Chapter One: The Scene
Nicolai showed no fear. It wasn't even in his gene make-up. Fear was as strange as civilization to savages. He was kind that felt and knew that fear was weakness. It contradicted who he was, entirely. He was old, but not that old. He was thick armed, thick bodied and thick haired. His lofty salt and pepper locks were splayed out on the dusty, dark-wood floor; his mysteriously ebony eyes bravely glancing at the hole on his temple.
In the way his mouth was frozen (he having some lock-muscle disorder), it looked as though he saw the killing hole as almost a macabre joke. The blood, still oozing like pus, was the punch line, brilliant and red and plagued the floor's pores. I was bent over him, rubber gloves seeking out a bump on the other side of the head. But then again, if there was a bump, it would mean the gun was low powered. But there was no exiting hole. I resisted the urge to hold my nose. Nicolai stank. A quick glance revealed that his teeth were as bad as a British drunk's. Maybe he was British. Why would he be in Russia, of all places?
I stood and removed the gloves from my hands and looked at Mr. Anton.
"What do you think?" He asked expectantly.
"Have you included police?"
He made a sour face. It made me remember what part of Moscow I was in. Rebellion was the only conversation here in Czech Harrow. "They will do nothing." He sighed. "What do you suggest we do?"
It was a common question. I traveled all over Russia and sometimes Europe and I have been asked the same thing in many different languages, dialects and accents.
"I'll handle it. I'll go to government but only as a tip. I will keep you out of it." I threw my gloves into the fireplace and began walking towards the door, mind whirling.
"What about the body?" I heard. I turned back to find Anton's blues staring at me mournfully. I had to bite back my usual comments and walked back over to him. Placing a hand on his shoulder, I made sure of his eye contact.
"I called the coroner. He ought to be here in several minutes." He blinked back tears. Strange. "Were you and Nicolai close?"
He nodded. "Brothers. Well… not exactly." He looked suddenly very nervous and for a middle-aged man, who maybe had made love to plenty of people, to blush, I felt suddenly very awkward. "I… we… uh…"
"Were closer than what meets the eye?" I suggested.
He nodded. He dissolved suddenly in a flood of tears on the floor. It was one of the few times I had ever spoken to a Uranian kindly. I often found them staring at me but I usually ignored them and went on my way. I almost wanted to drop the case and get away but for the sobbing man on the ground, I had to take it. I knelt and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked up at me with a sniffle.
"Go on home and I'll take care of everything."
He nodded numbly and stood. "Be sure to get this bastard." He muttered. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and walked dolefully out into the night.
I looked back at the body and then at the gun in the corner. It was a spin pistol and it looked fairly old. I walked over to it and picked it up. Nicolai's blood was splattered along the barrel and on the handle. It was made of steel with a wood handle. And the only thing credible about it was that it had the initials of NS and WE carefully carved on the butt of the gun. I heard the coroner's truck and slipped the gun into my pocket. I returned to the body and looked quizzically at it again as the Coroner, an old woman with a cane entered the room.
"Not often that you stick around and to see the cleaning up." Helga mused. She waved at her assistant who joined her with a body bag and a gurney.
"Not often I get to talk to you."
"Liar." She scoffed at me.
"I better go then."
"You ought to. Police are on the their way. I would not mind seeing you behind bars after accusing that one young woman for being a prostitute but you make good business so I best be nice and let you get away."
I rolled my eyes. "Once more, that case was just a complete misunderstanding. And I ought to thank you. Breakfast?"
She raised her eyebrows. "After cleaning dead bodies all night long? Whatever, Grigori. Just go."
I smiled at her before leaving. I hurried across the street into the alley way just as squad cars roared up. I ducked into the shadows and watched them. They filed into the house and several of them came back out and looked up and down the street. I knew all of them. I was once the head Detective until I fell into private practice. As much as I preferred keeping the Law on my side, I wanted to keep far away for a time. The last several cases were ugly and even though I got paid well, my friends didn't like the clean-up job I gave them. So, for their sake, I'll keep to the shadows.
I turned and ran down the alley, checking over my shoulders every few steps. When I reached the end of the alley, I slowed to a walk and continued that way for several blocks before tucking into a run-down coffee shop and ordering something warm for my hands. For some reason, the Russian cold never bothered me. It was only when I handled blood, especially victims' blood that I turned to a walking Private Investicicle. It wasn't long until I was heading up the staircases in the back of the coffee shop up to the apartments above the shop. Six flights later, I was taking my shoes off and plopping exhaustedly onto my spring mattress.