Jump to content

A Murder at the Crown Hotel

Recommended Posts

A Murder at the Crown Hotel


• • • † • • •

Tuesday, 4 September 1900 | 10:15 hrs [UTC-3]
Valski District, Rugi, Kingdom of Liaria | Crown Hotel

From the moment that Zdravko Blažević stepped out of the stairwell, he was hit by the overpowering, coppery odor of death, a scent the man was all too familiar with in his thirty-something-year career.  He removed his hat and let his eyes adjust to the darkness of the hallway.  At the far end, a crowd of men in dark clothing became visible and Zdravko began to walk that way, fishing into his vest pocket for a cigarette, his shoes echoing on the wooden floor as he walked past closed doors and cheap paintings and photographs that hung on the walls, many of them hanging crookedly.  Despite the darkness, Zdravko noticed every one of them as he walked past them, drawing closer to the crowd of three men.  He was about four paces away from them, he fished out the cigarette and stuffed it into his mouth but then began feeling around for his matches, forgetting which of his many pockets held them, finding them as he reached the crowd.

          His approach had not been quiet but yet, when he stopped walking, it was as if no one knew he was there until Zdravko cleared his throat, startling the three men who stood in the doorway.  "I need to get in there," Zdravko said with a voice of patient authority.  The three men wordlessly gave space and Zdravko entered the room.  A local policeman was present along with what appeared to be the proprietor of the hotel.  "Gentlemen," Zdravko said, introducing himself, "Senior Inspector Zdravko Blažević, as requested."  He pulled out his pocket watch, "I apologize for being late, I had to attend to an important matter before I could arrive."  Zdravko had been summoned almost three hours earlier, just after the body was discovered but had taken his time to arrive, tending to his morning routines as if it were any other day.  The excuse he gave was merely subterfuge to excuse his tardiness.

          "Thank you for coming," the policeman said, coming over to offer his hand, "Sergeant Nestorović," the man introduced himself, "this is Radovan Tomić, who owns this establishment and who discovered the body."

          "And these three men?"  Zdravko said, pointing to the gaping men still in the doorway.

          "In the way," Nestorović scowled.  "If you continue to stand in the doorway, I will see to it that each and every one of you spends several nights behind my bars!  Now get lost."  In a scurry, the men departed.  "I am unfortunately without support this morning."

          "That seemed to have worked then," Zdravko said, striking the match and lighting his cigarette.  He took a deep puff first before he scanned the room.  "I take it this scene has been disturbed?"  Nestorović nodded.  "Take me through what you know then."  

          "Just after 05:30, Mister Tomić here knocked on the door to provide a wakeup call, as requested by our deceased victim.  Upon receiving no answer, Mister Tomić opened the door to find the scene.  He immediately summoned someone from the police department, leaving the door shut but unsecured behind him.  I arrived on scene just after 06:00, at which point I was informed of the identity of this individual and thus placed the request to the Žandarmerija for support.  I suppose it took some time for you to get the message."

          "Since your arrival, this scene has been secure?"

          "As secure as I can make it with just myself.  I believe that individuals have entered this room since but I did not catch anyone.  The three gawkers there may be some of the guilty party.  I cannot attest to what may or may not have been disturbed."

          Zdravko turned around in a circle, getting an eye for everything in the room.  As he did, he asked the all-important question, "So who is our victim?"

          "This is one Arkady Demidov, whose name might not be very common; however, per his credentials, he is a representative of Czar Yaroslav of Chernarus."  Zdravko turned around and faced the policeman, eyes wide.  "Yes, he is here as an emissary of the czar negotiating the big treaty.  It seems his murder is directly linked," Nestorović stepped forward and handed Zdravko a letter.  "This was found next to the corpse."  

          The letter was partially stained with blood and Zdravko unfolded it and began reading silently.  "'The Treaty is a scam!'"  He read aloud before going back to the letter, "'The Liari will never share equal footing with the scum of Chernarus.'  Some language here," Zdravko said with a slight chuckle.  "'Never will the people of Liari bow to the Chernarussian nor the Adjinuan nor the Dosniman nor the…'  Well this is boring," Zdravko folded the letter back up and put it into his pocket.  "Well shall we see what we have here?"  

          "Please, be my guest, we'll step out of your way,  Come Mister Tomić, let us wait outside."  The two men cleared out of the room leaving it to Zdravko who spent the next few minutes pacing around carefully, inspecting various parts of the room, the door, the window, the furniture, the bed, and so on and so forth until he'd done a rather thorough - though quick - cursory exam of the room.

          "Well, he knew the killer, or at least wasn't startled by him," were the first words Zdravko spoke, "the door doesn't show any sign of forced entry.  He opened the door for the killer."  Zdravko looked at the bed, where the victim lay, a bloody, mutilated mess.  "The killer was definitely here for a while, perhaps an hour, perhaps more.  He was definitely murdered some time last night and very quietly.  No one heard anything I suppose?"

          "Two of the rooms are unoccupied, one of which is next door, the other at the start of the hallway.  Those three men occupied the other three.  Two did not arrive back until after midnight, choosing to go direct to sleep and noticed nothing.  The third stated that he was inebriated, and I quote, 'to the point of stupor' but had nothing to offer us.  Our killer was very quiet."

          "And the proprietor saw no one enter or leave?"

          "The desk is not manned during night hours," Tomić responded from the hallway, "the guests know where they can find me if I am needed.  The door is left unlocked so that my guests can come and go as they please.  The bar would have closed just before 20:00, it being a weeknight, and would have been entirely empty within an hour thereafter."

          "Well that give me some frame of time, thank you.  The killer would have certainly entered then after 21:00 but likely before midnight.  Our victim thus was killed in those three hours and perhaps the killer left long after everyone had returned and gone to bed.  Perhaps he knew that people were asleep, perhaps not, we cannot assume."  Zdravko looked back at the corpse.  The head itself was nearly severed, the eyes cut out, the face in a gaping stare of abject, sightless horror.  The stomach bore signs of significant stab wounds and Zdravko was sure to find defensive wounds on the victim's hands though they were so soaked with blood it would have been impossible to see any in the room.  One leg, the left one, was clearly broken, twisted backwards almost, which had likely been done after death, lest the victim would have screamed loudly enough to wake everyone in the hotel.  "I am willing to bet that the initial wound was to the throat, cutting off this man's ability to scream.  It would also explain the spray of blood on the wall.  Our killer likely got some blood onto him, this is a gruesome scene.  Perhaps the coroner will be able to tell me if he was skilled with his knives or not.  Tell me, do we have any serial killers on the loose?"

          "Yes, at least one, but he is known for targeting women of the night.  This isn't his handiwork though."

          "Yes, a longshot," Zdravko confessed, "I thought it worth asking.  I shall like to speak with the people here, just to reask the same questions, to see if their stories remain the same.  Someone's going to need to notify the delegation that they're going to be without their Chernarussian representative.  Do you have anyone we can send?"

