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Moscow sucked. Was that still the way you said you were pissed off, back home? She didn't know. Ann Harris didn't think she knew anything about America any more. Which was an obvious exaggeration, but one she allowed herself, more black depression to wrap around herself. She didn't care whether it was the right word or not. Moscow definitely sucked. Everything sucked: the job and her career and her future and the embassy and this affair. This affair most of all.
She walked without direction, uncaring, woollen hat pulled low, hands buried deep in the pockets of her inadequate coat, the only idea to get away from the claustrophobia of her apartment and maybe, too, what had just happened there. Or rather, hadn't happened.
He'd been in so much of a goddamned hurry there'd hardly been any point in their getting undressed: she hadn't been anywhere near her climax when he'd withdrawn and from the way he'd held himself over her she was sure he'd checked his watch with the same gesture. Bastard. But that was hardly the discovery of the century. There'd been the usual bullshit about love when it had first started but that was all part of the familiar, well practised ritual. Now they'd stopped bothering with any pretence. It was a fuck, pure and simple: at least it was for him. For her, like tonight, it usually ended up as pure and simple frustration. At least he rarely tried the worst of the funny stuff now: tonight he scarcely hurt at all. Which meant, she supposed, he was doing it to somebody else, somebody new. It had to be somebody in the embassy. She wondered who. The bastard.
Ann looked around her, with sudden concentration. She had to be somewhere close to Ulitza Gercena: somewhere in the embassy district, certainly. The next left should bring her on to a better-lit street: so near midnight this road, whatever its name, was dark and deserted, no one moving apart from her.
Ann continued on, deep in reflection again. What was she going to do? Break it off, she supposed. She was impatient with this part of an affair, the let's-call-it-a-day part. It invariably dragged on, one waiting for the other to make the moves, each trying to give the other an easy escape, which usually made the whole business messier and anything but easy.
Maybe she wouldn't do anything positive. Maybe she'd just carry on until her tour ended in six months. Her return to Washington would make a logical end. A farewell dinner, a farewell fuck, the unmeant promises: Look after yourself now. Write, so I'll know where you are. It really has been great. There were others, of course. The one before this who knew he was reserve, still trying to get the pecker up to compete. It was amusing, sometimes, seeing him try. Fun. At least he tried to make her come. Sometimes she even did.
But would she be recalled in six months? She should be, according to the usual tour of duty. But by now she had expected to hear from the State Department whether she would be offered another overseas position right away or have to wait in Washington for reassignment. She'd give it another month. If there hadn't been anything in the diplomatic pouch by then she'd ask openly and get things moving from this end. Two years might be the usual posting to the Commonwealth that had once been the Soviet Union but she'd heard too many stories of oversights and misplaced personnel files and lofty, unconsulted State Department decisions to keep a person in place because of their proven value.
And she'd definitely proved herself a better-than-average economist in the embassy's financial division. She snorted an empty laugh on the lonely Moscow street: how come she was so efficient and so professional at work, never screwing up, while her personal life here had been such a fuck-up?
Moscow, she answered herself: it was the insular, unnatural existence of Moscow, everyone knowing everyone else, affairs begun, affairs ended, dinners accepted and dinners returned by rote, the same anecdotes today as the anecdotes of yesterday, never gaining in the telling. She hoped to Christ Uncle Walter proved right, about the career importance of Russia. If he was – if the promotion was as automatic as he'd guaranteed – then in hindsight it might have been worthwhile. Just. But if it didn't happen like that, it would have been two years of imprisonment, without any time off for good behaviour or parole.
Ann saw the break in the buildings up ahead, the opening of the link-road she was seeking, and just slightly increased her step. It had been an impulsive, unthought-out decision to get away from the flat: the coat wasn't warm enough and she only had a thin cotton shirt and skirt on underneath, because there had been the Russian warmth in the apartment: even warmer in bed.
Ann's mind stayed on her uncle. He'd used his political clout to get her to Moscow. So he could use it to get her out. That would be the way to do it! Write to him before directly approaching the State Department, say how much she'd enjoyed the opportunity to work here and ask if he had any indication where she might be assigned next. Do it tomorrow, in fact: get the letter in that night's diplomatic bag to Washington. For the first time for several hours her depression lifted, although not by much.
Ann turned into the smaller side road, little more than an alley, disappointed at not seeing the brightness of Ulitza Gercena: maybe this road curved, obscuring the junction.
It was only in the last few seconds that she was aware of anybody else and then she did not hear anything. It was an impression of someone very close and she began to turn but the knife went in smoothly, not touching any bone. There was a moment of excruciating agony and the scream tore from her but the hand was over her mouth, clamping her nose, suppressing any sound.
