Black Knight in Red Square - Stuart M. Kaminsky - ebook

Black Knight in Red Square ebook

Stuart M. Kaminsky

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Opis

A terrorist at the Moscow Film Festival plots an international incident. Built in the twilight of the Tsarist state, Moscow's Metropole Hotel is a poignant reminder of the decadence of the last regime. But today its corridors are musty, its rooms are dank, and now its restaurant is the scene of a quadruple murder. Four men - one American, one Japanese, and two citizens of Mother Russia - share a meal of smoked salmon, caviar, and two bottles of vodka. In the morning, all are found dead, blood on their lips and faces contorted in pain. To keep the killings under wraps, the Kremlin hands the investigation over to famously discreet police investigator Porfiry Rostnikov. A terrorist is targeting foreigners to embarrass the Soviet state, and the killer will happily sacrifice any Russian who gets in the way. 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. Review quote. "Impressive. . . . Kaminsky has staked a claim to a piece of the Russian turf. . . . He captures the Russian scene and characters in rich detail." - The Washington Post Book World. "Quite simply the best cop to come out of the Soviet Union since Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko in Gorky Park." - The San Francisco Examiner. "Stuart Kaminsky's Rostnikov novels are among the best mysteries being written." - The San Diego Union-Tribune. "For anyone with a taste for old Hollywood B-movie mysteries, Edgar winner Kaminsky offers plenty of nostalgic fun . . . The tone is light, the pace brisk, the tongue firmly in cheek." - Publishers Weekly. "Marvelously entertaining." - Newsday. "Makes the totally wacky possible . . . Peters [is] an unblemished delight." - Washington Post. "The Ed McBain of Mother Russia." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Epigraph

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

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

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About the Book

A terrorist at the Moscow Film Festival plots an international incident.

Built in the twilight of the Tsarist state, Moscow’s Metropole Hotel is a poignant reminder of the decadence of the last regime. But today its corridors are musty, its rooms are dank, and now its restaurant is the scene of a quadruple murder. Four men - one American, one Japanese, and two citizens of Mother Russia - share a meal of smoked salmon, caviar, and two bottles of vodka. In the morning, all are found dead, blood on their lips and faces contorted in pain.

To keep the killings under wraps, the Kremlin hands the investigation over to famously discreet police investigator Porfiry Rostnikov. A terrorist is targeting foreigners to embarrass the Soviet state, and the killer will happily sacrifice any Russian who gets in the way.

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.

Black Knight In Red Square

An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery

Stuart M. Kaminsky

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1984 by Stuart M. Kaminsky

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Taylor Cloonan

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-317-6

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For Dominick Abel

It is a matter of indifference who actually committed the crime; psychology is only concerned to know who desired it emotionally and who welcomed it when it was done. And for that reason all of the brothers (of the family Karamazov; or of the human family) are equally guilty.

—Sigmund Freud, “Dostoevsky and Parricide.”

Chapter 1

WARREN HARDING AUBREY THOUGHT HE was feeling the effects of a trio of double vodkas on the rocks. Actually, he was dying.

His once hard belly ached slightly as he got on the elevator of the Metropole Hotel and told the young woman he wanted vosem. When she pressed the button marked eight, he knew his minimal Russian had not failed him this time.

The girl on the stool was named Maria Nevanskaya. She had been riding up and down for almost fourteen hours a day five days a week for three of her twenty-five years. Normally it would take the appearance of a babbling ax murderer or of the general secretary himself to draw her attention. But this was not a normal week. It was the first week of the Moscow Film Festival, and the hotel was filled with foreigners. The lobby elevator dispatcher, Verochek, had abused Maria about her lack of courtesy to the guests. She guessed, quite correctly, that Verochek had himself been abused by Karlenko, the Metropole’s Communist Party supervisor. So as the elevator slowly rose to the sound of the weary restaurant orchestra playing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Maria turned to her drunken passenger and asked, in what she thought was French, if he was ill.

