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Rostnikov’s Vacation


  1. Cover
  2. About the Book
  3. About the Author
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Dedication
  1. Epigraph
  2. Prologue
  3. Chapter 1
  4. Chapter 2
  5. Chapter 3
  6. Chapter 4
  7. Chapter 5
  8. Chapter 6
  9. Chapter 7
  10. Chapter 8
  11. Chapter 9
  12. Chapter 10
  13. Chapter 11
  14. Chapter 12
  15. Chapter 13
  16. Chapter 14
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About the Book

In the faltering Soviet Union, the KGB will do anything to hold on to power.

A Jewish man in a squalid government flat finds a killer in his shower. A young punk girl hurtles naked through the window of her apartment. And in the Crimea, at a health retreat for mid-level functionaries, an aging policeman’s death is made to look like heart failure.

It’s this last murder that catches Porfiry Rostnikov’s attention. The inspector’s wife is recovering from brain surgery, and his superiors at the Moscow police insist he accompany her to the Crimea. There he meets Georgi Vasilievich, a former colleague suffering from emphysema, a bad heart, and an inability to stop working. He is investigating a high-level conspiracy when he dies, and Rostnikov inherits the case, putting him on the trail of a gang of hardline security men who refuse to give up the Soviet dream - and who will go to murderous lengths to ensure that perestroika never comes to pass.

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.

Rostnikov’s Vacation

An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery

Stuart M. Kaminsky


With love for Enid, who made time begin

“Who are you?”

“A pedlar.”

“How is it you know that I am being followed?”

“A friend told me.”

“A spy?”


“And you are a spy too?”

“No,” said Yevsey. But looking into Zimin’s lean, pale face, he remembered the calm and dull sound of his voice, and without any effort corrected himself. “Yes, I am.”

Maxim Gorky, The Life of a Useless Man, 1907

The KGB is a very conservative organization. It’s been trained to fight international imperialism, Zionism, the Vatican, Radio Liberty, Amnesty International, Titoists, Maoists, and spying organizations. And now they are left without a job. All these bad names have disappeared from the horizon. And so they either go left, as I did, and I am not alone. But most of them go to the right. They say the country is being betrayed, the country’s falling apart. They say we have to stand and fight to the end.

KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin in an address to the Congress of Communist Party Progressives in the Oktober Theater, Moscow, June 1990


THE HISTORY OF THE secret police of Russia from the days of the czars to the present is quite convoluted, which is, perhaps, to be expected. The organization has gone through many names and many leaders.

Under the czars, the Okhrana, or the Guard, was created to protect the royal family and its staff from assassination attempts. After the Revolution, at the end of 1917, the Okhrana inspired the Cheka, or Extraordinary Commission, under Felix Dzerzhinsky, who reported directly to Lenin. After Lenin’s death in 1922, the Cheka was reorganized and became the GPU, or State Political Administration. The following year, the name was changed to the OGPU, or United State Political Administration. Eleven years later, in 1934, Stalin murdered the ranking officers of the OGPU and formed the NKVD, or People’s Commisariat of International Affairs. In 1941, Stalin renamed the organization NKGB, or People’s Commisariat of State Security. Five years later it was renamed once more, this time the MGB, or Ministry of State Security. It wasn’t until 1954, however, that the name KGB, or Committee of State Security, was adopted. Who knows when the next change will come.

Col. Nikolai Zhenya of the KGB knew this history well. He considered that history and his own future as he stood at the window of his office at 22 Lubyanka, the Moscow home of both KGB headquarters and the Lubyanka Prison. It was a new office into which the colonel had moved only days before, a larger office, to signify his rapid rise. The lead of the recent coat of gray paint on the walls scratched at his palate and nostrils.

To mask the taste and odor, Zhenya took a long drink from the cup of tepid tea he held in his hand. Nothing changed.

He looked around the office—new desk, new chairs, new photograph of Lenin, but a much smaller, safer photograph of Lenin, a photograph that could easily and quickly be taken down, placed in a file-cabinet drawer, and replaced with a photograph of the Kremlin at dusk. He knew there were those inside the offices around him who were considering whether they should now remove the traditional pictures of Lenin and be just a bit ahead of the other officers on the floor. Or should they wait in case the political tides so changed that their loyalty to revolutionary idealism would be admired while their carefully timed discretion would be respected? It was a game of survival, dependent not upon one’s true beliefs but upon the illusion one could maintain about beliefs.

