The Soviet Macabre – excerpt
Inspector Kolya Baklanov of the Moscow militsya plodded down the long hall, his journey accented by buzzing, flickering fluorescents and the pungent odor of urine and dampness. A smell a reporter had once accurately described as the smell of cats. He reached apartment 3305 and reached for the doorknob, the cheap lead paint flaking off onto his hand. He struggled to turn the stubborn knob, and when he finally wrenched the door open he was greeted by a blast of winter air from a broken window covered with soggy cardboard. He buttoned his coat and turned up his lapels, grumbling to himself. While the people freeze and starve, Lenin is building bombs. He thinks he is preparing for war, when all he is doing is starting a revolution.
His partner Vassily Petrov had already arrived and was standing near the unbroken window, also hunched into his jacket. He sipped watery coffee from a thermos and lit a home-rolled cigarette. “Greetings, Comrade” Baklanov said, saluting the other man. Petrov turned, saluting as well.
“You are late, comrade.”
“I know. A metro car was derailed, I was forced to walk”. Petrov shrugged.
“No matter. I expect you would like to see the body?”
“Of course, comrade”, Baklanov replied, and followed as Petrov led him beyond a thin dividing wall and into the bedroom.
The victim was a fat, bald Russian slumped in a dilapidated armchair. His yellowed teeth were visible through his gaping mouth, and his greasy tank top was stained red with blood. He was already in the first stage of decomposition and an awful stench rose off his body as Inspector Baklanov peeled him off the back of the chair. He was surprised to find a sizeable exit wound, in stark contrast to the miniscule hole in the corpse’s chest. “Hollow point bullets, .45 caliber”, he said, inspecting the wound. “Goes in small, comes out big, rips the organs to shreds. Definitely not a mafiya hit…somebody really hated this man. Who is he?” Petrov began sifting through the contents of the man’s wallet, pulling out three rubles and a battered I.D. card.
“Igor Maks. Forty-two years of age, works in the munitions factory across the river in Yaroslavl. No real significance to the state or country.”
“Then why do we waste our time standing here? He is not important, just another nobody. This happens every week or so anyway.”
“My thoughts exactly, comrade” Petrov said as he unrolled the thin plastic body bag he had brought. “Let’s get him downstairs; If Lenin wants him then, he can have him”. Petrov unzipped the bag Kolya helped get it onto the corpse, not even recoiling in the slightest. He had seen this before, and far too often. It seemed almost like a regular occurrence. They finished and Petrov zipped up the bag and hoisted it over his shoulder. “Alright, comrade, time to leave. If we linger here much longer we won’t have any fingers”. They both laughed.
The steady but insistent chatter of machine guns broke their laughter, and suddenly hundreds of bullets zipped through the broken window, tearing apart the cheap cardboard and sending bits of it flying around the room. Baklanov dived immediately dived for the floor, yelling for Petrov to follow suit. Petrov did hit the floor seconds later, though it became quickly apparent that he had not reacted fast enough. Kolya drew his pistol and fired three rounds through the broken window to no avail; the assassins had already gone, believing their task complete. He looked towards the corpse which now lay bullet-ridden on the sparse carpet not two meters away. Who were the assailants? And what could they possibly want with Igor Maks?