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The Dog Who Bit a Policeman

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. About the Book
  3. About the Author
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Epigraph
  7. Dedication
  1. Prologue— Marseilles, France
  2. Chapter 1
  3. Chapter 2
  4. Chapter 3
  5. Chapter 4
  6. Chapter 5
  7. Chapter 6
  8. Chapter 7
  9. Chapter 8
  10. Chapter 9
  11. Chapter 10
  12. Chapter 11
  13. Chapter 12
  14. Chapter 13
  15. Chapter 14
  1. Looking for more suspense?
  1. Cover
  2. Begin Reading

About the Book

An international gang war chooses Moscow as its battlefield.

Moscow police inspector Porfiry Rostnikov has adapted well to life without Communism. But under the Soviets, blood feuds were pursued in the dark halls of bureaucracy, and now they take place in the streets. An international drug ring has chosen Moscow as its next port of call, and the only thing standing in its way is the budding Russian mob, headed by a young man whose brutality is matched only by his madness. In a gang war of this magnitude, no civilian is safe.

As Rostnikov tries to stop an army of two-legged killers, his cohorts at the Moscow police department take on the four-legged variety. Dogfighting in Moscow is big business, and interests in this illegal sport stretch to the highest reaches of their corrupt department. In the new Moscow, death and profit go hand in hand.

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.

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman

An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery

Stuart M. Kaminsky

 

If any one of us knew of a proposed political murder, would he, in view of all the consequences, give the information, or would he stay at home and await events? Opinions may differ on this point. The answer to the question will tell us clearly whether we are to separate, or to remain together …

—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Possessed

My continued thanks to Jeff Rice for his enthusiastic and excellent research on Russia and its people.

Prologue— Marseilles, France

LES CHIENS, DOGS,” SAID THE oldest man sitting at the booth in the corner of the restaurant. He shook his head.

The three men had the rugged, weatherworn faces of fishermen, mountain climbers, or laborers. They were none of these and had never been. In spite of the fact that one of the men was half black, it was clear that the three were related.

One man, the youngest, who was at least forty-five years old, wore a blue turtleneck shirt under an unbuttoned black sport jacket. The other men were old. The half-black man was about seventy. The third man, who had said “dogs” in a voice of uncertainty, was close to eighty. The two old men wore white polo shirts under sport jackets. All three men were lean. All three were armed, making no effort to hide the holsters and weapons under their jackets.

Noise filled the room. Smoke filled the room. The people who filled the room laughed, talked, drank. Everyone—fishermen, shopkeepers, petty criminals, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes—was careful not to look at the three men who sat talking, eating shrimp, and drinking wine.

These were special men, dangerous and dour men known to the underbelly of Marseilles. The waiter, who had known and served them for more than two decades, approached them cautiously, said nothing, and brought them whatever they ordered. The oldest man always ordered and said, “Bring whatever is fresh.” He didn’t bother to order wine or after-the-main-course shrimp or squid.

And the waiter had done as he had been told, and as he had not needed to be told. He filled the wine glasses when they were empty and retreated quickly after he had done so.

“You are certain about the money?” asked the half-black man.

“If we can take over independent operations in Moscow, Bombay, Osaka, New Orleans, Hamburg, Buenos Aires, and Cairo,” the youngest man said, “we will be insured of an initial income of thirty million a year.”

“Francs?” asked the oldest man.

“American dollars,” said the youngest man. “And we can expand. Take over or start operations in Taiwan, Sydney, Singapore. It is almost limitless. This could mean more than the drug income, the protection business, the … almost limitless.”

The oldest man drank his wine and shook his head, still not convinced.

“And we must go to Moscow?” asked the half-black man.

“We must start there,” said the youngest man. “It is well organized, and the young lunatic who has taken over has ambitions much like ours. We absorb him or eliminate him. We meet with him, see his operation, judge him. If we don’t like him or what we see, we deal with it.”

Silence at the table while the three men ate and thought. A man across the room laughed loudly. It was too hearty a laugh to be natural.

“He’s crazy, this Russian?” asked the half-black man.

Mon oncle, you will judge for yourself.”

“When?” asked the oldest man.

“Immediately,” said the youngest man. “Tomorrow or the next day. The sooner we act, the less trouble we are likely to have.”

“We take our own men?” asked the half-black man.

“Yes,” said the youngest man.

The oldest man finished his glass of wine and the waiter appeared instantly to refill the glass and then move quickly away where he could watch and be ready to serve the needs of the three men without hearing any of their conversation.

Since the men had killed his father a quarter of a century ago, cut him open and thrown him into the sea, the waiter might not be blamed if he poisoned the trio. But he had only once considered such an action. Years earlier, when he had thought about such an act of retribution, his bowels had given way and he had sat in his small room shaking for most of a day. Through the window of his room that looked out at the ocean, he had considered what might happen to him whether he succeeded or failed in such an enterprise. No, he would never act, just as he had gradually realized that he would never marry, never have a family beyond his sister and her children in La Chapelle. He had little to lose but his life, should he decide to kill the men, but his life was still precious. They, or their survivors, might simply, or complexly, mutilate the waiter. He had heard tales. No, fear had kept him from action and now it was far too late.