          "Yes, I can find someone, I will do so the moment I return to the station.  Chances are they are already wondering where he is, given the time."

          "Given the time," Zdravko repeated, "I would agree yes.  Still, let's make the formal notifications.  Surely, they'll want to bring in a replacement."

          "If I may," Tomić interrupted.  He didn't wait for any acknowledgement, he merely kept going, "What is the Treaty?"

          "The Treaty?  You don't know?"  Zdravko almost laughed.  "Are you living under a rock?"  The man was old, at least in his seventies, not quick on his feet and likely suffering from a little senility in his older age.  "The Treaty," Zdravko continued when he saw the proprietor seemingly stricken by confusion, "is the Treaty to unite the six kingdoms into a single nation.  They've been talking about it for years."

          "I don't really read the paper," Tomić confessed, "may I leave?  Do you still need me?  I have a lot to attend to with the morning routine and I am already behind schedule."

          "Yes you can go," Zdravko answered with a wave of his hand, "but make yourself available in a few hours, I will have questions for you, and the others."  Tomić nodded and left, his shoes echoing down the hallway.  "Sergeant, I am going to need this scene cordoned off as best as we can.  I want someone sitting here at all times.  We need to the coroner to take away the body but first, I need some photographs.  Do you have a man in your unit who has a camera and can use the bloody thing?"

          "Yes, I do."

          "Then I will wait here.  Please retrieve this man and two other men as well, their qualifications are not a requirement, they can be patrolmen for all I care.  We need more hands." Nestorović nodded and departed at once, leaving Zdravko alone with the body and the scene.  It was then that Zdravko approached the body and leaned over it, looking at every fine detail.  "What secrets do you have for me?"  He asked the corpse, receiving no response, as expected.  "Perhaps you don't have any," Zdravko added, "perhaps you're just an unfortunate victim of a coincidence.  But I doubt that very highly Mister Demidov.  So, will you reveal those secrets?"

          Zdravko straightened himself back out and looked around the room once more.  It was a small room but then again, the hotel itself was small.  It offered eighteen rooms, was at least three hundred years of age, and bore the signs of the 16th century, when it was built.  Each of its three upper floors held six rooms and a washroom each while the ground floor had the pub/restaurant, a sitting room, and the main desk.  It was a relatively small hotel but Tomić ran it like a massive, luxury hotel, catering to his guests and ensuring that they were as comfortable as possible, even at his own expense sometimes.  Zdravko knew nothing about the hotel, its owner, or the victim but what he did know was that whatever had transpired had been done purposefully and very strategically.  This had been a planned murder, not something on a whim.

• • • † • • •

Link to comment
Posted (edited)

• • • † • • •

Tuesday, 4 September 1900 | 16:40 hrs [UTC-3]
Royal District, Rugi, Kingdom of Liaria | Nestorović Palace

Zdravko, under strict escort, was led into the entrance of the largest building in all of Liaria, Nestorović Palace and the home to King Nikola VIII himself.  The palace, which had been built centuries earlier, stood in the heart of Rugi and had been so named after the dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Liaria for almost five hundred years now, ever since the bloody War of 1417 that saw the conquest of Liaria and its unification under King Ratko, the first in the Nestorović dynasty.  The palace itself was hosting the treaty negotiations and, when word of the Chernarussian's murder reached the palace, the king beefed up security heavily and he'd personally sent for the lead investigator, which happened to be Zdravko Blažević now.

          Having been relieved of his sidearm, an eight-shot 8-millimeter revolver that he wore in a shoulder holster underneath his left armpit, Zdravko was then led to the king's chambers where he stood, waiting.  "Your majesty, Inspector Blažević as summoned," Zdravko's escort would announce as they passed through the door to the King's chamber.  Zdravko gave a slight bow from the door and the escort departed, shutting the door behind Zdravko who advanced towards the King who, unlike how Zdravko expected, was not dressed in royal attire but rather the common fashion of the times.  Without a word, the King pointed to a chair in the main area and took a seat in one himself.  Zdravko, taking the invitation, sat down and leaned back to get comfortable, instinctively reaching to his revolver to adjust it only to recall it wasn't there.

          "My apologies for the extra security," Nikola said as he noticed Zdravko reaching to his holster, "this murder is not something I will take lightly."

          "Of course Your Majesty, I understand.  How can I have of service to you?"

          "Well for starters, you can solve this crime."  Zdravko was somewhat shocked to hear this statement.  For centuries, the Liari and the Chernarussians sparred back and forth with one another over almost every possible reason.  They sparred over their religious and ethnic differences, who controlled this river or that mountaintop, this village or that village, and so on and so forth.  In fact, the two nations coming to the table to discuss the treaty itself was something that shocked audiences on both sides of the border.  "The signing of this treaty is the most paramount act of our collective kingdoms.  Are you aware of just what is transpiring here?"

          "A little yes, unification."

          "Not just unification Inspector," Nikola stood up and began to pace, "this is more than unification.  For centuries we have fought with one another, murdered and massacred one another.  Yet for the last twenty-seven years, there has not been a single war, not a single massacre.  If we can hold it together for twenty-seven years, then what can we do with a real treaty, written and signed by representatives from each kingdom?  This nation, 'Poja' we will call it, will not just be a unified nation but a singular nation amongst distinct ethnic groups that have centuries of nothing but bad blood.  The Adjinuans, the Chernarussians, the Dosnimans, the Heraqi, the Liari, the Sejani, can all benefit from a singular, unified nation.  We're talking economic stability, peace amongst our lands, a centralized government, a singular military," he took a seat and took a breath.  "This treaty is more than just a treaty, it's the founding of a new nation.  Now do you understand?  I cannot have it derailed."

          "Yes, I understand Your Majesty and I shall focus on it."

          "Whatever resources you need I will ensure you have them," he stood back up and went to his desk, opening the drawer and pulling out a letter.  He sat back down and then handed it over to Zdravko.  "This is a letter I have drafted and sealed myself.  It authorizes you any resource or amount of men or a specific man under my sole authority."

          Zdravko opened and read the letter, seeing the King's seal affixed to the very bottom of the letter with the man's signature written in calligraphic beauty.  "I see."

          "Solve this crime Inspector and I shall see to it that you are greatly rewarded."

          "What if," Zdravko chose his words carefully, "I should uncover that someone in this very household is responsible?"

          "Then I will execute the men the myself, personally.  Inspector, if you are thinking that potentially this has to do with centuries of bad blood you are not wrong but I assure you that my house is in order and if it is not, it will be a surprise to me.  Should there be someone in this very house that is responsible I would regard that as the highest form of treason.  I want the report delivered to me personally."

          "I shall see to it then Your Majesty.  When is the treaty due to be signed?"

          "It was due to be signed Thursday and, based on the telegraphs I received today, we are lucky that it is still being signed.  This individual was a diplomat, which meant that it is our duty, as a state, to ensure his protection and safety.  It is being postponed by a week.  The various kingdoms are pulling their diplomats until we can find the killer."

          "That gives me nine days."