There were quiet moments like this before the day began, before the first knock at his door, when Colonel Zhenya wondered how long he would be able to enjoy his most recent promotion.

Colonel Zhenya, who had risen rapidly through the ranks and was now, at forty-five, one of the youngest colonels in any branch of the KGB, had never truly enjoyed his successes. He had considered each betrayal, each manipulation, each intrigue in which he had engaged, a fragile rung, one as fine as a spider’s thread in the ladder upward. There was no goal but to keep climbing, to keep distancing oneself farther and farther from the bottom.

The colonel, who was rapidly losing his hair and had taken to brushing it straight and severely back, pushed aside the white curtains and looked down at the traffic that swirled around the thirty-six-foot-high statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky in the square below. Dzerzhinsky had organized the Cheka—the organization that had paved the way for the KGB, “the sword of the Revolution”—for Lenin.

Now the sword of the Revolution was in the hands of the moderates, and they could not even use it to cut cheese. The sword was poised over Colonel Zhenya’s head.

The colonel’s office was on the top floor, and above him, since it was shortly after five in the morning, he could hear the political prisoners being exercised on the roof, their synchronized steps tramping like sheets of heavy rain.

Chapter 1

IN THE EVENING OF the very same spring day that Col. Nikolai Zhenya stood at the window of his new office in Lubyanka, three men, two in Moscow and one in Livadia, less than two miles from Yalta, were out walking.

Before the night was over, one of the men would call his wife, another would witness a murder, and the third man would be dead.

In spite of his burden, Yon Mandelstem walked briskly through the small park just beyond the Sokol Metro Station, from which he had just emerged. The case that bounced against his side was worn like a small mail sack over his shoulder. As an added precaution or to give himself better balance, he also held firmly to the cloth handle of the case.

The clouds above him closed in on the sun, and a faint sound that may have been distant thunder whispered from the west.

Mandelstem, this young, serious-looking, bespectacled man in a dark suit and equally dark tie, looked neither right nor left. He ignored the rusting twenty-foot-tall iron hammer and sickle standing just off the path beyond the trees he was passing. Nor did he even glance at the two boys fishing off the low concrete wall over the pond as he moved on.

One of the boys, a twelve-year-old named Ivan, looked over his shoulder at the blond young man who had begun to perspire from both his pace and the weight of the case and whatever was in it. Ivan thought fleetingly that the man was carrying a very small refrigerator, the kind his grandfather and grandmother had in their apartment on Pushkin Street. The shape was right, perhaps even the weight. Something tugged gently at Ivan’s line. It proved to be not a fish but a ripple created by the warning wind of the coming rain. When the boy looked back, the young man with the case was gone.

Yon Mandelstem hurried on, his round spectacles slipping forward on his nose, but he did not slow his pace or loosen his grip on the case to adjust the glasses. Instead, he balanced his burden on his hip and, in annoyance, moved his hand quickly to his face to push the glasses back on his nose, knowing that they would only resume their descent until he dried the perspiration from his nose.

A distant crack of thunder and the rapidly darkening skies urged Mandelstem on even more quickly. He reached the street on the far side of the park as the rain hit. He waited for a trio of cars to pass and then tried to run. The case bounced awkwardly, uncomfortably, against his side, his hipbone catching a metallic thud with each hurried step. Reluctantly, he slowed down, resuming his rapid walk.

The two boys who had been fishing in the park ran past him, laughing at the rain. A babushka, an old woman wearing a black sweater and carrying a mesh bag containing what looked like some potatoes and a small block of quivering cheese, almost bumped into Yon Mandelstem on the sidewalk. Their eyes met, and through the raindrops that now dampened his vision he became alert and clutched his case to him as if he feared an attack by the soggy creature before him. She hurried away, muttering.

Yon Mandelstem was just past Building One of the four 14-floor concrete high-rise apartment buildings known to their older tenants as the Friedrich Engels Quartet when the rain abruptly stopped. It had lasted no more than a minute or two, and the sky was already clearing. A huge plane that had just taken off from the Sheremetyevo International Airport boomed overhead.

Yon Mandelstem continued, feet splashing in puddles, toward his goal, Building Two.

A few people emerged from the buildings and looked up at the clouds, which thundered a farewell and moved west, away from Moscow.

Opening the door was awkward. He could not put his case down on the wet ground, but it was difficult to open the heavy door with only one hand. Fortunately, someone came to his rescue and pushed it open.

“It stopped raining?” asked the woman who had opened the door as she stepped back to let Yon enter.