Besides, the three gangsters tipped very well and the waiter had a reputation because of his almost nightly service to the three men and others they occasionally brought with them. The three men were talking business. The waiter could tell by the slightest signs of animation on their craggy faces.

“Très bien,” said the oldest man finally. “We go to Moscow.”

Chapter 1

THE YOUNG MAN AND WOMAN sat eating porterhouse steaks at a table in the restaurant of the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel and Business Center at Bereszhkovskaya Naberezhnaya 2. The restaurant’s meat was reputed to be the best in Moscow. The hotel, on the other hand, though it had once been the most popular in the city, had been quickly overtaken and passed in size, quality, and service by more than a dozen new capitalist hotels within walking distance of the Radisson.

Originally the hotel had been one of the many Soviet Intourist tombs of dark rooms and darker hallways. For about two years, it had been the headquarters for business travelers. Americans still accounted for a large number of its guests. Indeed, President Clinton had stayed here on one visit, eating the famous meat and watching CNN in his room with his shoes off.

Gradually the hotel had become a hangout for members of the various Mafias. The coffee shop, in fact, was a meeting place for Moscow’s hit men, or keellery, who argued, drank, ate, and bragged to impress each other and the women who hung on their every word. The coffee shop was known as Café Killer to those who knew its reputation, which was much of the population of Moscow.

This young man who sat in the restaurant eating steak with his companion was dressed in designer clothes from Italy. His hair was brushed back. His face, though young, resonated with experience. He drank, ate, looked around, and minded his own business. The young woman was pretty, slightly plump, and dressed in an expensive green Parisian frock. The two talked quietly, neither smiling nor seeming to savor the expensive food brought to their table.

There were others watching the two. Since they were new to the restaurant, the regulars naturally wondered who the newcomers were and whether they were tourists or potential regulars. The regulars were curious, but they minded their business. Two of those examining the pair were Illya Skatesholkov and Boris Osipov, who had already discovered that the young man and woman were registered in the hotel, that they were Ukrainian, that his name was Dmitri Kolk and hers Lyuba Polikarpova, and that he had asked a bellboy, whom he had slipped a twenty-dollar American bill, if he knew who he might contact about attending a dogfight.

Packs of hungry dogs roamed Moscow. They had been pets, or attempts at protection from the soaring rate of personal crimes in the city. Most of the dogs were rottweilers, which cost as much as five hundred American dollars. Licensing was optional. Many of the dogs had been released by owners who could no longer feed themselves adequately, and certainly could not afford to feed a dog. They had been replaced by guns. Russians can own rifles, shotguns, and tear-gas pistols, and the number of registered weapons in Moscow, whose population hovers at nine million, was over three hundred thousand. Adding in the nonregistered weapons, the police estimated that there was one gun for every three Moscow residents, including babies and babushkas.

So, the dogs had formed into packs that came out at night, scavenging, attacking lone dogs, and, ever more frequently, humans. Recently, the packs had started to emerge during daylight hours. Food was scarce. Almost forty thousand dog attacks had been reported by Muscovites over the past year. Two-thirds of those had resulted in hospitalization of the victim.

Crews of uniformed policemen had begun combing the streets and dark corners of the city, shooting strays. Five policemen had been among those hospitalized with bites. One of the policemen had lost an eye. Another had lost the use of his left arm.

It was inevitable that enterprising criminals would find a way to reap profits from the wild dogs. First, some small-time dealers in stolen goods had captured the fiercest of the wild dogs and had organized dogfights, fights to the death in garages where men stood betting, shouting, smoking, and drinking from bottles sold them by their hosts. The enterprise was an immediate success. The newly rich, government bureaucrats, and a rabid assortment of bored tourists and Muscovites came to the illegal fights and wagered huge sums.

It was only a matter of time before the Mafias took an interest in the dogfights. The Armenian Mafia took over the original enterprise after persuading the four leading arrangers of such fights to sell out for a very reasonable price. One of the enterprising promoters had required a square carved in his back before becoming reasonable.

The Armenians, in turn, had made a quick profit in weapons by selling out to a group of Muscovites reported to be heavily financed by international investors.

Now, the dogfights were turning into big dollars in the early-morning hours of darkness. Now, there were private arenas, some with padded seats. Now, one could win or lose thousands of American dollars or millions of rubles.

The bellhop had told the young man in the silk suit that he would see what he could do. Dmitri Kolk had nodded, saying, “Tonight, if possible.”

The bellboy had told the bell captain, who had told a contact he knew was into illegal dogfights, and the contact had gone to Illya and Boris.

The restaurant was abustle with hurrying waiters, table-hoppers, and busboys. Dmitri Kolk sat passively looking around the room. He made no eye contact and drank slowly.