Aubrey was lost in thoughts of 1954, when he had begun the metamorphosis from Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent in Korea to hired typist who would cover anything anywhere in the world for a standard fee and all he could drink, which was an impressive amount. The French word mal got through to him, though, and he grinned at the woman and shook his head. He wanted to say something to her, but the taste of blood in his mouth and her apparent indifference stopped him. His hand went to his mouth and came away dry.

As the elevator door slid open on the eighth floor, Aubrey took a step forward feeling as if he were wading in knee-deep water. He almost collided with the desk of the dezhurnaya, the floor woman who sat watching him. Her hand automatically went up to protect her key box from his potential drunken onslaught. Each floor in each hotel in Moscow, with the exception of the gargantuan Rossyia, had an old dezhurnaya to guard the keys, the morals, and the sanctity of the establishment and to serve, when necessary, as the eyes and ears of the KGB. As Aubrey knew, these old women could shift from motherly sympathy to matronly scorn without apparent reason. None could speak any language but Russian. This dezhurnaya, Vera Olganova, eyed Aubrey suspiciously, and with little of the Party’s careful courtesy to the foreign visitor, found his key and reluctantly handed it over. Aubrey clutched the key, took a step, began to fall, and tried to steady himself by grabbing the nearest object on the woman’s desk, which happened to be a small framed portrait of Lenin.

Vera Olganova snatched the portrait from him with a grunt, and Aubrey had to hold the edge of the desk to keep from falling. She decided that the foreigner had intentionally and politically reached for the picture, which she now clutched to her cascading bosom, saving it from desecration at his capitalistic hands. He merited a report to the proper authorities even if he was drunk.

“Sorry,” Aubrey said, hoping he wouldn’t throw up.

She placed Lenin safely on the far end of the desk, facing away from the disrespectful Westerner.

Aubrey, praying that he would make it to his bathroom, took a dozen steps, inserted the key into the lock of room 808, turned it, and pushed open the door. With a great effort, he managed to raise his hand and flick on the lights. He was unaware that he’d left the door open behind him and that he had dropped the key.

The nausea subsided slightly as he found himself eye to eye with a painting of a thin man with his bushy head held high and a stern expression on his face. Aubrey put out both hands and leaned against the wall, trying to outstare this figure from the past.

“Just a few too many tonight, Comrade,” he confided to the severe revolutionary. He wanted to say more, but the taste of blood rose again in his dry mouth. This time it was mixed with bitterness. Another wave of nausea came, accompanied by a dull pain in his head and chest. He shuffled toward the bathroom.

“After I get the booze out of my stomach,” he called back to the portrait, “I’ll take you on.”

He rested his sweating hand on the bathroom door, light-headed. The feeling of falling that surged over him was so vivid that he felt a warm breeze against his cheeks. Then it struck him that he was actually falling, but so slowly that he must be defying the law of gravity. He marveled at how long it took him to hit the cold tile of the bathroom floor. I should put out my hands, he thought, break the fall. But his hands didn’t move, though he was pleased that he’d been capable of the thought.

His head hit the porcelain toilet, opening a deep gash over his right eye, but he felt no pain as he rolled heavily under the sink. The nausea and headache were gone. The hell with it, he thought. I’ll just sleep here and check the damage in the morning. The floor tiles felt cool against his hot cheek, and Aubrey closed his eyes.