“Yes,” Yon answered, removing his glasses, panting slightly.

In the dim light of the narrow hallway, Yon now recognized the woman. She was in her late thirties, possibly even forty, dark, made up, and wearing a blue dress with white flowers.

“I don’t want to get my hair, my dress, wet,” she said. “It’s so … You just moved on ten? I’ve seen you.”

“Yes,” he said. There were no elevators in the Engels Quartet. In fact, there was not much to recommend the buildings or the series of slightly lower apartment buildings constructed in the 1950s and 1960s in the area. The service was terrible, worse since the reforms, for not even political pressure could get the repairmen to work. The airport was too close, and the flight patterns went directly over this section. Still, one was lucky to get an apartment, and Yon knew he would not have gotten his if he did not have special connections.

He had caught his breath, moved past the woman, and was ready to climb the stairs. He wanted to get to his room, lock the door behind him, check the treasure under his arm, and men get out of his wet clothes.

“My name is Tamara,” the woman said, stepping toward him and holding out her hand.

Yon quickly tried to dry his palm on his wet trousers and held out his hand.

The woman’s hand was warm and soft. She had a nice smile, a clear complexion.

“Yon Mandelstem,” he said, brushing away the lock of hair that had fallen over his eyes.

“Jewish?” she said.

“Yes,” he said a bit defensively, taking a quick step up the stairway.

“Not a good time to be Jewish,” Tamara said, shaking her head. “Don’t look so frightened. I’m not an anti-Semite. I can prove it. I’ll be back in two hours. You can come to my apartment for a drink. Number eleven-six.”

“I … I don’t think.”

“My husband is in Lithuania or someplace that’s giving us trouble,” she said with a wave of her hand, indicating either that her husband’s whereabouts were of no consequence or the location of Lithuania did not matter in the course of human events.

“A soldier?” Mandelstem asked.

“No,” she said with a little laugh, advancing on him. “An electrician. So?”

“So,” he said, feeling the weight of the load in his aching shoulders.

“So, are you coming to my apartment later?” She was close enough for him to feel her breath on his face. It was warm, a bit sweet.

“Perhaps,” he said, turning suddenly and starting up the stairs. “Perhaps another time.”

“Won’t be another time,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m using the apartment of a friend. She’s coming back in a few days and I’ll have to go. Tonight will be best.”

“I’ll …” Yon began.

“Think about it,” she said, giving him a broad smile and turning her back as she headed for the door.

Yon began to climb the stairs.

Below him, Tamara shook her head, touched her breasts with both hands to be sure they were still there, and went into the evening, almost bumping into a lean man wearing a workman’s jacket and a cap pulled down over his eyes.

“Prastee’t’e, excuse me,” she said with a smile that showed even white, though a bit large, teeth, of which she was particularly proud. The man did not look at her.

Yon Mandelstem was exhausted when he reached the door to his apartment. He put down his case, glancing around the empty corridor to be sure no one was watching. No doors were cracked open. A sound that may have been bitter laughter came from one of the apartments nearby, but he could not tell which one. He got his key out, opened the door, placed his case inside, stepped in, turned on the light, and closed the door behind him.

He looked around the small room, locked the door, took off his glasses, placed them in his jacket pocket, and moved the case across the room to the desk in the corner before he began to strip off his wet clothes. He threw the clothes in the general direction of the worn but serviceable dark sofa against the wall.

Then, naked except for his sox, he moved into the second small room, which served as a bedroom. He reached over and took off his sox as he hopped toward the little cubbyhole in which a shower beckoned.

He threw back the shower door and found himself facing a grinning man with bad teeth.

There was a chill in the Crimean evening air. Georgi Vasilievich pulled up the collar of his jacket, shook his shoulders, and began walking along the czar’s lane from Livadia to Oreanda. Although it was still early in the evening, the thick woods blocked out the setting sun, making it seem much later.

Vasilievich walked slowly. He told himself it was because he enjoyed the woods, the outdoors. He was a man of the city, and he wished to savor the clean air, the solitude. He told himself these things, but something inside him would not listen. Georgi Vasilievich was a policeman, a good policeman, who recognized a lie even when it was one he was telling to himself. No, the truth was that he was getting old. He was tired. Perhaps General Petrovich was right to insist that he take his vacation, that he spend several weeks in the sanitarium for rest and therapy. He had been working hard, as had all in the GRU, the chief intelligence directorate of the Soviet General Military Staff. Unrest in the military was evident at all levels. The work load was impossible. And it was being conducted with no reward, no appreciation from the people, no appreciation from their superiors, who were too distracted in the new turmoil created by Gorbachev to reward with even a word the efforts of …

The path turned and brought him to the rotunda at the seashore. He always stopped at the rotunda. In the week he had been making this trip since Dr. Vostov had prescribed the walk, Vasilievich had paused at the rotunda, both coming and going, to admire the view and to catch his breath.