Illya called a waiter, who came immediately to the table. “That man,” Illya said, looking at Dmitri. “Give him this address and tell him to be there at midnight to get what he is looking for.”

Illya wrote an address on a napkin with a felt-tip pen and handed it to the waiter, who immediately took it to Dmitri Kolk, who listened, glanced at the napkin, and tucked it into his inside jacket pocket. Kolk did not look around to see who might be watching him.

Sasha Tkach and Elena Timofeyeva had been assigned to track down those who were running the illegal fights. This was not considered a choice assignment and neither of the two deputy inspectors from the Office of Special Investigation had any idea of why the Yak, Director Igor Yaklovev, had taken on the dogfight problem. There had to be some political gain to be had, but neither officer could come up with an idea of what that gain might be. They had dutifully taken on the identities of Kolk and Lyuba, and for several days Sasha had enjoyed the rich life and the four-hundred-dollar-a-night room. Elena would have preferred her own identity.

Sasha was just past thirty but looked at least five years younger, in spite of his growing problems with his wife, Maya, and the prisonlike condition of living in a tiny two-room apartment with two children. Making the situation worse was the neurotic intrusion of his mother, Lydia, who appeared whenever she wished, shouted her directives for proper living and child rearing, and was constantly on the verge of battle with Maya. Younger men were being promoted ahead of Sasha, who was considered part of the old guard in spite of his age. Sasha was seldom in a good mood, but he was feeling rather content tonight.

Elena, on the other hand, was a few years older than Sasha. She was being pursued by Iosef Rostnikov, Inspector Rostnikov’s son, who had recently joined the Office of Special Investigation. Iosef was smart, handsome, and, in spite of being considered Jewish, looking toward a promising future. Iosef had proposed marriage to Elena three times in the last few months. She had turned him down each time. She had a career and ambition, and she did not want to come home each night to anything but the emotions she had earned during the day. Still, Iosef was wearing her down, which was not entirely an unpleasant experience.

When they got the assignment from Chief Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, with a warning to be especially careful, Sasha had told Maya that he would be away for several days on a dangerous assignment. Maya didn’t look convinced, but she accepted the situation after getting a call from Porfiry Petrovich telling her that, indeed, her husband had been selected by Yaklovev himself for the job, a job he was not at liberty to discuss.

Elena, on the other hand, had had little trouble after telling her aunt Anna that she would be away on assignment for a while. Elena lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment with her aunt, who’d been a state procurator until a series of heart attacks had sent her into retirement. Recently, Anna and her niece had been finding it difficult to make ends meet. Anna’s pension money had not come in for months, and Elena’s salary, not particularly high, had arrived later and later each month. The two women had lived increasingly on Anna’s small savings.

It was the Yak’s idea that Sasha and Elena engage in this role playing. It was the Yak who had arranged for Sasha to have both a pocket full of American dollars and two credit cards in the name of Dmitri Kolk. The investment seemed out of proportion to the crime, but the Yak was not to be questioned. Besides, Sasha thought, it was a respite, a small if possibly dangerous vacation with enormous benefits.

“How do I look?” Sasha asked Elena when they were back in the hotel room and he had changed clothes.

Elena examined him. Sasha had daubed more hair cream into his hair and combed it straight back. He had changed out of his designer suit and was now wearing gray slacks, a blue button-down shirt, and a gray silk zipper jacket.

“Fine,” she said. “You saw the dog?”

“A pit bull,” he said. “Kennel has several of them. This one is supposedly particularly mean, but he looked quite benign to me. I hate dogs. My aunt had a dog. He growled and snapped at me and my cousins. Twice he bit me. I dreaded visiting my aunt. When the dog, Osip, died, my cousins and I celebrated. This pit bull is named Tchaikovsky. He was shipped to Kiev and then shipped here to me. He’s in a private, very expensive kennel. You should have come to see him.”

“I prefer cats,” said Elena, more than a bit irked but not showing it. She had never been offered the opportunity to examine the animal upon whose performance their safety and the success of their assignment depended. “It’s almost midnight.”

Sasha nodded, adjusted his shirt and sleeves, and checked his hair with the palm of his right hand. “I’d better hurry,” he said.

“I still think I should go with you,” she said.

“The invitation was for me,” he said.

“I can follow, watch,” she said.

“Unnecessarily dangerous,” he said.

“You look pleased. You’ve looked pleased about this whole assignment.”

“Perhaps, a little,” he said.

“You’re not curious about why so much money is being spent to put on a front for us—hotel, clothes, shipping a dog to Kiev and back, bets you’ll have to make?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “That is the concern of Director Yaklovev.”

“Be careful,” she said.

“Of course,” he said, checking himself again in the mirror.

Elena wasn’t so sure.

“You have the address where they told me to come,” he said, adjusting his hair. “If I am not back by morning …”

“Then I’ll know you are really enjoying yourself,” she said.