          "No it gives you six days as we need the additional three days to ensure the diplomats return for the signing."

          "Then Your Majesty, I ought to get cracking."

          "Any resource Inspector, it is at your disposal."

          "Thank you Your Majesty," Zdravko gave a slight bow and exited the King's chambers.  He was returned back to the palace entrance and handed back his revolver.  With a curt nod to his escort, he checked that the weapon was still loaded and put it into the holster before fishing out a cigarette, lighting it as he descended the steps of the palace.  To solve a murder in six days was asking a lot, to solve a murder as significant as this in six days was borderline impossible.  Whatever conspiracy was involved in this man's murder it would go deep."


• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Tuesday, 4 September 1900 | 19:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Valski District, Rugi, Kingdom of Liaria | Crown Hotel

Zdravko was sitting alone in Arkady Demidov's hotel room, the incandescent lights providing pitiful illumination.  The body had long since been removed and the blood-soaked furniture taken away as well.  Still, the scent of death hung in the air, perhaps because it had permeated the walls and the carpeting.  The cleaning crew had done an acceptable but far from magnificent job scrubbing the floors and the walls and for Zdravko, who knew what to look for, traces of Demidov's horrific death remained.  He'd commanded that the room be locked and a key be given to him, to prevent further contamination of the crime scene but he was kidding himself if he thought there was much to be discovered.  It was why, following his departure from the palace, he had not immediately returned to the hotel but rather walked to a nearby restaurant and ate dinner first, obtaining fresh cigarettes thereafter.

          On his notepad, which he strained to read in the dull light, he'd scratched a few notes from earlier in the day.  The door had been opened willingly, meaning that Demidov knew his attacker, which likely ruled out anyone in the King's household but could not entirely rule out everyone as it could have been an emissary there under the guise of delivering Demidov a note or some other message.  Still, that was something of a stretch but all Zdravko had were stretches and sitting in the chair, staring at the bedframe, he couldn't help but wonder if he was fooling himself with this case.  He'd already tossed the room some and found nothing in Demidov's possessions that led him anywhere.  He'd had the hotel's proprietor pack it all up and leave it in this room, locked away in case he should need to check it again and that was what he did.  Out of ideas, Zdravko needed to know if there was something he could have missed and so, very neatly, he unpacked the suitcase onto the dresser, item by item, taking his time.

          Demidov's clothes themselves were unremarkable.  There were shirts, socks, undergarments, ties, a single belt, his shoes, pants, and so on, all of them unremarkable.  He felt along and poked around inside of each and every pocket in case there was anything useful and then long the seams, in case something had been sewn into them that would give some clue as to the activities of the Chernarussian.  When the clothes revealed nothing, he moved onto the man's effects.  His glasses were like anyone's classes, his billfold already checked and rechecked.  He moved onto the man's cigarette case, opened it and felt inside to find nothing, and in a bout of clumsiness, dropped it - while it was open - onto the floor, at which point it made an unusual sound.  Zdravko looked down to see that the case itself, while remaining intact, had shed a piece from its inner workings and he bent down to pick it up only to find that the case itself had a false back, which had suddenly been knocked free by the fall.  The thin tin had been fasted very tightly into place, which was why it hadn't moved when Zdravko had felt inside of it but the flexing of the impact caused it to come loose and there, staring at Zdravko in the face, was a neatly folded and very small piece of paper.  

          Zdravko moved over to the light and unfolded the paper only to find that it was written in the Cyrillic alphabet of Chernarussian.  Well hello to you, he thought to himself as he folded the paper and put it into his vest pocket.  Seeing which side came loose, he began to poke away at the other side until it too came free, revealing yet another note.  It too was in Cyrillic and so into the same vest pocket it went.  For good measure, he kept the cigarette case as well.  Further search of Demidov's effects revealed nothing else but Zdravko had something, he had two pieces of paper, folded neatly, hidden away for reason.  Now he just needed to find someone who could not only speak Chernarussian but read it as well, which made for an interesting task.  By then, the time had surpassed 21:00 and he decided that he'd spent enough time in the room and exited, taking care to replace Demidov's contents back into his suitcases, turn off the lights, and lock the door behind him.  Zdravko exited the hotel and found himself lighting another cigarette as he walked, having no real destination in mind, thinking entirely about what he'd found and what it could mean to him.

          He walked for the better part of the next thirty minutes before, like a light bulb coming on above him, he quickly realized where he could go and checked his whereabouts and the time on his pocket watch.  It was late but not yet too late and he turned to the left and quickened his pace as he walked to the south.  A kilometer later, he was entering the secluded and sequestered Crepajača District, which was accessibly only through one of three alleyways, all of them tucked away and difficult to find unless you knew where they were.  As a district, it had a depraved reputation as a place where one could go and entertain his - or her - more sordid desires.  It was a district that hosted illegal gambling houses, bars that were notoriously violent, shops selling questionable merchandise, and plenty of places for one's more lecherous needs, which was precisely where Zdravko found his feet taking him.  In the lateness of the hour, the district was quiet but appearances were always deceiving.    

• • • † • • •
Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment
Posted (edited)

• • • † • • •

Tuesday, 4 September 1900 | 23:40 hrs [UTC-3]
Crepajača District, Rugi, Kingdom of Liaria | Zora's Brothel

Zdravko entered the fifth brothel and, like the four before it, found his way past the gambling tables and the bar and to the madam in charge of the brothel, Zora herself.  A portly woman of middle age, she carried a mean stare and sized up Zdravko as he approached her, like she did every man who entered the brothel, determining - before they ever spoke to her - whether they'd be trouble or not.  Those who would be, she dispatched quickly and, if they were cooperative, quietly whereas those who weren't could be allowed the privilege to pay her money to sleep with one of her many prostitutes.  If she saw anything in Zdravko, she didn't let on when the man stopped in front of her and leaned in closely, "I was wondering if I may have some company this evening."

         "Well that depends," she said from her chair in what amounted to a sitting area, a half-dozen women sitting on chairs and a sofa around her, all of them looking bored, waiting for their next client.  "Depends, what you want and whether you can afford it."

         "Well I'm looking for something very specific," Zdravko said, doing his best to act shy and embarrassed.  "I'd rather not say aloud."

         "Then come closer," she leaned forward from her chair.  

         Zdravko approached, "I have a taste for Chernarussian women," he practically whispered, "especially ones that are intelligent."  He drew back and she returned to her relaxed position in the chair.

         "Well, that is a mighty specific request but I believe I can accommodate you, for an hour?"

         "Two," Zdravko said, keeping that embarrassed look, "I'm a little longwinded, if you understand."

         "Price is going to be three an hour, five if you want something 'extra' then."

         "'Extra,'" Zdravko repeated, "I'm not sure what qualifies as 'extra' in this instance."

         "Don't worry," Zora smiled, "Zinaida will be the judge of this."

         "Zinaida," Zdravko smiled, "I like the name."

         "Grab a drink, she'll be down in a few minutes."

         "Is she with a client?"  Zora shook her head.  "Then I will wait at the bar."

