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The Professor’s Murder

by Viacheslav Yatsko

Chapter 7: The Murderer Unmasked


“Ladies and Gentlemen!,” began Rogov. It was 10 a.m. and we were sitting in his office at Police Headquarters. “I am Major Michail Rogov, and I have been assigned to investigate the murder of Nikolas Smirnov.” He made a short pause. He looked impressive in the police uniform with major’s straps and the breast decorated with medals and ribbons.

“I must inform you at once that the investigation is over and the murderer has been found. This person is sitting here. I ask this person to make a voluntary confession, which, according to the law, will extenuate this person’s guilt.” He stopped and cast at the audience a piercing look.

“Gee!” exclaimed Ruchko and gave a short whistle. The others remained silent exchanging nervous glances.

“OK,” went on Rogov. “Then I must inform you of the results of investigation, which completely unmasks the murderer.” He cleared his throat.

“From the very start there were four main suspects: Mrs. Olga Smirnova, who inherited Smirnov’s fortune,” At this news, everybody looked at Olga, who was wearing her best black evening dress that matched perfectly her blond hair.

Ruchko hemmed. Zilberman brought out a handkerchief to mop his bald patch.

“Mr. Alexei Larin, who was on intimate terms with Mrs. Smirnova,” continued Rogov. “Vladimir Timkin, who had a conflict with Smirnov. And Elza Goldberg, whom he insulted in public.

“Smirnov also had a daughter by his first wife; she lived in Novoyarsk and could also profit from Smirnov’s death.

“The case was complex because nobody had an alibi and everybody could have committed the crime. Smirnova and Larin stated they were together at Larin’s flat. Timkin told me he was at his laboratory, but his colleagues witnessed him leaving the laboratory several times. Dr. Goldberg said she was at her office, but her secretary asserts she also went away.

“To solve the crime I decided to employ a police technique that we call ‘dangling bait’. I asked Mr. Larin, whom I know well, to contact each of the suspects.” Rogov lied without a twinge of conscience, in his usual manner.

Everybody stared at me, and I failed to see friendliness in their eyes. “Now I know your real name, Mister Bait,” Olga said to me in a loud whisper so that all could hear.

“I must say the technique proved its value. Mr. Larin’s actions caused the criminal to act and make mistakes. Let us listen to Mr. Larin.”

“The first thing that caught my attention was your words, Mr. Zilberman,” I began.

Zilberman looked at me doubtfully and said, “But I didn’t tell you anything.”

“No, you told me about a very important fact. You said that four people sat at the table broken during the incident at your restaurant.”

“No wonder: the table was for four persons and all the seats were occupied.”

“That’s the point! And in the police records, as Major Rogov kindly informed me, only two persons were registered: Oleg Ruchko and Marina Sotova. It was strange. In such situations people usually take efforts to be compensated for the damage they suffered. It means that the other two, for some reasons, didn’t want their names to be mentioned.”

“That fact prompted two more questions: Who were those two people? What were their motives? And it was you, Oleg, who helped me to find the answers.”

“I don’t remember anything. I was in bad condition,” quickly responded Ruchko.

“You said that at the restaurant you were celebrating ‘Vovan’s birthday’. So the first name of one of the two unknown persons must be Vladimir because ‘Vovan’ is its diminutive. You, Oleg, were in the company of the girl, Marina Sotova. It was logical to suppose that that Vladimir also was with a girl. But who was she? Here you helped me again, Oleg.”

“I never help coppers’ sleuths!” contemptuously declared Ruchko.

“Nevertheless you did. Involuntary, of course. You said: ‘zany woman, professor’s wife’. You knew who the woman was who shoved the singer. And how could you know? Smirnov worked at Computer Science Department and you are a student in the Law Department. Smirnov never taught you, and you never met. There could be only one answer: that Vladimir and/or his girlfriend must be from Computer Science Department, and they told you about Smirnov’s wife.”

Ruchko didn’t say anything, his eyes twinkled spitefully.

“I found that mysterious Vladimir when I visited the University and met Vladimir Timkin. When he flexed his muscles to demonstrate that Smirnov was not able to beat him up, I remembered the man I saw in Ruchko’s drawing room. He had the same figure and body.”

“And what of it?” said Timkin nonchalantly. “Yes, I was at the restaurant. I didn’t want my name to appear in police records because I prefer to stay out of police affairs. I dislike the police in principle. Since when is that prohibited? Do you know many people who like our noble policemen?”

“The fact is not that you dislike policemen. The fact is that you hated Smirnov, who excluded you from his projects after the quarrel, and you lost all the money you could earn. And he wanted to expel your from postgraduate courses. Another fact is that you like very much the girl with whom I saw you at Ruchko’s flat. Who was she?”