The naked, rather hairy body of a large man floated facedown in the Moscow River. His massive buttocks rose and bobbed like twin pale balloons. The body was corpse white and bore a tattoo on the left arm which, like the right, drifted outward from the dead man.

The tattoo, Rostnikov could see from the police boat, was of a knife with a snake twisted around the blade and handle.

“Shall we pull him out?” asked a uniformed officer.

“No, not yet,” said Rostnikov. “We’ll wait. You have coffee?”

The uniformed officer, a very young man with a cap that looked a bit large for his narrow face, said yes.

“Please,” said Rostnikov, sitting on the wooden seat at the rear of the boat. “What is your name?”

“Igor Druzhnin.”

“Bring a cup for yourself, too, Igor Druzhnin,” said Rostnikov. “We can talk while we wait.”

The young officer left.

An excursion boat, filled no doubt with tourists, chugged past. One or two people on board saw the body and began to take pictures. Others joined them.

In English, one of the tourists said, “Can’t we get a little closer?”

The boat cruised on down the river.

Once, the river had been relatively clean, a wide, dark, flowing, meandering path which Muscovites liked to watch from the banks while fishing, eating lunch, or simply thinking. But that was gradually changing. There had always been those who under cover of night dumped their garbage in the dark water. Now, though such dumping was illegal, it had grown less covert. And garbage was only part of the problem. Far north, factories poured liquid waste into the river. Much of it was filtered out by natural processes. Much of it was not.

“Others do it. So, I do it too,” was the often-spoken excuse of those who lived near enough to the river to defile it.

It had grown worse with the fall of the Soviet Union and the chaos that had overrun the city. The police, in the days before the new democracy, would from time to time arrest people who spread filth in the waters. Now no one seemed to care.

There were those who said the river had taken on a new and not pleasant smell.

“It has the stink of freedom,” Lydia Tkach had said.

Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov was the senior investigator in the Office of Special Investigation. This office had been started as a dumping ground for politically touchy cases and cases the MVD and even State Security, the old KGB, wanted no part of because they promised nothing but failure and a threat to those who might pursue them.

Rostnikov and his staff had been brought to the Office of Special Investigation by the pompous Colonel Snitkonoy, the Gray Wolfhound, who was considered a fine figure of a fool on whom could be dumped disastrous cases without the possibility of furthering his ambition.

They had been wrong. When Rostnikov had been transferred from the Moscow Procurator’s Office after one confrontation too many with people in power—the KGB and the chief procurator himself—he had taken with him his small staff. The sensitive crimes that others had imposed upon the Wolfhound and his staff began to be brought to conclusions, and at one point the Office of Special Investigation had even stopped an attempted assassination of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then president of the Soviet Union. There were those later who said that it would have been better had Rostnikov failed, but at the time it had brought grudging respect for Snitkonoy and his men.

So successful was the office that the Gray Wolfhound was transferred and promoted to head the security service at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. He was a perfect choice in his neat, be-medaled uniform, a relic standing tall with flowing silver hair, an exhibit worthy of placement next to a Rublyov icon.

The Office of Special Investigation had recently been taken over by Igor Yaklovev. The Yak was about fifty, lean, with hair cut short and the bushiest eyebrows Porfiry Petrovich had ever seen, with the possible exception of Leonid Brezhnev. The Yak, a former KGB officer, was given to dark, uneventful suits and suspenders. His hair was receding and his glasses had thick lenses. He was ambitious, Rostnikov knew, and was using the office to further that ambition. Information gathered in the course of investigations could and well might be used by the Yak to put pressure on those above him, or traded to them to aid his ascension of the ladder of political power.

But to give the man his due, Yaklovev had promoted Rostnikov, given him a free hand, and pledged his support if one or more of the varied criminal organizations and the confused state bureaucracy attempted to impede the performance of his duties. Up to now, the Yak had been as good as his word and had successfully bought the loyalty of Rostnikov and his staff.

The wake of the passing excursion boat, now about a half mile down the river, had lifted the corpse and set his right hand moving in what looked like a wave to a school of small fish below him.

The boat was on the northern bank of the meandering river, directly across from the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski Moskau. An elegant hotel built in 1898 and reopened in 1992 after a complete renovation by a German-Russian group, the hotel boasted 234 luxury rooms. Rostnikov knew that on the other side of the hotel was St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, and the Kremlin.

Rostnikov shifted his weight as the young uniformed officer came back on deck and offered the detective a blue mug. Officer Druzhnin had a gray cup. Rostnikov took the cup, thanked the man who looked out at the corpse, and began to drink. The coffee was tepid and awful, but it was coffee.

As he drank, the two men watched the naked corpse.

“Are you married, Igor?”

“Yes.”

“Children?”

“Not yet.”

“You want children?”

“Yes, but we can’t afford even to feed ourselves. I haven’t been paid for two months. Fortunately, my wife works. She sells papers and sweets at the Kazan train station.”