         "You do that," and Zdravko walked over to the bar and ordered himself a beer while Zora sent one of her girls to fetch Zinaida.  Zdravko took the opened bottle and turned around so that his back was to the bar and took his first sip of the warm beer, finding that it was bitter and not very good but, not wanting to lose Zora's "good graces," toasted to her and kept drinking, each time trying his best not to spit the beer back into the bottle.  He got through half of it when a woman appeared from the second-floor balcony and began to descend the stairs.  She was young, maybe twenty-five, with long, brown hair and she wore a rather simple white dress, nothing fancy and it largely covered her body except for her arms and shoulders.  It was, quite remarkably, a dress one wouldn't expect a prostitute to wear.  On her right wrist a large bracelet caught the light and sparkled as she walked down the steps.  He noticed, as she got closer, that her eyes were the same color as her hair and that she wore little makeup, once again unusual.  She first walked over to Zora who, with a nod of her head, directed her over to Zdravko, who removed his hat and gave her a slight bow.  "Are you Zinaida?"

         "I am," she smiled, her natural beauty radiating in an otherwise den of debauchery.  "And you are?"

         "I am Zdravko.  Let me ask you, before we go upstairs, about a special request I have."

         "I'm all ears," she drew closer to him, the scent of her perfume radiating into his nostrils.

         "Can you read and write?"  She drew back, almost as if she was offended by the question.  Zdravko asked it again, "I know it may sound unusual but I am a man of very specific tastes."

         "Yes, I can read and write," Zinaida answered, "is there more?"

         "No," he said and Zinaida gave a nod of approval to Zora who held up her hand with three fingers lifted.  Zdravko nodded in assent and Zinaida, taking his left hand, left him away from the bar.  Zdravko used it as a chance to put down the half-drank beer so that he wouldn't have to finish it and allowed himself to be led through the crowd of men and women, gamblers and patrons, waitresses and prostitutes, lechers and criminals.  She brought him up the stairs, to the balcony, and around the landing to the first hallway where, three doors later, she opened the door and stepped inside.  He followed in behind her and closed the door gently.

         The room itself was well decorated and very neat.  A wardrobe sat closed at the far end of the room and candles burned on two bedstands though the room caught plenty of light from the waxing moon outside on this relatively cloudless night.  The bed itself was spacious, at least double sized and he found himself standing next to a dresser with a wall mirror and a basin that was filled with water.  A towel hung on the wall next to it.  "As a rule, I ask you to wash first.  There is soap."

         "And this water is clean?"

         "I change it every time," she sat back on the bed and drew her legs up, her hells on the edge so that he could see up her dress, "perhaps you'll like some entertainment while you do?"  She smiled and bit her lip but Zdravko's expression changed and a coldness fell over her, running down her spine.  It amplified as he reached back and locked the door behind him.  Immediately, she felt threatened, frightened, alone.  She put her legs down and her voice trembled, "You aren't supposed to lock the door."

         "Don't worry," he removed his coat, revealing his shoulder holster and the revolver.  She shot backwards from the edge of the bed now as fear came over her face.  In that moment, she wondered how Zora could endanger her so as Zdravko carefully and precisely folded his coat and put it onto the dresser.  He unbuttoned his collar and his wrists and looked at the basin.  "I won't be washing anything this evening."

         "If you hurt me, they'll murder you."  She reached into her nightstand and pulled out an icepick.  Zdravko laughed and pointed to his revolver.

         "Forgive me, I am being dramatic but I do enjoy a little teasing and taunting," he looked at a chair that sat between the basin and the door and sat down.  "I gave you my name as Zdravko but allow me to give you every part of my name.  It is Zdravko Blažević, Inspector," and he emphasis his title, "Zdravko Blažević of the Žandarmerija.  Now put down the ice pick before you get hurt."

         "Why are you here?  Are you going to arrest me?  Is this a raid," her voice was raised and Zdravko held out his hand.

         "Lower your voice, I am here for none of that and I am not here to sample your services.  You are Chernarussian?"  She nodded, "And you read and write Chernarussian?"  She nodded again.  "Put down the ice pick and come here.  I have something I need translated."  He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out the two pieces of paper and held them up so that the light caught them.  "This is what I need," the ice pick trembled in her hand.

         "It's a trick!"

         "Zinaida, this is not a trick, now please I am paying three dinars an hour for this.  The least you can do is help me.  Put down the ice pick," he tapped the revolver, "you won't get within three meters of me before I have this pointed at you.  Quickly, come here and translate for me."  She didn't budge and Zdravko sighed, "I have only so much patience."  He looked at her and reached his hand into the basin to get the cool water, flicking some her way as if he were shooing away a cat.  The water didn't reach her but it did make her blink, which was the first time she had since she grabbed the ice pick.  

         "Fine but I'll scream and I'm loud."

         "I bet you are," he said and he put the two pieces of folded paper onto the dresser.  "Be careful with these.  I need them undamaged."  She put down the ice pick and crossed the room, still wary, still expecting a trick.  When she reached out and grabbed them it was as if she were sticking her hand into a spider hole, fearful that someone would latch onto it and pull her inside.  Snatching the papers, she rapidly scampered back, well out of Zdravko's reach, and back to her corner of safety.  Zinaida unfolded the first one and held it up to the candle, at which point, Zdravko shot out of the chair, "I said be careful!"

         "The light switch is behind you," she said and Zdravko turned to look and quickly flipped it, turning back before Zinaida could do anything.  In an instant, the room was bathed in light from the ceiling and above the mirror as a dozen light bulbs buzzed to life.  

         "It's very bright," Zdravko squinted against the brightness.  Why is it so bright?"

         "No one expects brightness but I spend my time in the dark, by candlelight, I want as much light as I can get when I'm not."  Somewhat disarmed, she walked over to a small desk that had been hidden behind her wardrobe and sat down.  Zdravko walked towards her as she unfolded the other piece of paper.  "This one is a list of names," she put it down and looked at the other one, flipping it over when she realized it was upside down, "this is an address and a word I don't recognize."

         Zdravko pulled out his notepad and sat down on the edge of the bed.  "Read me the list of names please but slowly so that I can write them down."

         She went back to the paper, "Prokhor," Zdravko scribbled it down on his notepad, "Vladislav Bogdanov," more scribbling, "wait, did Prokhor have a last name?"

         "No, it's before 'Vladislav' I'm not sure what it means but it is Prokhor, and a comma, and then Vladislav Bogdanov."  Zdravko rewrote it on the notepad and motioned to continue, "Yaropolk, Nazar Demidov," more scribbling, "Boris, Jaromir Yudin," Zdravko wrote, "and one more, Myron, Oleg Pokrovsky."

         "Four names?"

         "Four names."

         "Anything else?"

         "No except," she held the paper up to the ceiling and then back down and then up again and then down, "it looks like something was erased."  Zdravko stood up and came over her shoulder, the fear now entirely ebbed away from her body, "See?"  She pointed to it.