At nine the following morning, Irina Marmontov, one of the maids, pushed her cart past the dozing Vera Olganova and down the hall to begin making up the rooms in her section. She noticed that the door to room 808 was open. The light was on, and she could see that no one had slept in the bed. But she had been working at the Metropole for almost thirty years and had seen far stranger things, particularly from the Cubans, Americans, and Italians. The worst times were during the Moscow Film Festival. In 1971, during the festival, a rainy July morning, she had opened the closet door and found a fat, naked man grinning at her. The man said something in a strange language, stepped past her, and sat down cross-legged on the floor as if he had been waiting for hours for someone to come and release him so he could engage in his meditation. But the door to the closet had not been locked, and the closet was covered with blood, though the naked man was apparently unwounded. Irina had hurried to the dezhurnaya, who had called the security office. The police eventually arrived and discovered that the man had not been found in his own room but in that of a Latvian clock factory representative whom they found in the dining room calmly awaiting his breakfast. The Latvian claimed that he didn’t know the naked man and had no idea what he was doing in the room or how the blood had come to be in the closet. The fat man had been of no further help. He had no identification, and he said nothing, but simply grinned. The police kicked him a few times in irritation and then covered him with a robe and took him away. That was the last Irina had heard of the mystery, but the memory had stayed with her, and an unpleasant feeling went through her whenever she opened a closet door.

Although Irina could not remember who was in room 808, she was not particularly intrigued by the open door. She went about her business, cleaning the other rooms, working slowly as always. She didn’t have too many rooms to clean, for the hotel, like most Moscow hotels, was ridiculously overstaffed. Irina, however, did not work slowly out of boredom or lethargy, but rather in the hope that the occupant of a room was a foreigner who might come back while she was working and give her a tip. During one film festival, an Italian actor had given her a tip of a thousand lire. A bartender she knew had given her four rubles for the colorful piece of paper. Irina knew there were movie actors, directors, producers, and writers in the Metropole right now, maybe on her floor, in this section, but she would not recognize a foreign movie star.

She walked through the open door of 808 at about nine-thirty and asked, “Anybody here?” No one answered.

Clothes hung on hangers; a suitcase sat on the chair. There was nothing to empty from the wastebasket. Irina bent to pick up the room keys from the floor near the door. She put them on the nearby table and got a cloth from her cart. The routine was automatic. Clean the room, replace the towels, check the toilet paper. The light was out in the bathroom, and she flipped it on.

There was blood on the toilet seat, bright red against the white plastic. Under the sink a drunken foreigner was sleeping. She wanted to simply walk out after changing the towels, but he might be someone important, and he might be hurt.

“Gospodin,” she said, “you all right?” He didn’t move. She reached down to touch his shoulder, but what she felt made her pull her arm back with a jerk. He is not a man, she thought. He is a body. She touched him again, and he rolled away from the wall to stare at her with unseeing eyes.

Irina jumped back quickly, banging her shoulder against the open door. Although the face of death was a shock, it was not death but the look of pain on the man’s face and the blood on his lips that terrified her. He was pale and cold, and the light from the sputtering bulb danced on his bald head.

Irina backed out of the bathroom, fighting her panic and the desire to run. She left the room as calmly as she could and hurried to Vera Olganova, whose eyes opened wide at this breach of routine. She reached for the phone, dialed a number, couldn’t get through, and dialed again.

“Comrade Verskov,” she said, proud of the control in her voice.

“What room?” he answered. Vera’s eyes rose and met those of Irina, who was looking back down the corridor.

“I—we just found a dead man in eight-oh-eight.”

“I know,” said Comrade Verskov, his voice cracking.

“There’s blood on his mouth.”

“How did—?” she began, but Verskov’s quavering voice cut her off.

“We now have four of them in the hotel.” There was a silence, and she could hear Verskov trying to pull himself together. “Don’t touch anything. Close the door. The police will be there in a few minutes.”

On the sidewalk in front of number 16 Kalinin Street, three boys about fifteen years old were jostling a younger boy between them. The younger boy wanted to get away without looking too frightened, but the tears were forming. From the window of the first-floor apartment, a pair of dark eyes watched the struggle with detached interest. The viewer saw the event as an experiment carried out many times before from São Paulo to Helsinki. The outcome was statistically inevitable. The tormented boy saw a slight opening and tried to step through the small circle of his tormentors’ legs, but one of the older boys tripped him, and he fell on the sidewalk, taking part of the impact with his face. He stood up bewildered, examining the blood on his shirt. Instead of arousing sympathy in his tormentors, the sight of blood seemed to anger them, and the shortest of the three attackers stepped forward and slapped the bleeding boy hard with the back of his hand.