Ann Harris was dead before her body collapsed fully on to the pavement.
The hair was clipped first, as close to the skull as possible. Enough was kept but most was sprinkled over her face. The buttons, on the coat and shirt and skirt, had to be cut off by feel and the clothes properly rearranged. All the buttons were kept. One shoe had dropped off, as she fell. The other was removed, to be placed neatly, side by side, close to her head.
It was 2 a.m. when the telephone roused Dimitri Ivanovich Danilov, the senior Colonel of the People's Militia for the Moscow region. He listened for several moments. Then he said: 'Shit!'
Olga stirred when he got out of bed but did not wake up. Over the years, as the wife of a policeman, she'd learned how to sleep through such disturbances: she'd come to ignore quite a lot of things, in fact.CHAPTER 2
There was not much blood and most of what there was had been absorbed into the coat. Ann Harris did not lie as she had fallen, because the body had been moved slightly while she was shorn and the buttons removed. Now she was slightly over the outline chalked on the pavement, disturbed a second time by the initial examination of the pathologist and the forensic experts. The narrow street, which did bend before leading out on to Ulitza Gercena, had been sealed at both ends by Militia vehicles drawn across it. Shielding canvas screens were around the corpse, which was unnecessary, because the only people there at 3 a.m. on a sub-zero February morning were police. The floodlights unnaturally whitened everything and everyone: the men grouped and moving around looked as bloodless as the victim at their feet.
Danilov edged into the group, which parted and began to break up when he was recognized. The movement caught the attention of the man bent over the body. Yuri Mikhailovich Pavin looked up and then nodded, when he saw his superior. Pavin rose, stiffly, as Danilov stooped to take his place. She'd been attractive, beautiful even, but now she was ugly. The eyes bulged, staring either in terminal terror or pain, and the lips were drawn back from her teeth in what looked like a snarl. The ugliness was made worse by what had happened to her hair: it had been chopped, in patches and close to the scalp, which was scratched and in places cut. Missed tufts stood upright. Her clothes did not seem unduly disturbed.
'How long?' asked Danilov. The woman's body already appeared stiff, with rigor.
Pavin shrugged. 'Maybe eight hours, maybe shorter. The doctor says the cold could have brought the temperature down quickly so he can't really say.'
As if on cue a blast of wind drove up the narrow street, making them hunch against it. Danilov had taken to having his own hair cropped very short. This early in the year he should have worn his hat.
'Who found her?'
'Militia van, making the rounds. Timed at one twenty.'
'She hasn't been dead eight hours. Eight hours ago this street would have had people on it.'
'I know,' agreed Pavin.
Danilov was glad Pavin was going to be the evidence and exhibit officer again. And not just because of continuity. Pavin was the sort of back-up every investigator needed, a meticulous collector of isolated facts which, once assimilated, were never forgotten. He was a heavy, slow-moving man who looked more like a patrol officer than a Petrovka headquarters Major. Danilov privately doubted Pavin would rise any further in rank but didn't believe Pavin wanted to: he guessed the man accepted that he had reached his operating level and was content. Pavin knew every guideline in the investigation manual and observed each one: it would have been Pavin who ordered the unnecessary canvas screens. 'Any identification?'
'None. This is all there was.'
Danilov accepted the key, preserved for later fingerprint tests inside a glassine envelope. 'What makes you so sure she's American?'
'Clothes labels,' said Pavin. 'Every one American, inside the coat and the skirt and the shirt. The shoes, too.'
'Is that how they were?' asked Danilov, nodding towards the low-heeled pumps. At the moment they were only covered with protective, see-through plastic, not yet inside an exhibit bag.
'I checked specifically: the observer in the Militia van thinks he might have kicked into them when they first found the body, when it was dark apart from their headlights. They were certainly by the head but he doesn't know how neat.'
'He didn't touch them?'
'He says not.'
'Fingerprint the entire crew, for elimination.'
'I've already arranged that,' said Pavin. It was one of the basic, scene-of-the-crime rules.
'Who's the pathologist?'
'Novikov,' said the Major. Apologetically, as if he were in some way responsible for the medical rosters, he added: 'I'm sorry.'
Danilov shrugged, resigned. In a court trial a year earlier he'd shown to be unsound a medical assessment reached by Viktor Novikov: the man had been forced to admit surmising rather than conducting a necessary test. The hatred was absolute. 'What's he say?'
'Single stab wound. He'll need the autopsy, of course, but it looks like a clean entry. Could be a sharp-pointed knife with a single edge. The head wounds are just superficial, caused when the hair was cut off. Some post-death bruising, to the left thigh and buttock, where she fell. No sign of her fighting: nothing beneath her fingernails where she might have scratched. Or hair, which she might have pulled.'