Vasilievich had a heart condition. One could not argue with that fact. He had experienced a heart attack. But it was four years earlier, and his health reports had been well within the bounds of acceptability from the moment he had been released from the hospital. The rest would, he had reluctantly concluded, be good for him. But, fortunately, in Yalta he had found more than the sight of the sea and woods to occupy him. He had discovered a puzzle that he believed he had now solved.

Georgi Vasilievich put his large arthritic hands on the railing and looked out at Machtovaya Rock, its gray bulk split in two. He had been told by an old woman who helped clean the sanitarium that archaeologists had found a cave beneath the rocks, under the water level, where ancient ancestors of man once dwelt.

An animal or another late walker stirred leaves on the path behind him. Vasilievich did not turn. He imagined or tried to imagine for a breath of a moment that it was his wife, Magda, a few steps behind him, that she would join him to look where his eyes now turned, at the Krestovy Cliff, the bloody cliff where, Vasilievich knew, the White Guards had shot the revolutionary sailors and workers of both Sebastapol and Yalta. At the base of the cliff stood the church that had been built on the ruins of a palace destroyed by fire more than one hundred years ago. He needed no old woman to tell him that. The church stood only a few hundred yards from the sanitarium, whose roof now caught the last rays of the sun.

Magda had died five, no, nine years earlier, he thought. It couldn’t be. But it was. He smiled. Sentiment. He was not a sentimental man. He had displayed no great affection for Magda while she lived. In fact, they had fought often, and he could recall no instance of their having embraced over the final twenty years, and yet he missed her. When she died, he had secretly rejoiced, his somber eyes downcast, the suggestion of tears threatening. He rejoiced in his freedom. He could work whatever hours he wished, smoke his pipe in his underwear, watch the television. But that sense of freedom survived less than a year. He was not sure how much less. The feeling of loss had come gradually.

This time the sound on the path behind him made Vasilievich turn. He should be wearing his glasses. He knew that, but Georgi was a proud man. He had once been a large man, but the years, his illness, and something in the soul that he could not quite understand and in which he did not believe had begun to shrink him.

There was nothing, no one, there. But still, it did not hurt to be cautious. He bent down at the edge of the rotunda and pretended to tie his shoe while he glanced toward the trees without turning his head.

Vasilievich resumed his journey and became absorbed almost immediately in the problem he had been picking at for the past few days, the problem he had been reluctant to share with Rostnikov, who would have been sympathetic but have thought him an old fool.

Vasilievich would have liked to quicken his step, but he hesitated, fearing that sudden jolt, the loss of breath he had experienced but once four years ago before his heart attack.

“I am better,” he said to himself, moving forward, head down, as if against a strong, chill wind.

“I am fine,” he said aloud but not loudly.

And with that his decision was made. He wanted no more of this place, this solitude. He would go back to the sanitarium, pack his things, and inform Dr. Vostov that he would be returning to Moscow on the first available plane. He had an open ticket. He need but call the air—

Definitely something behind him. Definitely. He stopped and stepped off the path next to a tree. He was, himself, thin, gnarled. From a distance he could have been a branch growing from the base of a dark tree. He slowly, carefully, removed his glasses from his jacket pocket and placed them on the end of his nose. When they were properly perched, Georgi Vasilievich stood motionless, as he had done hundreds of times in the past while stalking a criminal. He willed his breathing to be shallow, to mingle with the sounds of the woods, the waves brushing the shore beyond the trees. He had no weapon. Why would anyone need a weapon on a hospital vacation? His pistol was locked in the metal box in his office desk in Moscow.

He stood listening for five or ten minutes. Nothing. Rostnikov was right, or would have been right if Vasilievich had been foolish enough to share his idea with him. All he had told Rostnikov was that he was working on something, putting notes together that he might soon share with him, but he was not prepared to do so yet. Georgi Vasilievich was an old fool who had played too many games, seen too many deaths. Georgi had looked over at Rostnikov with the knowing little smile he had cultivated for more than forty years, a smile that told suspect and colleague alike that he, Vasilievich, knew something, had a secret of great importance to this suspect or colleague.