Timkin didn’t reply. He looked aside indifferently.

“I answered this question when I was leaving the University. In the lobby hung a large portrait of Smirnov, and I realized that the woman whom I had met several minutes before had a striking resemblance to him. It was Lina Frolova, Smirnov’s daughter.”

Everybody stared at Frolova who sat smiling calmly.

“Frolova is Smirnov’s daughter?!” exclaimed Elza Goldberg in utter surprise. “But why?”

“Yes, that is the question,” Rogov took up the ball. “I’ve said that Smirnov’s daughter was one of the suspects from the very beginning. We thought she lived in Novoyarsk, where she and her mother moved seven years ago after divorce.

“How could Galina Krotova have turned into Lina Frolova? There was no difficulty in finding out that two years ago she married and assumed her husband’s name, becoming Filinova. Then she divorced and moved from Novoyarsk. We had to work hard to establish the fact that she married again, took her current name, and then divorced for a second time.”

“And what of it?” responded Frolova repeating Timkin’s phrase. “I am free to marry and divorce as many times as I wish.”

“Sure, but why did you take so much effort to conceal your real name? You introduced yourself as ‘Lina’, which is a diminutive of ‘Elena’, rather than ‘Galina’. Moreover you tried to disguise your appearance. This is a report from city’s Optician’s shop. It states that you constantly bought brown contact lenses, though the natural color of your eyes is blue.” Rogov held up a piece of paper.

Frolova didn’t answer anything and continued to smile calmly.

“Do you mean Frolova wanted to kill her own father just to get his money?” intervened Goldberg. “I know her a little, and she never gave me the impression of being a greedy person.”

“You are right, Dr.Goldberg. The motive for the murder was not just money. This is a copy of her mother’s case history we got from Novoyarsk. She suffered from persecution mania. When she lived with Smirnov she reported him to police, complaining that he planned to kill her.

“Perhaps she moved to Novoyarsk in hopes of getting rid of her disease, but contrary to her expectations the illness worsened. She became assaultive, was taken to hospital and killed herself.

“And psychiatric diseases are communicable. As we had good reasons to suspect Timkin and Frolova, we decided to search their flats. And this is what we found.” Rogov pulled the drawer open and took out ear rings, bracelets, necklaces.

“But that is my jewelry!” exclaimed Olga. “Are they the ones who robbed my flat?”

“Yes, but they boned the jewelry. Their main aim was this document.” He held up a piece of paper with a handwritten text. “This is Smirnov’s avowal. But first I’d like to draw your attention to this certificate from the city’s gynecological hospital. It states that Galina Frolova is in the second month of pregnancy. “And now I ask you, Mrs. Galina Frolova, whose child are you bearing? Who is its father: Timkin or Smirnov?”

The audience got stupefied. Then somebody squealed; Elza Goldberg fainted; Olga rushed to the door pressing her palms to her lips.

“I have every reason to ask this question,” explained Rogov. “In his avowal Smirnov writes that he was seduced by Frolova who then confessed she was his daughter and began blackmailing him. Hence his wish to leave Russia.”

He pushed a button on his desk and took two pairs of handcuffs out of the drawer. A policeman and a policewoman appeared at the door.

Rogov came up to Timkin and put handcuffs on him. “Vladimir Timkin, you are accused of burglary and infliction of bodily injuries.”

Timkin smiled wryly without saying anything. A policeman escorted him to the door.

“So he’s the one who attacked me,” I surmised.

Rogov approached Frolova and put handcuffs on her. “Galina Frolova, you are accused of the murder of Nikolas Smirnov.”

Frolova ceased smiling, her features twisted. “He murdered my mother! He murdered my Mom!,” she cried as the policewoman took her away.

* * *

Galina Frolova was taken to court, certified and committed. When in a mental hospital she gave birth to a child. Since it had Down’s Syndrome it was taken to a specialized hospital. Frolova remained at the hospital.

Olga sold all her property and emigrated to Israel. At least in one respect the polygraph was not mistaken.

I continue my fruitful collaboration with Rogov. I have become famous and even get job offers from Moscow firms. I reject them: it won’t be easy to find another Rogov in Moscow. Rogov and I have become richer, but that doesn’t make me happy.

Sometimes, alone in my room, I remember Olga’s brown eyes. They nicely matched her blonde hair. And the lines of a Rammstein song come back ato me:

Sie will es und so ist es fein.
So war es und so wird es immer sein.
Sie will es und so ist es Brauch.
Was sie will, bekommt sie auch.

Copyright © 2011 by Viacheslav Yatsko

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