         "It's not erased," Zdravko said as he scrutinized the paper the same way she had, "the piece of paper was underneath another when he was writing it.  What does it say?"

         "It's hard to tell, it's a fragment of a word."

         "What are the letters then?"

         "I-G-N-A-T, that's it."

         "Does it mean anything to you?  Does anything stand out?"

         "Could be a name, Ignatyev, or something else.  I don't know it goes off of the paper."

         "Okay and the other you said was an address?"

         "Yes, 3-5-1-8-Evergrin?  I think it's spelled wrong."

         "That is all?"

         "That's all, 3-5-1-8-Evergrin."

         "Ring any bells?"  She shook her head, "Yeah I'm not surprised.  Any scratching on the paper?"

         "No," she handed over both papers and Zdravko scrutinized them before folding them up and putting them in his pocket.  Barely twenty minutes had passed.  "Have you heard of those names before?"

         "Listen Inspector," she turned around in her chair, "people don't really use their names here and when they do, they often make up a fake name."

         "Have you ever heard those before?"


         "What about Arkady Demidov?  Familiar?"


         "Do you get a lot of Chernarussian clients?"

         "Sometimes," she stood up and mounted the chair facing backwards so that her chin rested on the back of it, "most times not."

         "Your clients talk a lot though, right?"

         She laughed, "The things men say in bed astound me."

         "Have you heard anything about murder or conspiracies or this treaty?"  She shook her head.  "Definitely not."

         "Be truthful with me, just because you heard something won't make you an accessory.  It will however if you hide something from me."

         "Nothing," she said, "I swear."  Zdravko checked his watch, "How long did you promise Zora?"

         "Two hours," Zdravko answered to a laughing Zinaida.

         "You want to fill two hours translating two pieces of paper?"

         "I thought there might be more."

         "There isn't," she shook her head, "well you'll be out six dinars for five minutes of work."  She stood up from the chair and crossed to the other side of the room, where the basin was.  She splashed some water on her face and used the towel to dry the moisture off before turning back around, "You sure you don't want to do anything?  I mean you paid."

         "I'm all right," Zdravko answered from where he still sat on the bed, "quite honestly, I'm very distracted anyway, I wouldn't be of much use."  

         She unbuttoned the top buttons on her dress and ran her hand along her skin, "I can be very alluring."  

         Zdravko waved his hand at her, "Stop, trust me on this, I am not here for your usual services."

         Somewhat ashamed, Zinaida rebuttoned her dress and the two remained where they were in silence for a minute, "Well we're going to have to do something, I'm not going to stand here bored out of my mind while you pretend you don't want to have sex with me."

         "You have any cards?"

         "Are we playing for money?"

         "I have ten dinars on me; I'd rather not lose it all."

         "Fine then no money, at least it's better than this."

         "I'll make you a deal then," Zdravko said as she opened her drawers and fished out a deck of cards.

         "I'm listening."

         "Six dinars to Zora for our time and four dinars to you, win or lose, if you forget I was ever here, I ever showed you these papers, and I ever asked you about those names."

         "Deal," Zinaida said without even taking a second to consider the offer, "deal!"  She spun around with the cards in her hand and walked over to the bed, sitting on it cross-legged while Zdravko did the same only to have her wag her finger at him, "Shoes off the bed."

         "Fine," he untied his shoes, "I've been wearing these all day so you'll have to forgive me.  It's been a long day."

         "I'll bet," he finished into his pocket for his cigarettes and got another wagging finger, "no smoking.  I can't stand it."

         "Well, you're no fun," Zdravko answered as she began dealing the cards.

         "Oh, I'm a lot of fun, you just don't want it.  We're playing Old Maid."

         "Fine," he took his cards and, for the better part of the next two hours, they played several games of Old Maid.  He won some hands, he lost others.  They didn't bother keeping score.  Occasionally, he would ask her more questions, her Chernarussian accent somewhat alluring as she spoke.  All-in-all, Zinaida was rather good company for a man who kept little company and he found himself more than a little attracted to her but his mind truly was elsewhere.  Two hours after he entered the room, a knock on the door told him everything.  "I believe our time is up?"

         "Our time is up," she said and with that, put down the cards and stood up from the bed.  "We're done in here," she said in a loud voice so that whomever was on the other side of the door could hear her.  "Well, Mister," she playfully searched for his last name, "why I just can't recall your last name then.  Well Mister, it's been a wonderful evening and I do hope you never come back."

         "Perhaps I won't," he said as he put on his shoes.  

         "Truly I mean it, please don't come back.  That fright you gave me wasn't hurt four dinars, which you owe me."  Zdravko walked back to his coat and pulled out his billfold and removed the ten dinars.  He handed them to her and she put them inside of her pocket very quickly, taking only a split second to count the money.  "This has not been very wonderful."

         He put on his jacket, laughing, "Well I beg to differ.  You got paid for two hours and you didn't have to lie on your back for it letting some smelly mongrel hump you for his own gratification."  He walked over to the door and was about to twist the knob, them having unlocked it midway through the first card game, when another, a final, question came to his mind.  "Tell me something, do you ever make 'house calls'?"

         "I have but on rare occasion."

         "When was the last time you made one?"

         "A week ago," Zdravko waited for her to elaborate, "a rich man.  Noble, I think.  Chernarussian man.  They just wanted me to walk around in this silly outfit and light their cigars, some big meeting he was having.  Honestly, I would have rather been naked, the outfit was so uncomfortable."

         "No sex?"

         "No," she shook her head, "pay was very good."

         "How many men?"

         She reached into her memory, "Not many, five or six.  Maybe seven."

         "What were they talking about?"

         "Don't know, I couldn't understand them."

         "You said they were Chernarussian though."

         "They weren't speaking it or Liari."

         "What were they speaking?"

         "Don't know, I never heard it before."

         "Remember the address?"

         "No," she shook her head, "but I remember it was a big house just outside of the city.  They sent a carriage for me.  Didn't request me specifically but I guess they know of Zora.  Was me and two other girls.  We thought it was going to be a wild night.  They paid us well but nothing happened.  Gave Zora her half and that was it for the night."

         "Anything about the place you remember?"

         "It was dark but it was outside of the city but just barely.  I remember passing a monument, a winged angel maybe?  We were too busy inside the carriage chitchatting to pay too much attention."

         "What did the house look like then?  Anything you can tell me about the exterior?"

         "It wasn't a palace or anything but it wasn't very small.  It had three levels, I think it was white and black, looked like a very old house, something a hundred years old at least."

         "Did it have a fountain out front?"

         "It did, yes," her memory was jogged and she grew exited hearing it.  

         "I know of it, thank you Zinaida and remember."

         "Who are you?"

         "Yes," he walked over to her and gave her a small kiss on the cheek, "you've been very helpful tonight."

         "I could have been more helpful," she whispered into his ear.

         "Trust me," he whispered back, "you would have been bored," and then he left the room and walked downstairs.  Zora intercepted him on the way out, a smile on her face.

         "Well, two hours?"