He stepped back onto the path, feeling even more chilled. The blood circulated poorly in his feet, and his hands were numb.

“It’s not cold,” he hissed to himself, chiding himself silently as he walked. “You’re an old fool talking to himself, an old fool who, can’t think straight, can’t tell—”

Two men stood before him on the path. He sensed them long before he saw them and looked up. He could not run or hide. His body would no longer tolerate or support such action. He assessed the situation quickly, efficiently, and walked toward the men whose faces he could not yet see. When he was perhaps two yards from them, he stopped, pushed his glasses up and found that he could make out their faces, could see what they were wearing. One man was a mountain, massive, wearing a blue sweater and a dark frown. The second man was small, very small, and thin, with a wild eye that did not join its partner in looking at Georgi Vasilievich.

And in that moment all became clear. He had not imagined it. He had figured it out, had figured it all out. He fleetingly wished that he had shared his knowledge with Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov. He stopped walking as a large wave beyond the trees slapped the shore.

Though the film at the Oktober Theater was not over and Emil Karpo had never seen it, indeed, had not been in a movie theater for more than twenty-five years, he stood up and left. He had been sitting in a seat on the aisle while above him on the screen fat Hungarians were laughing, acting like buffoons, and chasing thin blond women who occasionally spoke words in French.

Emil Karpo did not dislike movies. But neither did he like them. He followed the young woman who had left the vast auditorium of 2,500 seats moments before. Lenin had said that film had a function, a crucial propagandistic function. Movies were supposed to have brought enlightenment, reinforcement of revolutionary ideas, and idealism. Generally, Karpo considered both movies and television pointless narcotics. Lenin had praised film, and Karpo had taken it as an act of faith, which he called reason, that Lenin knew what he was talking about. Perhaps at one time films did have some seductive power that could be used to ease the people into the Revolution, but that was long ago. Perhaps the words of Lenin had great power to convince those who wished to truly believe, but that was not so long ago. Now statues of Lenin were being toppled in provincial towns. The slowly growing truth of the dream was being ignored, and on twenty-foot-high screens in the darkness Hungarians and Americans were showing their teeth and selling illusions.

However, in this case, the darkness and relative quiet of the theater was a distinct improvement over the basement den, the Billy Joel, where the young woman he was following had just spent two hours in smoke-filled and drug-dimmed purple light, listening to some band called Pe’r’ets—Pepper-scream and blast something called heavy metal on their electronic instruments.

Emil Karpo had not dared enter. He was at least twenty years older than the youngest patron in the Billy Joel, and he knew that there was no way he could sit inconspicuously. Emil Karpo was a tall, corpselike figure with vaguely Oriental features. His hair was dark and thinning, his cheekbones high, his skin tight and pale, and his face expressionless. All of Emil Karpo’s clothing was black, even his T-shirts and several turtlenecks. He was known among criminals and police alike as the Tartar or the Vampire. He knew this and did not mind. He also knew from the faces of those he encountered that they sensed a cold, silent fury that he in fact did not feel.

And so he knew he could not enter the Billy Joel. Instead, he had found a dirty window in an alleyway behind the club and had used his two-inch-long glass cutter to make a hole so small that it would probably not be noticed till someone came to clean the window, if that ever happened.

He had watched her through the hole, had watched the others, had seen drugs passed, bodies sold. Somewhere within him he was ill. It was not so much that these young people were corrupted but that after seventy years of Soviet rule there was more chaos than there had been since the czars. The club had been chaos, noise, decay. Had he entered, he knew he would be enduring one of his headaches within minutes. So he had watched from the window, patiently. Had watched as he had so many times in the past.

The beautiful, restless young woman had consumed four drinks and with withering looks and hissed words of acid had disposed of two young men and one young woman who made advances to her as she sat alone at a table commanding an unobstructed view of the madmen screaming on the platform. Her name was Carla. That was one of the facts about her that Emil Karpo had entered in ink in his pocket notebook. This information and whatever he discovered this day would be transferred to thicker lined notebooks when Karpo got back to his apartment.

Carla spent most of her time staring at her drink. She appeared to pay little attention to the band that blared not five yards from where she sat. Suddenly, in the middle of a song about hatred of cowardly parents screamed by a woman-child with orange hair, Carla got up and strode out.

She had signaled for a cab in front of the café. She had no difficulty getting one. Taxis stopped for beautiful girls. And this beautiful girl was dressed in a very tight-fitting red dress with a three-inch black belt of patent leather. Her thick red hair, which matched the dress, tumbled wildly down her back and over her shoulders.