Rostnikov could never quite get comfortable. He was a man of average size but built like the German tank that had crippled his left leg when he was a boy soldier. For almost half a century, Rostnikov had dragged the leg painfully, had listened to its complaints like those of an aged parent for whom one is responsible. Then, one day, the pain had gotten worse and a doctor he trusted, his wife Sarah’s cousin, Leon Moiseyevitch, had told him that the leg should go. Rostnikov had agreed with regret, and now he had a prosthesis that allowed him to walk almost normally. Rostnikov missed his withered leg and knew that Paulinin, the half-mad scientific technician whose laboratory was two levels below the Petrovka Police Headquarters, had kept that leg somewhere among the hundreds of specimens that cluttered his laboratory.

Rostnikov had sent for Paulinin. Paulinin would certainly grumble and complain. He didn’t like leaving his laboratory. If there was a corpse to be examined, he wanted it brought to him. If there was evidence to be pieced together, Paulinin wanted it laid out at his convenience among the retorts, burners, and tools, many of which were his own inventions.

Rostnikov, from the time he was a boy, had been an avid lifter of weights. He kept a set of barbells and a bench at home and from time to time entered park and district competitions, which he invariably won. Now that he was placed in the senior bracket of such competition, he won even more regularly and thus competed less.

“How did you get here, huh?” asked Rostnikov.

“Well, my father …”

“No, Igor. I was talking to our floating friend.”

“He is dead,” said the young officer.

“If not, we are witnessing a miracle,” said Rostnikov. “I was told once by a Inuit shaman in Siberia that it is a comfort to the souls of the dead to talk to them before they are taken by the spirits.”

“You believe that?” asked Druzhnin. “I’m sorry. It’s not my business to question …”

“No, that is fine,” said Rostnikov, taking another sip of the coffee. “I don’t believe either, but I find it helpful to speak to the dead even if they do not answer. If the Hindus are correct, our floating friend has already been reincarnated, perhaps as a very small ant in a forest where he will not know he had once been human and might never, in his life as an ant, see a human being.”

“Perhaps,” said Druzhnin, adjusting his cap and trying not to look directly at the chief inspector, who seemed, to give him the benefit of the doubt, a bit odd.

A group of four men was coming down the embankment not far from the boat.

“Forensics,” one of the men called to Rostnikov.

“I know,” said Rostnikov.

“We’ll pull in the body,” the man on the shore said. “Can you give us a hand?”

“No,” said Rostnikov. “It stays where it is.”

The man onshore, who was no more than forty, looked at his colleagues, one of whom said something Rostnikov could not hear. Then the man spoke again. “We have to do our job,” the man said. “My name is Penzurov. We have met before.”

“I recognize you.”

“Porfiry Petrovich, we have to do our job,” Penzurov repeated.

“No, you do not,” said Rostnikov. “The job must be done. But you do not have to be the ones who do it. Would you like to come aboard and have some coffee?”

“We were sent to retrieve and examine the body,” Penzurov said in confusion.

“Then return to whoever sent you and inform them that Inspector Rostnikov of the Office of Special Investigation told you that your outstanding services would not be required.”

“Why?” asked the man.

“Because,” said Rostnikov. “And I mean no offense, you have a less than outstanding record of examination of bodies, crime scenes, and collected evidence. The responsibility is mine. Technician Paulinin of Petrovka will conduct the examination of the body.”

The four men conferred. Rostnikov sipped his coffee and looked across the river at the massive Hotel Baltschug Kempinski towering over the smaller, ancient decaying buildings and churches.

“I believe we have jurisdiction,” said the man as firmly as he could.

“I believe you do not,” said Rostnikov. “Do not try to pull the corpse in or I shall come ashore in a black mood and be forced to embarrass you into departure.”

“We shall report this immediately,” said the man.

“That is a very good idea,” said Rostnikov.

The four men made their way back up the embankment. One of the men, the oldest, slid and slipped on the dewy grass of late spring. No one helped him up. He scrambled to the top of the incline and looked down at his dirty hands before joining the others.

Rostnikov handed his empty mug to Officer Druzhnin, who said, “Would you like more?”

“No, thank you,” said Rostnikov.

The officer nodded and headed for the door to the cabin, the two mugs clinking together as he moved.

Rostnikov turned awkwardly to the bobbing corpse and said, “What are you doing here? What happened to your clothes? Who are you?”

A small undulation raised the body slightly.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll talk to Paulinin,” said Rostnikov. “I’m comfortable talking to the dead, but he gets answers. Let us both be patient. It’s not a bad day. The sky is clear. There is a breeze and the river doesn’t smell as bad as it often does lately.”

Now two men appeared at the top of the embankment. Rostnikov turned again, giving his artificial leg a hitch.