         "I am a man of my word," he said, "Zinaida was wonderful."

         "I bet she was.  Will we be seeing you again?"

         "Perhaps," he answered, "perhaps if my tastes run this way again."

         "Well then, I hope you'll be back," she smiled at him and he left the establishment.  It was deep into the night and as the cool, night air hit him, he was suddenly overcome with exhaustion.  Believing it more than late enough, Zdravko set out for home, which wouldn't necessarily be a short walk but it wouldn't be terribly far either.  The night had been fruitful to his investigation but he still felt no closer to solving the crime.

• • • † • • •
Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment

• • • † • • •

Wednesday, 5 September 1900 | 13:25 hrs [UTC-3]
Outskirts of Rugi, Kingdom of Liaria | Residence of Igor Degtyaryov

Zdravko sat at his usual table in his usual café, a coffee and an empty plate on the table next to him as he looked at his scribbled-in notepad.  He had a set of names and an address that didn’t exist, insofar as his review of the Rugi city map in the station that particular morning revealed.  He also had, thanks to Zinaida, was a place worth looking and, being an inspector of the Žandarmerija, he didn’t necessarily need a reason to do so though, given he was investigating a murder and likely a wider conspiracy, an unannounced visit might startle any guilty parties, if they were present.  For that reason, Zdravko resolved to make the call under the auspices of trying to learn more about the individual and thus visiting the more prominent, Chernarussian residents of Rugi as a result.  It was weak but it got him to the door and, if the worst should arise, he could always feign being incompetent or stumped and thus grasping at straws; after all, he was doing the King's bidding and that could put considerable pressure on someone.

          With his lunch finished, Zdravko paid the bill and walked a few blocks away to the carriage station, where a line of horse-drawn carriages and their cabbies milled about, waiting for fares.  For Zdravko, moving about by cab wasn't as much of a luxury as it was for many people in Rugi outside of the business or upper classes but that was only because he was reimbursed for his expenses when they were related to his work and so, he rode out of the city to the place Zinaida had described, which he knew, and dismounted the cab, requesting that the driver wait for him, agreeing to the waiting fare while also requesting a written receipt in the same breath.  He would turn that in at the end of the day and the desk clerk would draw upon a rather sizeable sum of money to reimburse him.  If a robbery gang were daring enough, they could come away with the score of a lifetime if they robbed the Žandarmerija headquarters; of course, to do such, would invite a remarkable manhunt and likely death as the officers inside were well-armed.

          The house that Zdravko remembered looked exactly as he'd remembered it and it was close enough to Zinaida's description that he knew it to be the place.  It was still early afternoon and so hardly a bad time for him to call upon the occupants.  From the street, the house was set back at least twenty or thirty meters, which only drew attention to how large the property was.  Tall hedges and a brick-foundation fence separated the property from the street in such a way that it was impossible to see into the yard without a significant boost.  Zdravko found the gate itself open and passed into the property, walking along the path up, passing the fountain that Zinaida had remembered, to the front door, which opened before he got there, a well-dressed butler appearing in the open doorframe.  "May I help you sir?"  He asked.  Chernarussian was obviously his first language, as evidenced by his accent, but he also spoke with the accent of the wealthy indicating that he'd been educated in Liaria and not Chernarus.

          "Good afternoon," Zdravko said in opening as he stopped but arm's length from the man.  "I am Senior Inspector Zdravko Blažević of the Žandarmerija, representing His Majesty, King Nikola here on a matter of inquiry."

          "What is that inquiry, if I may, Inspector?"

          "I am working on a case involving the death of a prominent Chernarussian diplomat and I am inquiring as to anyone who might know the man or be familiar with him from various circles.  May I speak with the master of the house please."

          "One minute, please wait here," the butler said with a slight bow as he retreated inside.  Two or three minutes later, Zdravko wasn't keeping track, the door opened and the butler invited Zdravko inside, offering to take his hat, which Zdravko obliged.  Because it was relatively warm, he hadn't been wearing a coat on this particular afternoon.  "Follow me please," the butler lead him to the main study where a man not much older than Zdravko sat in a chair smoking a pipe.  "Senior Inspector Zdravko Blažević of the Žandarmerija," the butler announced and the man stood up and crossed the room, holding out his hand.

          "Pleased to meet you Inspector, my name is Igor Degtyaryov, please have a seat," the man said, shaking Zdravko's hand and welcoming him into the room.  The butler left, shutting the door behind him and Zdravko took a seat.  "So Inspector, to what do I owe this visit?"  The man's voice carried no accent, as if he'd been raised in Liaria his entire life.  Like his butler, he carried the accent of the wealthy classes, indicating that he'd come from wealth, not acquired it.

          "Well Mister Degtyaryov," Zdravko stumbled over the words a little, to which his host gave a good chuckle.

          "It is a mouthful isn't it?"

          Zdravko nodded, "My apologies."

          "None needed, I took no offense.  In fact, if you were the last person to have difficult I would find conversations slightly more dull in the future.  Please continue."

          Zdravko chuckled on his own, "Well Mister Degtyaryov," he got it right this time, "I am here on a matter pertaining to an investigation.  I mentioned earlier that I am representing His Majesty, King Nikola on this matter.  A prominent Chernarussian diplomat was murdered in this city sometime Monday evening or Tuesday morning and I am looking to get whatever details I can on him.  As such, I am visiting the more prominent residents in Rugi who may have had an association with him."

          "What makes you think I would?"

          "Nothing directly," Zdravko answered, "I am making some assumptions here that perhaps your status, you and he may have crossed paths."

          "Well," Igor answered, "it may look that way but I am something of an outcast in the circles of the wealthy Chernarussians."

          "Why might that be?"  Zdravko's curiosity was suddenly piqued.  

          "Well, if you cannot tell by the lack of a Chernarussian accent, I did not grow up there.  In fact, I was born here in Rugi, just several rooms over, my parents having moved here a decade or so after I was born.  So though my blood is Chernarussian, I am Liari in their eyes and thus am not often invited to certain affairs."

          "If that is the case then I apologize for wasting your name.  The individual was named Arkady Demidov."  At the mention of his name, Igor's face twitched ever so slightly, almost imperceptible except to the trained eye of Zdravko.  You know him, Zdravko thought to himself, how?

          "The name is familiar," Igor answered, "but I do not believe he and I have ever crossed paths."

          "Perhaps some associates of yours would know?"  Zdravko suspected that Igor was lying but he had absolutely nothing with which to catch him in that lie and so he had to play whatever cards he had, which weren't very many.

          "Perhaps, I do associate with a good number of people but I would assume they would be on your 'list' perhaps as people to visit?"

          "Yes they would," Zdravko bluffed, "but perhaps I could visit those individuals sooner rather than later.  Solving this man's murder is very important."

          "As are all I am sure," Igor answered, his otherwise hospitable tone seeming to have changed ever so subtle to one of irritation.