'Her underclothes were intact: she wore tights over her knickers. Her outer clothes weren't pulled up or torn.'
Danilov handed the glassine envelope back to his assistant and said: 'That isn't a hotel key.'
'She could have been robbed of her handbag, I suppose?'
'She's wearing a cross on a gold necklace. And a gold Rolex. And there's a signet ring, on her left hand. No wedding ring, though.'
'How far away is the American diplomatic compound?'
'Four, maybe five hundred metres. Behind the embassy on Ulitza Chaykovskaya. She needn't necessarily be a diplomat, of course.'
Danilov sighed. The wind scurried up the street again, although not as strongly as before. It would have been past midnight when Danilov had got to bed, because he'd stopped off to see Larissa on her shift change-over and then made sure Olga was asleep before he followed her to bed: he felt gritty-eyed with tiredness and knew he wouldn't sleep again for a long time now. 'You alerted anyone else?'
'That's your decision,' reminded the man who knew the rules.
'This is going to be hell if she is connected with the US embassy,' predicted Danilov. 'The fact that she's possibly American is bad enough.'
'You think the Cheka will want to be involved?' asked Pavin, using the original revolutionary name of the Soviet intelligence service, which was how the former KGB, now the Agency for Federal Security always internally referred to itself, with muscle-flexing bravado.
'Probably,' said Danilov. 'And I can't begin to imagine what the Americans will want.' At that moment he didn't even want to imagine.
'It would have been easier in the old days,' said Pavin, with a stab of nostalgia. 'When we didn't have to cooperate.'
'There aren't any old days, not any longer.' He paused and then added: 'Supposedly, that is.' Danilov had once been enthusiastic about glasnost and perestroika – still would have liked to be – but after all the unmet promises and expectations he was resigned like everyone else to their failure through obstructive bureaucracy and latent Russian inefficiency. Even in the old, uncooperative days this would have been a bastard, if she was American. 'Does Novikov know I'm the investigator?'
'He guessed, because of the other one. He said you'd have to take your turn: there are other autopsies ahead of you.'
'What about forensic?'
'Finished just before you arrived.'
'Anything?' Pavin would have told him already if there had been: he still had to ask the hopeful question. Pavin would expect it.
Danilov gestured to the dark, glowering buildings all around. 'No one hear anything?' That was an even more hopeful question: Pavin would have produced any witness by now.
'It's mostly office buildings. I thought we'd start the house-to-house when it's light.'
Danilov nodded agreement. 'Photographs?'
'All done. The ambulance is ready, when you close the scene of the crime.'
For several moments Danilov remained silent, gazing down at the now frozen and mistreated body of the young woman. Who are you, once-pretty girl? What hidden things am I going to find out about you that no one else knows? If they don't matter, I'll try to keep your secret. But how – dear, much doubted God how! – am I going to find whoever did this to you? Who made you so ugly? Not for the first time since joining the murder section of the serious crime squad Danilov was glad he and Olga could not have children, for him to live in deeply wrapped apprehension that one day another policeman might stare down at the battered and maimed remains of his own son or daughter. He was never able to think of a dead body just as a dead body: to remain utterly detached. Always he thought, as he was thinking at this moment, that this ugly, brutalized thing at his feet had once been a living person with feelings and fears and sadnesses and joys. Professionally wrong, he supposed. Or was it? Didn't the fact that he did care make him more determined than most others at the Militia headquarters at Petrovka who he knew sneered and even laughed at him, on their way with open pockets to get favours returned for favours granted, Militia officers for the money-making opportunities the job presented, not because they were dedicated policemen? Danilov halted his own sneer, refusing the hypocrisy. Different now, since he'd joined the murder division. But what about before? What about Eduard Agayans and all the other grateful operators? He'd rationalized his own excuses, but he had no grounds, no right, to criticize other policemen. To criticize anybody. Allowing Pavin his scene-of-the-crime expertise, Danilov said: 'Is there anything else?'
'Not here I don't think.'
'Let's clear up then.'
Pavin gave the summons, which was answered within seconds by the strained-gear sound of the reversing ambulance. Danilov wished they'd shown more care, loading the body on to the stretcher. He said: 'I want all the occupied accommodation in the street checked, before anyone leaves for work. There's no doubt what we're looking for: I don't suppose there was before. I want every psychiatric institution in Moscow checked for discharged patients who might have indicated any of these tendencies.'
'Every one?' frowned Pavin.
Danilov nodded after the departing ambulance. 'If she's American, I'll get all the manpower I want.'
Excerpted from In the Name of a Killer by Brian Freemantle. Copyright © 1992 Brian Freemantle. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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