The two men who stood looking down at the inspector and the floating corpse were an incongruous pair. One was tall, very pale, and dressed completely in black—shoes, socks, slacks, turtleneck sweater, and jacket. His dark, receding hair was brushed straight back. Rostnikov looked at Detective Emil Karpo who returned the look without emotion. Karpo was known as “the Vampire” or “the Tatar” by criminals and law-enforcement officers. Karpo had been a completely dedicated Communist who had not overlooked the political system’s many shortcomings but who believed that eventually the system would succeed. It was not Communism that was the problem but the men who seemed determined to corrupt it.

The sudden transition from corrupt Communism to corrupt democracy had been difficult for Karpo, but he had been helped through the change by Mathilde Verson, a redheaded part-time prostitute who had grown quite close to him. And then Mathilde had been killed in the crossfire between two Mafias. Karpo had survived by throwing himself into his work even more than was usual. In fact, Emil Karpo spent all of his waking hours relentlessly pursuing criminals from both the past and the present. Karpo’s small room was dominated by shelves filled with notebooks on past unsolved and solved crimes. The rest of the space in which he lived was little more than a cell, with a small dresser, cot, and closet. Since he spent little, Karpo had money to buy the computer that sat on the desk in his room. The computer was devoted to storing Emil Karpo’s vast files and running cross-checks which might link anyone to any crime.

The man at his side, Paulinin, was shorter, disheveled, clad in a stained white laboratory coat, and decidedly uncomfortable. He seemed to be talking to himself.

Rostnikov waved for the two men to come down and join him.

Officer Druzhnin appeared on deck, looked at Rostnikov, who nodded, and let down a plank for the two men to board the small boat.

“Thank you for coming,” said Rostnikov to Paulinin. “I’m sorry to bring you out so early, but you are the only one I trust to give me a meaningful report about our floating friend.”

Paulinin grunted, adjusted his glasses, and stood at the rear of the boat next to Rostnikov, looking down at the dead man. Behind Paulinin, Karpo said, “He’s a member of the Tatar Mafia. The tattoo is theirs.”

“A start,” said Rostnikov. “Paulinin?”

“By the condition of the corpse, I would say he has been in the water less than a day, perhaps much less. My guess? He died last night. But …”

Paulinin looked around, found a grappling pole, and awkwardly but carefully nudged the corpse toward the boat. He used the flat side of the pole to keep from damaging the bloating corpse.

“Hold this,” Paulinin said, handing the pole to Karpo, who took it and firmly pulled the body closer to the boat.

“We must turn him over,” said Paulinin.

“Officer Druzhnin, please,” said Rostnikov.

The young officer climbed over the rear railing, feet on a narrow platform near the water level and one hand on the railing. He reached down and tried to turn the naked corpse over on its back, but the man was too heavy and slippery. Karpo moved forward and joined the young officer. Together, they managed to turn the corpse. Druzhnin held the body awkwardly to keep it from turning facedown again.

Paulinin looked down at the corpse.

The dead man was thick necked and had a well-trimmed short beard. A dark hole burrowed into his forehead just above the bridge of his nose. He also had three dark spots in his hairy chest and stomach.

“Pull him up here, carefully,” said Paulinin.

Karpo and the young police officer tried to lift the waterlogged dead man into the boat.

“Careful,” said Paulinin. “No new bruises or cuts.”

The dead man easily weighed two hundred fifty pounds.

Rostnikov rose, turned, knelt on the wooden bench, and reached down for the dead man’s arm. The arm was cold and the flesh soft. Rostnikov motioned for the police officer and Karpo to back away as he lifted the body. Rostnikov managed to grab the dead man under each arm. He took a deep breath and lifted the naked corpse from the water.

“Take his feet,” Rostnikov said.

Karpo and Druzhnin reached down for the corpse’s legs.

The three men lifted the dead man over the side of the boat and placed him, faceup, on the deck.

Paulinin knelt next to the dead man and leaned over to examine him.

Rostnikov knew better than to ask the scientist any questions. He simply watched and waited.

“Yes,” said Paulinin, touching the man’s chest. “He is talking to me already. He will tell me much more in my laboratory. Porfiry Petrovich, I don’t see why I had to come here. I have work piling up back home.”

“I thought you might see something here that I have not seen,” said Rostnikov, who was using a small soiled towel Druzhnin had handed him to wipe away some of the touch of death.

Paulinin sighed and adjusted his glasses. “I suggest you search the opposite shore,” he said. “An elusive combination of wake, flow, and current. I think the body came from over there.”

Rostnikov looked at where Paulinin was pointing.

“That is providing I am correct about the approximate time of death. I’ll be more specific later. Now, bring the corpse to my laboratory.”

“I’ll take care of it,” said Karpo.

Chapter 2

AS PORFIRY PETROVICH ROSTNIKOV TALKED to the nude, bloated corpse, Sasha Tkach woke to summer sunlight streaming through the window of his hotel room. The sun was painful and so was the construction noise outside, which was barely muted by the closed windows. Sasha had a hangover from the night before.

“Get up,” Elena said. She wore a blue dress with red stripes running down at an angle.

