two women, who left, closing (he door as quietly as they could.
“Justice,” he thought to himself, composing his trial speech as he resumed pacing, “is guaranteed us, but justice is not what we get.” He would wait to write it down. So far he didn’t like it. He moved to the kitchen and put on a kettle of water for tea and then strode to the window, where he parted the curtain and looked down into the street. He did not try to hide as he glared down with a sardonic smile at the K.G.B. man shivering in the street six floors below. Granovsky could see the winter steam freeze in front of the man’s mouth. Granovsky pushed the curtain over to be sure the man in the street would see him and then turned to find his cup.
The trial speech had to be very brief, for he did not know how much they would let him say. He had to memorize the words and give them to his friends before the trial to be sure they would be smuggled out to the rest of the world. Pravda might give the trial no more than a few lines on the back page if it covered the event at all.
Granovsky had no doubt that he would be found guilty of anti-Soviet activity, consisting primarily of smuggling articles on the Soviet penal system out to the West for publication. It was not the outcome of the trial Granovsky wished or expected to affect. He was concerned with a matter of principle. What was important to him was that his words be given to the Western press, that he become an international figure, a rallying point for action and protest. Considering America’s ideas of human rights, there was even the possibility that the Americans might be willing to trade his freedom for one of the Soviet spies they had. It would depend entirely on his speech and how much publicity he could generate.
The wording of the speech had to be emotional and precise. He could buy himself time and a little attention and sympathy at the trial by provoking the judge to anger. He considered the possibility of smoking during the trial, a gesture Judge Drinyanov would regard as extreme disrespect. Granovsky would feign surprise and innocence of the affront. But that was a minor gesture he couldn’t allow himself to fantasize about. What he had to do was complete the speech.
Drinking his tea, he began to go through his worn copy of Basic Principles of Criminal Legislation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and of the Union Republics, with the vague hope of discovering something he might quote ironically. He knew the principles too well to expect an idea simply to leap out at him, but perhaps a word or phrase might bring inspiration.
He was dropping an extra sugar lump in his still steaming tea when someone knocked at the door. Granovsky was annoyed. He hoped it was not Sonya and Natasha back early. He had no patience for visitors and he had no time to spar with the K.G.B.
“All right, all right,” he shouted, stirring his tea. The knocking continued. He gulped the hot liquid quickly, scalding his tongue. If it were the K.G.B., he might well be in for a night of harassment, and it would be good to have something warm in the stomach. The knocking grew louder.
Holding the law book in his hand, Granovsky strode to the door, fixing his most defiant expression, which would suffice for the K.G.B. or complaining neighbors. When Granovsky opened the door and recognized the person before him, the glare turned to a sardonic smile.
“This is a busy night for me,” Granovsky said without any attempt to hide his impatience. “What do you want?”
The answer came before Granovsky could really register it. Something flashed from behind the back of his darkly dressed visitor. The flashing thing looked brown and alien and heavy, and it struck Granovsky in the chest. As a youth, a soccer ball had once struck him in the chest during a game at Sokolniki Recreation Park, taking his breath as this did. Granovsky opened his mouth and looked down at what had struck him and was now protruding from his chest. He could see his own blood forming on it, and he wanted to cast it away.
Granovsky could not scream. Something sweet and wet filled his throat. Still clutching the book in his hand, Granovsky staggered backward, wondering what to do about the thing in his chest. He had a vision of the Golem. If he were to remove the thing from his chest like the star of the Golem, he was sure he would cease to be alive. Yet the thing in his chest was making it difficult to breathe and he had so much to do—a speech to write, tea to drink. He looked toward his visitor for help but realized quite logically as he backed into the kitchen table that his visitor would surely not go through the trouble of killing him only to turn around and help. It would not be reasonable. Nichego, he thought, using the Russian word for resignation, a word that meant a sigh. Things were not going right. Trying to hold himself erect, Granovsky’s hand touched the cup of hot tea and he pulled back, instinctively letting the book in his hand fly across the room. It hit the window he had looked out of earlier, broke it and sailed slowly into the cold darkness.
Khrapenko had not been looking up at Granovsky’s window when it broke, but he heard the crisp tinkle of shattering glass and turned his head upward to see bits of light falling toward the street. In the midst of the shards of glass flew a white bird, its wings fluttering. Khrapenko was fascinated. A bird in Granovsky’s apartment had apparently crashed through the window and was flying to the earth. Just before the object struck the snow, however, Khrapenko realized that it wasn’t a bird, but a book. He looked up at the light in Granovsky’s window before hurrying to the book, which had landed open in the snow. The book was covered with blood. Khrapenko ran for the entrance of the Granovsky building, wondering what madness Granovsky was engaged in.