Cabs also stopped for Emil Karpo, as one did now, when he stepped into the street and held up his hand, but it stopped for quite different reasons than did the cab that picked up Carla. The woman who drove the cab that Karpo stopped was named Sophie Mirbat, who had been driving for the past ten hours and was on her way in for the night. She had accepted Karpo’s statement that he was a policeman, had given her name when he asked for it, and had followed the other cab dutifully in the hope that it would come to a stop soon so she could rid herself of the Vampire behind her and get home to her father and son before midnight. But it was not to be.

When they pulled up to the Oktober Theater on Kalinin Prospekt, the Vampire had said, “You will wait here for me, Sophie Mirbat. You will wait even if it is till dawn.”

Sophie Mirbat considered and abandoned the idea of simply driving away when the man went into the theater. This was not a man to disappoint. Instead, she looked up at the mosaic mural on the facade of the theater, the movie-framelike depictions of historical events in Soviet history, the storming of the Winter Palace, the Civil War. She sat quietly looking up at the mural as she wondered whether she dared charge the man for the time she was going to put in.

Now, less than an hour later, the beautiful woman Karpo was following made a phone call from the booth next to the theater. Karpo was careful to stay back in the shadows. He had learned that those who saw him did not forget him, but he had also learned how to remain unseen.

From where she was parked, the cabdriver, Sophie Mirbat, could see both Karpo and the young woman he was watching. She considered starting her engine but decided to wait. Gas was dear and going up in price.

Carla’s call took a few seconds. She did all the talking and men hung up in anger, her eyes meeting the disapproving glance of a passing old couple. She stared at the couple defiantly with one hand on her hip and the other with her thumb hooked into her black belt. The old couple moved on. That she was beautiful was without question, but her beauty was not an issue with which Karpo cared to concern himself. He had lived his adult life with dedication to the Revolution, had lived only to cleanse the state, bring about the world ideal for which Lenin died and in which Karpo believed. That he had a body, had needs, emotions, he acknowledged. He did not find joy in this acknowledgment, but he well knew that man was an animal and as an animal he had needs. It was better, he had long ago concluded, to meet these needs, compartmentalize them.

Karpo needed his work. There was nothing else. There was not meant to be anything else. His small fifth-floor apartment was dedicated to his work and contained only a narrow bed, a small chest of drawers, a rough wooden desk, and shelves filled with black-bound notebooks in which were details of every case Karpo had worked on in addition to hundreds of unclosed files, unsolved cases on which he worked in his evenings and on his days off. But he was being overwhelmed. Crime was no longer a dot here and a dot there, dots that might be connected to form a pattern of corruption that could be eliminated line by line with patience. No, crime in Moscow was now a giant splatter of blue paint.

Emil Karpo’s hope of salvation lay in his total immersion in his work, and the case on which he was now working was quite therapeutic.

He had, he told Colonel Snitkonoy the day before, a lead on the young man who was suspected of killing a German businessman named Bittermunder near the Moscow River a week earlier. An informant had told him that a young woman with red hair named Carla, a regular at a new rock café called the Billy Joel on Gorky Street, had been talking about the crazy boy she was living with, a boy who had killed a German.

So when Colonel Snitkonoy had ordered him to take a vacation and get out of Moscow, Emil Karpo had disobeyed. The idea of a week away from Moscow, when he might be so close to a murderer, brought on the threat of one of his headaches. The reasons for Karpo to take a vacation now were quite reasonable. Rostnikov was gone. They had been working on a number of investigations together, so it would make sense to put them aside until they were both present. Karpo had argued that he had taken off a great deal of time for surgery and recovery. His right arm had been damaged first during pursuit of a burglar and later in an explosion in Red Square, where he had confronted a terrorist and for which he had received a Moscow Medal. That time off, said Colonel Snitkonoy, was in the line of duty, not a merited vacation.

Normally, Karpo accepted his vacations willingly. They gave him time to work on his unsolved cases, but this was the first time he had been ordered out of the city, and it came at a time when he was in great need of his work.

“If I allow you to remain,” the Gray Wolfhound had said, “you will continue to work. Go, renew your vitality. I have a small dacha near Borodino. Or visit your relatives in Kiev. Read. Sleep. Look at the trees. Come back refreshed. There is much to do, and we need your full and healthy attention.”

It would have been useless for Karpo to say more, and he could not and would not explain. And so he was soon to be officially on vacation.

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