          Zdravko thought to switch gears, "Tell me something, Chernarussian and Liari, what other languages might you speak?  I am wondering if you might know others, you see I have a document, well not so much a document, but a piece of paper from another case that I have yet been able to translate."

          The question, far from what Zdravko had been asked, confused Igor a little, more so because of its randomness.  "I also speak Leszczak."

          Zdravko shook his head, "Unfortunately not the one I was looking for, I am sorry.  Well anyway, your associates, might you recommend me someone to chat with perhaps who may have been in circles where Demidov may have been a regular member?"

          "Very well," Igor searched his head, in a seeming display of thinking that Zdravko thought a little too obvious.  Against a less experienced or an incompetent inspector, Igor's act would have been more than believable, he was that subtle but for Zdravko, who noticed small things such as Igor's body language changes, they were all too telling.  "Perhaps an associate of mine named Pokrovsky."


          "Yes, you know of him?"

          "On the list actually," Zdravko bluffed further, now having someone whose name was on Deimdov's list.  

          "Where, might I ask, did this 'list' come from?"

          "Well, I am not sure."

          "You're not sure?"

          "That makes it sound much more mysterious than it is, I am sure.  I was provided a list of names from the King of prominent Chernarussians."

          "I wasn't aware the King was keeping a list of us?"

          "I don't think it was malicious," Zdravko answered, "it seemed more to be a future guestlist for the celebrations to the signing of the Treaty of Rugi than anything else."  Unsure if Igor would buy the explanation, he figured he would throw the man off just a little, "Would you have had many dealings with the King?"

          "Not directly but the nature of my work has crossed paths with the royal household."

          "And what is that work, if I may ask.  I ask because I was only provided names, not occupations."  

          "My firm is involved in construction.  My father founded the company upon his arrival and we have done quite well," Igor gestured with his hand to the very room they were in, "but do not mistake it has been very hard work."

          "No doubt your father was well connected here upon his arrival?"

          "Not as much as you would think but his work ethic was unparalleled.  He passed it down to me.  When I finished school, I was put to work for him and not as a board member but as a laborer.  For ten years I worked through the ranks to learn the art of construction.  I went to school to learn engineering.  When he retired, I took over the firm," Igor laughed, "the hardest part was learning how to be in charge of an entire company and not a work crew but I managed just fine."

          "As it shows," Zdravko answered in a little ego inflation, "well I believe I have taken a lot of your time today, have I not?"

          "Not at all," the two men stood and Igor showed him to the door, pausing before he let him out, "I do hope you solve this crime Inspector."

          "Well," they shook hands, "it would be my job to ensure it so.  If I should have any additional questions, I know where to find you, though I doubt I shall."  The two men parted and Zdravko returned to the station, riding in silence as he ruminated with his thoughts.  He no doubt expected that, the moment he was out of view, Igor sent a messenger over to Pokrovsky to warn him of an impending visit from one "Senior Inspector Zdravko Blažević of the Žandarmerija, investing the murder of Chernarussian diplomat Arkady Demidov."  In fact, had Igor not done this, Zdravko would have been surprised.  He knew all too well how the wealthy classes operated and if there was one thing that transcended their ethnicity, it was their protection of each other.

          It put Zdravko at something of a disadvantage in that he didn't know where Oleg Pokrovsky lived nor, up until a few hours earlier, did he know the man even existed.  The four, potentially five, names that Demidov had written down were a great mystery but, given his position, they could be anyone.  It was perfectly possible that the four men weren't his murderers and that they were spies working for the Chernarussian government or perhaps just business partners or even old friends.  For all Zdravko knew, the secret compartment was just a convenient place to store the pieces of paper so that they wouldn't get lost.  He also wondered what significance Leszczak was to the entire ordeal.  That would have definitely been the language that Zinaida heard them speaking when she was there and Zdravko hardly believed she had just been brought there to waitress.  As he thought about his conversation with Zinaida, nothing about her visit to Igor's house would implicate her in any crime.  Zdravko had laughed to himself at her craftiness.

          At the station, he turned in the receipt for prompt reimbursement and quickly left the building, smoking a cigarette on the way over to the one place he was sure he could find record of Pokrovsky, the tax collector's office, and with a flash of a badge, he was admitted to the records room where the tax rolls were collected in a vast, card catalog system.  Neatly alphabetized, it took less time to find Pokrovsky's address than it did for Zdravko to light a cigarette, such was the efficiency of the tax collector's office.  Zdravko, as he was leaving, remarked to the clerk, "If every bureaucracy were as efficient, we wouldn't need bureaucrats," which the clerk himself did not find very funny.  The missed joke certainly played nicely in Zdravko's head as he once again hired another cab and made his way to the home of Oleg Pokrovsky, who Zdravko found home as well, much to his convenience, and just as with the visit to Igor, he met much of the same entrance as before.

• • • † • • •

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

• • • † • • •

Wednesday, 5 September 1900 | 16:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Obrenošanj District, Rugi, Kingdom of Liaria | Residence of Oleg Pokrovsky

Oleg Pokrovsky was the antithesis of Igor Degtyaryov.  Where Igor was skinny, Oleg was rotund; where Igor was genteel, Oleg was boorish; where Igor was reserved, Oleg was boisterous.  Zdravko found the man in a room shooting billiards with a man who identified himself as Ratko Zebić, who excused himself shortly after Zdravko's entrance, citing "business obligations" before being escorted away by Oleg's butler.  "So, Mister Inspector," Oleg's voice boomed unnecessarily so, as if he had practiced long and hard to be the loudest person in any room and didn't come with an off switch.  "What is it that brings you to me this afternoon?"

          "I'm looking into the death of someone whom you may have known," Zdravko said and before he could say the name, Oleg interrupted him.

          "Arkady, yes?"

          "You know him, and of his death?"

          "Both yes," he walked over to the bar and poured himself a helping of what smelled like cognac.  "Arkady and I went to school together, were good friends in our youth.  Shame really about his death, I heard earlier this morning.  News like that travels rather fast through the 'old boy network,' as we like to call it."

          "'Old boy network,'" Zdravko repeated the phrase, "care to elaborate?"

          "Nothing sinister I assure you just those of us who went to school together, word travels quickly through it."

          "So, you and Mister Demidov were friends then, you said?"

          "Close friends yes."

          "Were you still friends?"

          "Not particularly," Oleg laughed, "Arkady and I went separate ways shortly after our entrance into the wurld.  He into the art of diplomacy and I into the family business.  Something Arkady didn't approve of one bit."

          "And what is that family business, if I may?"  

          "Weapons," Oleg said as prideful as anyone could say such a thing.  "My family has long been in the business of weapons manufacturing and sales.  Arkady, being of the diplomatic venture, saw my family's business as incorrigible, I believe was the word he would often use."

          "Interesting," Zdravko took a seat shortly after his host sat down, the two of them on one side of the billiards table, Oleg stirring his cognac before each sip.  "And Igor Degtyaryov," he said the name correct this time, "did you two go to school together?"