Khrapenko was twenty-eight years old and had been in the K.G.B. for four years. His father before him had been in the K.G.B. and had known Beria. The elder Khrapenko had a reputation for loyalty and little intellect and had never risen very high above the lowest rank. His son was credited with carrying on the family tradition. The assignment to follow and watch Granovsky had been neither welcome nor unwelcome. It had been puzzling, but as always, he had questioned nothing and had taken the assignment as a possible sign of growing responsibility. Khrapenko did wonder why Granovsky had been allowed to go on the streets in spite of his impending trial, and he had been told that surveillance might lead to further evidence, and that letting Granovsky out would be a sign to the world of the fairness of Soviet justice. Besides, his superior had told him Granovsky welcomed the trial and would certainly not think of running away.
Khrapenko had followed Granovsky through the day and taken up his position opposite the apartment building a few hours earlier. He knew Granovsky was aware of his presence, had actually mocked him from the window, but that did not matter. Until the window broke, Khrapenko’s single conscious thought had been the passage of the forty-five minutes until he would be relieved for the night. Now Khrapenko was running through the small lobby of an apartment building and up six flights of stairs to confront a dissident he had no desire to know.
Granovsky might simply have gone mad in fear over his trial. Khrapenko was not sure of how to deal with a bleeding madman. The K.G.B. man’s only recourse would be to arrest him at gunpoint. If he had to shoot Granovsky, he was sure his K.G.B. career would be at an end.
Coming down the stairs was a figure in black who Khrapenko pushed past without looking. He hurried up the concrete steps two at a time, using the railing more with each flight and listening to the echo of his own footfall.
The hall on the sixth floor was empty. Either the neighbors had heard nothing or were too afraid to come out. The door to apartment 612 stood open, and Khrapenko approached it, panting and reaching for his gun. A distinct and broad trail of blood pointed along the wooden floor to Granovsky’s body. The eyes were open, the mouth was angry and red, as if he had spat blood in wild fury. Cold air blew in through the broken window, but Khrapenko did not notice. His eyes fixed on the thing sticking out of Granovsky’s chest.
Khrapenko knew he had to act quickly, efficiently, that his career might well be on the line. He put his pistol away and reached down to touch the body, to confirm to himself that the man was dead, and his hand came away covered with blood. He was convinced. His next step was to call headquarters, though his impulse was to dial 02, the police. He was on one knee near the body, looking around the room for a phone, when he heard the steps behind him and drew his gun again. He came within the thickness of a fly’s wing of shooting Sonya and Natasha Granovsky. The older woman looked first at the gun, then at the stranger and finally at the body of her husband. Then she began to scream, and the girl at her side, little more than a child the age of Khrapenko’s own sister, began to cry hysterically. Khrapenko rose from the floor and put out a bloody hand to calm the women, but they screamed even louder, a series of shrieks that sent ice through his brain. It was only then that he realized the two women probably thought he had killed Granovsky.
“I just found him like this,” Khrapenko said, trying to keep composed, remembering his career, his father. “I’m a government officer. Please sit down and I’ll call for help.”
The two women turned their eyes from him, and the younger one stopped screaming. They were looking at the ugly, rusty sickle that someone had plunged deeply into the chest of Aleksander Granovsky.
In Moscow, the investigation of crime is a question of jurisdiction, and the investigation of important crimes is an important question of jurisdiction. Minor crimes, and no one is quite sure what a minor crime is, are handled at the inquiry stage by the M.V.D., the national police with headquarters in Moscow. Moscow itself is divided into twenty police districts, each responsible for crime within its area. However, if a case is considered important enough, a police inspector from central headquarters will be assigned. The doznaniye or inquiry is based on the frequently stated assumption that “every person who commits a crime is punished justly, and not a single innocent person subjected to criminal proceedings is convicted.” This is repeated so frequently by judges, procurators, and police that almost everyone in Moscow is sure it cannot be true. This assumption of justice is also made for military and state crimes handled by K.G.B. investigators, who determine for themselves if the crime is indeed a state or military crime. Major nonmilitary crimes, however, are within the province of the procurator’s investigator, who is responsible for a predvaritel’noe sledstvie, preliminary police investigation.
All police officers in the system work for the procurator’s office. The Procurator General is appointed to his office for seven years, the longest term of any Soviet officer. Working under him or her are subordinate procurators, who are appointed for five years at a time. The job of the procurator’s office is enormous: to sanction arrests, supervise investigations, appear at trials, handle execution of sentences, and supervise detention. The Procurator General’s office is police, district attorney, warden and if necessary, executioner. The procurators of Moscow are very busy.