Sasha tried twice to sit up before he succeeded. Elena handed him a cup of coffee, which he took gratefully. He vaguely remembered coming back to the room and throwing his clothes on the floor till he was down to his undershorts. Elena, who had slept on the pull-out bed in the living room of the suite, had watched Sasha weave into the room at four in the morning. She had taken a look at him and realized that there would be no point in asking him any questions. And so he had barely made it to the bed, where he collapsed, felt a wave of nausea and dizziness, and was almost instantly asleep.

Now Elena stood over him, waiting as patiently as she could and drinking her own coffee.

Sasha needed a shave, and the hair he had slicked back the night before was a wild mess. There were circles of darkness under his red eyes and, all in all, he looked terrible.

“Tell me what happened,” Elena said. “I’ll write the report.”

“Thank you,” Sasha said, finishing his coffee. It helped his head a bit but gave him a slight taste of nausea.

Elena sat in a soft armchair near the window, put down her cup, and took a small tape recorder from her pocket. She placed the recorder on the table near her armchair and waited for Sasha to speak. Had he been thinking less of his head and of the events of the morning, Sasha might have noted that Elena wore a look of irritation that contained no sympathy for her partner.

“You checked the room for …?” he began.

“There are no listening devices,” she said. “I have had a great deal of time to check carefully. You can speak. But I would not trust the phone.”

He nodded, blinked his eyes against the pain of the morning light, and began to speak as Elena turned on the recorder.

“I took a cab to a house, a private home with an iron gate, on Mira Prospekt beyond the Outer Ring Circle near the Botanical Garden. There were only a few cars parked in the driveway beyond the gate, which was opened for the cab by two big men who wore weapons under their jackets, after I showed the napkin with the address on it.

“I paid the cab driver, who tried to cheat me because he thought I was a Ukrainian. I haggled and paid more than I had to but less than he asked for. I got out of the cab, and the two armed men let the cab back out through the gate. The parked cars were expensive; there was even a Rolls-Royce. The door to the house opened as I walked toward it, and a slim, well-dressed blond man greeted me and let me pass.

“I entered the house, heard noises from somewhere inside. The blond man told me that I was a little late and led me to a door, which he opened, increasing the noise. We went down a flight of stairs and I found myself in a big, high-ceilinged room with a wire-fenced square in the middle surrounded by about forty people, all men, standing. Two dogs were inside the wire fence.

“The spectators placed bets with men who walked among them. The men who took the bets all wore blue blazers with a golden bear emblazoned on the breast pocket. The fight that was going on was almost over. A big black-and-white mongrel was bleeding but about to triumph over an equally large white German shepherd, which had lost its right ear in the battle and had lost a great deal of blood from numerous bites. It was disgusting. It was fascinating. The shepherd stood bravely on wobbling legs, showing its teeth in a final brave stance. The mongrel attacked with a growl and the fight was over.

“A man appeared at my side. We had seen him in the restaurant earlier. He said his name was Boris Osipov. He is tall, wears good clothes, well built, dark hair, false smile and, I think, false teeth, though he can’t be more than my age or a little older.”

“I’ll see what I can find out about him,” Elena said. “Go on.”

Sasha touched his stubbly morning beard with the back of his hand and with the same hand attempted to tame his hair. His hair refused to cooperate.

“Over the noise of bettors arguing with each other about the merits of the dogs in the next fight, Boris explained that bets could be made only with the house men in the blue blazers. Side and private bets were not permitted. Drinks were available at slightly more than a reasonable price. I asked for a Scotch on the rocks. It was the first of several. Boris raised a hand. A waiter appeared, took the drink order. He was back with it almost immediately. I reached for my wallet. Boris stopped me and said the first one was on him. I thanked him. Two men in jeans and black shirts removed the dying German shepherd and led the victor off to have his wounds tended.

“‘You know dogs?’ asked Boris.

“‘A bit,’ I said.

“‘What do you say about these two?’ Two fresh dogs were led into the fenced square. One, tall, black and brown, a Doberman, was straining toward the other dog, growling, showing its teeth. The other dog regarded the Doberman, showing no reaction. The second dog, smaller than the Doberman, was, by his look, part terrier, part wolfhound, an odd-looking creature who seemed neither thirsting for blood nor afraid. He showed dignity.

“‘I’ll take that one,’ I said, pointing at the part wolfhound as the Doberman strained at the short leash and began to bark.

“‘How much?’ asked Boris, motioning for one of the men in a blue blazer, who came immediately.

“‘Two hundred American dollars,’ I said. I got out my wallet and gave the man two hundred dollars.”

“You bet two hundred dollars?” Elena said incredulously.

“What choice did I have? I did bet more as the evening progressed. Sometimes odds were given. Sometimes there were no odds. Sometimes I won. Sometimes I lost. You needn’t worry. I wound up six hundred dollars ahead for the night.”

“Go on,” Elena said with a sigh.