          "Igor?  Certainly not," he laughed, "remarkable work with the man's name.  We've known one another for many years now and I still stumble over it.  I try not to say it if just not to look foolish."  I don't think you need any help there, Zdravko thought to himself.  "Igor grew up here, went to the finest schools in Rugi, hardly part of us aristocrats back in Novigrad.  We only met when he took over his father's business."

          "He tells me he's never met Mister Demidov.  Would you agree?"

          "Hard for me to say," Oleg swirled and sipped, "Arkady didn't really consort with the business types.  Sounds truthful to me," Oleg swirled and sipped again.  "Tell me, do you know who murdered him?"

          "I don't recall saying he was murdered."

          Oleg belted out laughter, "Inspector why else would you be looking into his death?  Of course, again, the old boy network."

          "What do you know of his murder then, let's start there?"

          "Only that it was particularly gruesome."

          "Do you know what Mister Demidov was doing in Rugi?"

          "Probably something to do with this unification treaty if I had to guess."

          "A correct guess then," Zdravko answered.  Oleg wasn't hiding much but he was also a poor liar, once again the antithesis of Igor.  "Truthfully, I don't have many leads right now.  I'm merely interviewing anyone who may have run in the same circles as him to try to establish if the man had any enemies."

          "Every man has enemies Inspector, don't they?"

          "I should think so."

          "Well then you won't be finding much.  Arkady, by way of his nature as a diplomat, probably had dozens of enemies.  Surely the nature of his work saw fit to cause any number of men to hate him.  I should say that a man like Arkady probably had more enemies than you or I Inspector."

          "Is that so?  Why is that?"

          "Well, for starters, the man believes fully in this unification treaty and that should draw the ire of every Chernarussian nationalist from this side of the country to that.  There's certainly a lot of them."

          "Yourself included?"

          "Hardly," Oleg ran out of cognac and helped himself to more, not that it appeared to be having any effect on the heavyset man.  "I don't care much for nationalism or unification, if I'm being honest.  The treaty can pass or fail, it's none of my business.  It's hardly my motivation."

          "And what is?"

          "Profit," Oleg said, flashing a toothy grin, "profit is my motivation.  Now whether this country unifies or stays separate is of little matter to me.  My interests of profit go far beyond these borders.  Now, of course, if anyone were to hinder that profit, I might take offense but I hardly doubt that this unification treaty is going to affect my business."

          "I see.  Money over country."

          "Countries change Inspector," Oleg plopped back in his chair with an even fuller glass and swirled and sipped, "countries change," he repeated as if to emphasize the point, "but money is always money.  Money is the legacy of my company not what flag flies atop our flagpole."

          "Had Mister Demidov made any threats to that nature?"

          "Hardly, he preferred to say as little to me as possible."

          "Then how do you know of his inclinations to the treaty?"

          "Old boy network," Oleg said, "I might have not been his favorite person but associates of mine and him were certainly on talking terms."

          "Seems a bit interesting," Zdravko leaned back, "you say you were close, good friends even, right?"  Oleg nodded, "And to turn one-hundred-and-eighty degrees simply because you followed in your father's footsteps?  That seems rather shallow, does it not?"

          "Arkady was a man of deep principle.  I'm more surprised, looking back, that we were ever friends in the first place.  Yet that is how it goes.  I suppose he just woke up one day and said, 'I can't be friends with a war profiteer' and that was it.  Who knows what motivates each of us?"

          "Who knows indeed," Zdravko agreed.  "Well, can you tell me if this 'old boy network,' as you call it, has had any recent chatter, if you will, about poor Mister Demidov's eventual demise?"

          "You're asking if anyone talked about killing him?"

          "I am."

          "I can't say that I heard a thing.  I don't imagine someone would broadcast those inclinations so openly."

          "Worth a shot.  Can you think of perhaps any other acquaintance of yours, or his, associates, friends, confidants, rivals, anyone who may have specifically wished to harm him?"

          "Not off of the top of my head," a swirl and a sip, it was something of a tell.  He'd swirl and sip whenever he told a lie, and he'd told many, though he'd swirl and sip too when he wasn't speaking.  It just seemed to precede individual statements where Zdravko applied minor pressure to the answer.

          "Very well, perhaps any other acquaintances of yours whom I should consider speaking with?  I have a long list and the sooner I get through it, the better."

          "Well, you've spoken with Igor," Zdravko nodded, "not really sure, perhaps dozens of people."

          "Who might he have been closest to, if you can remember?"

          "Well, he was of the diplomatic type," a swirl and a sip, "so I would start there, it's the only people I can think of who might have had more contact with him on a regular basis."  It was of little help and Zdravko stood up, "I do hope I've been helpful Inspector."

          "Of course, of course," Zdravko lied himself, then allowed himself to be escorted out, "I do hope if you should feel you have any information to provide, you will send me a message."

          "I shall do just that," Oleg said as he escorted him out of the room, "if I may ask, will Arkady's murder stall the talks at all?"  It was a peculiar question for someone who didn't seem to care about the unification and Zdravko picked up on it rather quickly. 

          "Unlikely, it's just a matter of convention that we do our very best to find Mister Demidov's murder.  His presence in Liaria as a diplomat means that he was under certain levels of protection so this is obviously a politically sensitive matter."

          "Of course, of course," Oleg walked him to the door rather than letting his butler handle it, the cognac still in his left hand.  Zdravko offered his a handshake and was taken aback by the clamminess of Oleg's meaty hands.  

          "One last question, just a curiosity of mine.  I'm always fascinated by other languages.  Tell me Mister Pokrovsky, do you speak any other languages?"

          "Why yes, I speak several.  It comes with the territory of being an weapons manufacturer."

          "Perhaps Garindinan?"  Oleg nodded, "Anglish?"  Oleg nodded again, "Remarkable, how do you keep them all straight in your head?"

          "With great difficulty.  I can speak Leszczak too.  Many languages for many clients."

          "Many languages indeed," Zdravko smiled, "thank you for your time."  He left and walked back down the path to the street, fishing for and lighting a cigarette the moment he was on the other side of the fence.  "So, you were at that meeting too," Zdravko said to himself quietly under his own breath.  He made a return to the tax rolls to look up the rest of the names on the list.  Vladislav Bogdanov did not reside in Rugi, Nazar Demidov and Jaromir Yudin, on the other hand, did but by then it was getting late in the afternoon.  Still, Zdravko had the King's warrant in his pocket, charging him to do whatever was necessary to solve the murder of Arkady Demidov.  He looked again at the names and decided that Nazar Demidov would be next and he wondered if there was any relation though he assumed, if there was, then he wouldn't have had a last name in Arkady's list of names, unless someone had given him that list.  Zdravko checked his watch and decided that he would visit them after the typical supper hour, Demidov first and then, if there was time before it was considered "too late," Yudin.  Bogdanov, by sheer luck of not having a residence in Rugi was simply excluded though that didn't necessarily put Zdravko's curiosities at ease.  If three of the four resided in Rugi, what was the significance of the fourth who didn't?

• • • † • • •

Link to comment
  • Create New...