Which is why Procurator Anna Timofeyeva was still at her desk in the huge central police complex called Petrovka, on Petrovka Street. Petrovka consists of two ten-story L-shaped buildings which most Muscovites regard with a combination of awe and fear. Procurator Timofeyeva’s office was a small, sparsely furnished room on the second floor of Building #1. Below her were the kennels where the German shepherds stalked and sometimes barked restlessly when they were not on patrol. At two in the morning, most of the dogs were out, but Procurator Timofeyeva did not notice the time nor the absence of the dogs she could hear during the daylight hours. She was a thick box of a woman, about fifty, officious and hard working. She knew that she looked formidable in her striped shirt and dark blue procurator’s uniform, and she wished to look formidable. Therefore she wore the uniform most of the time, though it was not required. On her desk, as she drank cold tea, was a pile of reports from investigators on various crimes which were her responsibility. The top report, #30241, was on a case of hooliganism in which a group of drunks in a café had refused to leave at the 11:30 closing time. Procurator Timofeyeva knew from the report that one of the drunks was a Party member. She would try to shame him before the judge, point out what terrible behavior that was from a Communist when such great difficulties existed in establishing a new moral order.
Exactly how extensive those difficulties were in the case of crime was somewhat of a mystery even to Procurator Timofeyeva since statistics were never made public. However, judging from the pile of reports on her desk, the difficulties were extensive. There were cases of theft, drunkenness, black market sale of typewriters, refusals to pay alimony, murder. The pile never got smaller in spite of the eighteen hours a day the Procurator put in. This particular pile would in fact get much larger before it became smaller.
The Procurator General himself had called her no more than half an hour earlier. She had listened, asking questions only when it was expected. The conversation lasted no more than five minutes, after which she called the Petrovka motor pool and ordered a police car to go to the apartment of Inspector Rostnikov and bring him in immediately. She had watched the yellow Volga with the blue horizontal stripe pull silently into the wide street from her window as she wondered why the murder of Aleksander Granovsky was being turned over to the police and not the K.G.B.
Rostnikov had been sleeping in his apartment on Krasikov Street not more than two blocks from that of the Granovskys when the knock had come at his door. He had been dreaming of bench pressing four hundred pounds and had been grunting under the effort. His pained groans had awakened his wife, who was sure he was dreaming of some terrible sight witnessed during some investigation in his past.
“Porfiry,” his wife said, shaking him gently. “Porfiry, there is a policeman at the door for you.”
Rostnikov woke slowly to the voice telling him the police had come for him. That, he felt sure, was nonsense. He was a policeman, and it was he who knocked at doors in the night. Gradually, the four hundred pounds floated away and he forced himself awake.
“Time?” he said, sitting up at the side of the bed.
“After two,” Sarah answered.
He was about to ask if Iosif were up and then remembered that his son, their son, rashly named for Stalin in a moment of youthful patriotism, was in the army now and stationed somewhere near Kiev. Rostnikov pulled himself from the bed, touched his wife’s cheek reassuringly and limped across the room. He was a powerful, compact man of fifty-two, who lifted weights to compensate his body for the injury to his leg. In 1941 he had caught a piece of metal in that leg during the battle of Rostov. It was so long ago that he didn’t even remember what it was like to walk without dragging the leg behind him.
The young policeman was standing in the doorway, afraid to step into an inspector’s home and track snow. He held his fur cap in his hand.
“You are to come with me to Procurator Timofeyeva’s office immediately,” the boy said almost apologetically.
Rostnikov rubbed his hand across his stubble and held the other up to indicate to the young man that he would be with him in a few minutes. The young policeman looked relieved.
After nearly thirty years as an inspector of police, Rostnikov knew better than to ask the young officer what it was about. The boy would have been told nothing. In five minutes, Rostnikov was out of his apartment, which was no larger than that of the dead Granovsky, and on his way to Petrovka. He tried to get back to his wonderful dream as he rocked in the back seat of the Volga, but the dream was gone. Rostnikov sighed, accepted its loss, and opened his eyes.
When he arrived at Procurator Timofeyeva’s office, Rostnikov entered slowly after knocking and sat in the soft black chair across from the Procurator. She in turn sat behind her desk in a straight wooden chair. Rostnikov wasn’t sure if she gave her guests the more comfortable chair to make them feel guilty about having greater immediate comfort or because she really preferred discomfort. He had come to the tentative conclusion that it was discomfort for herself she sought. Above her head, on the wall, was a picture of Lenin as a young man, emerging from his cell-like room with a wan smile. Rostnikov had long ago concluded that the picture was not just a political necessity but a source of inspiration to Comrade Timofeyeva. He sometimes imagined her as a happy convert to the religion of Communism. He had, however, learned to have great respect for her zeal and ability.
Timofeyeva looked across her desk at the investigator known widely as “the washtub.” She offered him a cup of cold tea, and he accepted it, reaching out a rather hairy hand to take it in.
“What do you know of Aleksander Granovsky?” she asked, trying to ignore the pile of work on her desk and concentrate on this new problem. She did not think in terms of complaint. She was a loyal party member. If a task was given to her, it was necessary, and she would simply have to find the time for it. Her doctor had ...