“The Doberman was killed, quickly. After two more fights, the main event of the night was a pit bull and a rottweiler. I bet and lost. The noise in the room was worse than a soccer match. I drank. Boris asked me questions. I told him I had a fighting pit bull back in Kiev, that I had my own growing dogfighting business. He pumped me and I dropped the name of Alexander Chernov. He said he knew Chernov. I shrugged. I’m sure he has called Chernov by now to check on me.”

Alexander Chernov had been a wheeler-dealer in the black market in Kiev during the days of the Soviet Union. When the Union ended and the underground black market became an overground but still illegal market for goods, food, and services, Chernov had made even more money. He had, however, made the mistake of bribing a Kiev police officer, only to discover—to his amazement—that the officer was completely honest and incorruptible. Chernov had not believed such a creature existed. The officer had taped their conversations, arrested Chernov with plenty of evidence, and brought him in to face a great deal of prison time. The officer’s superior, who was not quite as honest as the man who had trapped Chernov, had struck a deal with Chernov. Chernov could continue to operate in exchange for a regular payment to the official. In addition, Chernov might be called upon to perform certain acts, tell certain lies, betray certain friends. Chernov had readily agreed. This time his assignment had been simple. If called by anyone in Moscow about a certain Dmitri Kolk, he was to say that Kolk was well known in Kiev for his dogs, and that the young man had made a great deal of money in a variety of ventures, including illegal passports and drugs. Even if Sasha were found out, Chernov could claim to have been duped.

“And?” Elena prompted.

“Not much more to tell,” said Sasha, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and feeling quite dizzy from the effort. “I bet, watched, talked to Boris, was introduced to some of his associates. I told Boris and his friends that I had a dog I was interested in having fight in Moscow. I told him I had other dogs, all great fighters, in Kiev and that I could send for them. Perhaps we could arrange a cooperative venture. Boris said he would call me here. We drank. I watched animals maimed and killed. I pretended to be excited by it, to enjoy it.”

“And did you?” asked Elena.

“Did I?”

“Enjoy it,” she said. “Were you excited by it?”

“Is this relevant to your report?”

“No,” she said. “I was just curious.”

“Perhaps I did, a bit. I had more to drink than I ever had, but I was careful to keep alert and perhaps the drink made me … I don’t know.”

Sasha tried to stand and with one hand on the bed managed to do so. He stood on unsteady feet, wearing nothing but his underpants. Even had he shaved and had no hangover, Elena knew she would not be moved sexually by the sight of her partner. Sasha was not her type, and she knew too much about him to be interested.

She reached over and turned off the tape recorder, watching Sasha stagger toward the bathroom.

“You have anything else to add about your adventure, either on or off the record?” she asked.

“No,” he said, taking another slow step toward the bathroom.

“I picked up your clothes and hung them in the closet,” she went on.

“Thank you,” he said, one hand on the wall next to the bathroom to steady himself.

“Your clothes reek of perfume and the smell of a woman,” she said. “Your jacket has red marks, lipstick.”

“You sound like a wife,” he said, holding his head.

“When you look in the mirror,” Elena said, “you’ll see more lipstick marks on your neck and chest.”

Sasha turned to look at Elena, who sat looking up at him expressionlessly. It had been nearly two in the morning. He had downed several drinks. Boris had taken him to a private room upstairs, a living room, and introduced him to the woman. He couldn’t even remember her name at the moment, but he did remember that she was young, had very short dark hair and clear white skin, smelled wonderful, was slim but let her cleavage show, and that she had full, erect breasts. She had worn a red strapless dress and … it had happened. Boris disappeared. She had led him to a bedroom. His first thought when it was over was AIDS. Things like this had happened to him before, not often. Each time he had felt guilt and fear. He would have to be tested. The woman was either an expensive prostitute who could have any disease, or a tyolki, a gangster’s woman, who could also have a disease.

Sasha looked at Elena.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “Your battle scars will not be in the report.

“Thank you,” he said, moving into the bathroom and looking at himself in the mirror. It was a horrible sight.

“Why is it so shoomeet, so noisy?” he asked, closing his eyes.

“Did you expect the great Mayor Yuri Luzkov to stop billions of dollars of construction because one man wakes up with a headache?”

“It would be considerate,” said Sasha.

Construction of a new Russia with money that had best not be questioned had begun two years earlier. The change was enormous. Supposedly, the construction had been for the celebration in September of Moscow’s eight hundred fiftieth anniversary, a number in some dispute. The celebration had come and gone and the construction went on and on.

New ornate buildings with stucco facades; massive fake cathedrals; new wrought-iron lampposts that echoed those of a century ago; and two or three floors added to old buildings and the buildings themselves remodeled and sandblasted by workmen in orange overalls. The skyline had already changed and it was due to change even more.

It was not the first time in this century that the face of Moscow had undergone a major change. Lenin, who moved the capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow, had disdained the czarist past and brought on a new era of modern architecture that was supposed to reflect the new Russia.

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