The dark eyes turned back to the near-darkness of the room.

“The time must be exact,” said a male voice in too precise German.

The dark eyes turned slowly to the speaker, a thin, dark Arab in his late twenties.

“Four days from today on Sunday at six, seven, and eight P.M. Moscow time,” said the one with dark eyes. “That is exact.” The eyes coolly examined the four others in the room. Besides the young Arab, Ali, there was a short, muscular Arab in his late forties named Fouad, a nervous type who had to have something in his hands to keep them quiet. There was a blond man in his thirties with a French accent. The others called him Robert. He appeared to be the leader, but he seldom spoke. The final member of the quartet had made most of the arrangements. She was a woman in her late twenties with thick blond hair who identified herself as Seven. She had once been beautiful, but now she was consumed by a neurotic hatred that the man with the dark eyes had seen often before. She had a slight British accent, but the dark-eyed one knew it was a fake. The conversation was conducted in German.

“You are sure,” said Seven, “that nothing has changed because of the Metropole business?”

“I am sure,” said the one with dark eyes. “Business is going on as usual. Now I’ll have the rest of my payment.”

“We think,” said Seven, rising, “it would be better to pay you when we are finished.”

Fouad leaned against the door, and Ali backed into a corner, his hand in his pocket. The dark eyes moved to Robert, who sat impassively, arms folded, a slight smile on his lips.

“I get it all, and now,” said the one with dark eyes, “or you can forget about the agreement.”

“If the KGB knew about our meeting,” said Seven, “you would not be seeing anyone for a long time. You might not live very long.”

“You are not very good at this,” said the dark-eyed one, “not good at all. If you get away with the plan, it will be because of what I do, what I plan. You’re wasting time with these games. I’ve got to get back or someone might grow suspicious about where I’ve been. The cash now, and all of it.”

Robert nodded to Seven, who went to a briefcase on the table and extracted a package.

“If you—” Seven began, but a gesture from Robert stopped her words. She handed the package to the visitor.

The dark-eyed visitor took it and left, thinking that the money was good and the challenge interesting, but that as a group, the terrorists were far below even the clumsy Japanese airport group and the inept Italian quartet, both of which had bungled their tasks miserably. Robert was more interested in self-image than ideology. Seven was all fire and no brains. Ali was an idealist with no experience. Only Fouad had the makings of a good terrorist; he was unconcerned about self-image and able to control his fire and strength. If the four of them had plans to dispose of their visitor eventually, Fouad would be the one to keep an eye on.

Outside the sunlight was bright. Across the street, the three youths had given up their game with the younger boy and were looking for something else to fill their empty day. They spotted the one with the dark eyes and started to move forward. When their quarry did not run or even walk away, they paused in the middle of the street.

The smile on the face of the one with dark eyes told the three boys they were like insects to this lone, well-dressed foreigner. The stranger walked directly toward and then past them without hurrying or looking back. One of the boys muttered the only words he knew in English: “Fuck you.”

The dark-eyed one felt the packet of $150,000 in American dollars and didn’t bother to reply.

Chapter 2

PORFIRY PETROVICH ROSTNIKOV REALIZED THE importance of what he was about to do this Thursday morning. There had been several such crucial moments in his fifty-two years. The first had occurred in 1941 when he was a boy soldier who had stepped out from behind a doorway in Rostov to face a German tank. He had destroyed the tank with a lucky grenade and a hail of bullets from the machine pistol he had taken from a dead German. The cost had been a nearly destroyed left leg, which he had to drag slowly and often painfully behind him throughout the rest of his life. The second such moment happened when, as a young policeman in Moscow, he had caught a drunken thief named Gremko assaulting a young woman outside the Kursk railway terminal. The drunk had nearly killed Rostnikov with his bare hands, but fortune and a well-placed knee to the groin had turned the tables.

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