Loser gets the Extra.

presents a detailed summary of:


by Mikhail Chernyonok

1. It is 21 August in Novosibirsk. Senior Inspector of criminal detectives Anton Biriukov arrives on the scene where a young woman either jumped or was pushed from a third-floor balcony. The victim, still alive, is rushed to a hospital.

A witness, an elderly woman named Ksenya Makarovna, says she saw the woman take the plunge, then caught a glimpse of a white-haired man close the balcony door.

The apartment in question belongs to Yuri Pavlovich Demensky, a 40-year-old engineer. According to Ksenya, Demensky returned from studying in Sverdlovsk two days ago, but couldn't get into his apartment because he had left the key with a friend, and he has been gone since then looking for the key.

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Ksenya also recognizes the victim as a woman named Sanya (Aleksandra), who showed up a day before Demensky's return, looking for him and claiming that she was his wife. Ksenya told Yuri of this woman's visit upon his return, but he said not a word and and he went off immediately to find his friend and his key.

Upon entering Demensky's apartment, the police find a vase full of gladiolas and an age-darkened icon of the crucifixion hanging on the wall. Three empty Extra vodka bottles are in the bathtub. In the kitchen stands an unfinished bottle of good Armenian cognac, two crystal glasses, and an ashtray full of lipstick-stained cigarette butts. On a wadded-up piece of paper on the floor is the beginning of a note to the city prosecutor from an A.F. Kholodva.

In the pocket of a pink dress is a telegram addressed to Demensky from the resort city of Adler, reading: "OBTAINED THE ORDER. MEET ME. REVAZ."

The police also find a letter from Sanya to Demensky, in which she says she was worried when he left, but relieved when he called. She also knows that he's "getting over it", and she informs Demensky that Revaz isn't bothering her. On the other side of the letter, in a different, masculine handwritting, is the stanza:

And I began to regret
That I loved and was loved
You're a bird of different flight
Where can we fly to together?

Under the poem, in Sanya's handwritting, is scribbled, "Damn the past! All of it! All!"

Behind the refrigerator the police discover a woman's robe with the buttons torn off as if by force. Two suitcases contain women's clothing and some sheets and blankets needing to be washed are also discovered.

There are many old books on Demensky's shelves, including a Bible published in 1910 and inscribed, "Property of Darya Sipeniatina".

Anton also finds art supplies, numerous sketches, and an unfinished oil portrait of Sanya.

Ksenya tells Anton that she saw Sanya earlier in the day at the train station talking with an elderly man in a railroad uniform. He seemed to be Georgian or Armenian--swarthy face, large nose, and hair white as snow. At the time, Sanya was carrying the suitcase which contained the laundry.

The police seal the apartment and leave instructions for Demensky to come to the station when he returns.

Anton runs a check on Demensky and finds that he is an electrical engineer who arrived three years ago from Cheliabinsk to work as a senior research engineer in new technology at the Siberian Electric Transport Machinery Company. His dossier says, "Not married. No children."

A.F. Kholodova is not registered in the city.

2. The next morning, Anton calls Demensky's place of employment. They give him a very positive reference. They say that he has just completed a correspondence course on automation and has been away in Sverdlovsk for a month defending his diploma project.

An old friend of Anton's--senior lieutenant Slava Golybyov on a regional police force--arrives. He's in town to get some experience in field work and has been assigned to assist Anton.

A meeting of the operative group begins. Prosecution Investigator Natalya Mikhailovna Makovkina reports that Sanya's condition is serious but that she is still alive. The medical examiner, Vitaly Karpenko notes that Sanya was slightly drunk at the time of the incident. There were no signs of a beating or rape. Also, it appears that she jumped off the balcony, landing first on her feet in the flowerbed, then falling on her face.

Forensics expert Arkady Ivanovich Dymokurov reports that fingerprints taken from the cognac bottle, one of the glasses, and the balcony door belong to someone with very scarred fingertips, as if someone were trying to change his fingerprints. There was also a different set of fingerprints on the doorbell and front doorknob of the apartment.

"The Life and
Works of
Nikolai Rubtsov

The verses written on the letter are from the poet Nikolai Rubtsov.

A box of matches found on Demensky's kitchen table came from a limited shipment which was availabe only at a store near Sukhaya Loga, on the other side of town.

Ksenya comes to the police station to confess that she didn't tell everything. Before Demensky departed for Svedlovsk, he gave Ksenya the key to his apartment and some money to pay the house plumber, Anatoly Nikolaevich Ovchinnikov, who was to do some repairs. Ksenya gave the key and money to Ovchinnikov who then sometimes used the apartment for illicit rendezvous with women. When Sanya showed up, Ksneya told her that Ovchinnikov had the key.

Anton runs a check on Ovchinnikov and learns that he was trained as a river boat pilot and vessel mechanic, but now he works as a fitter and plumber. They go looking for him, but he's on vacation and has been missing for three days. Neither his wife nor his mother know where to find him.

3. The fingerprints on the doorbell and doorknob of the apartment turn out to be those of Vasily Stepanovich Sipeniatin, an ex-con who recently did three years for forging icons and swindling lovers of antiquity. He has a long list of prior offenses as well, including break-ins, hold-ups, auto theft. Sipeniatin was released from prison six weeks ago with permission to live in the Toguchin region, where he got a job as a driver. However, two weeks ago, he went missing.

To learn more about this character, Anton goes to visit a retired investigator named Stepan Stepanovich Stukov. Beginning with genology, Stukov tells Anton that Sipeniatin's grandmother, Darya, ran a famous tavern in a seedy section of town back at the end of the 19th century. Her clients were mainly thieves, burglars, and murderers. Despite this, Darya was a religious woman. Ultimately, it was her faith with did her in because she was run over by a train on her way to church.

Sipeniatin's father died in the Great Patriotic War, and his mother, Marya Anisimova--a fine, upstanding citizen--is still alive.

While he was a youth, Sipeniatin fell under the sway of a petty thief, drunk, and fraudulent beggar known as the boatswain. This "boatswain", while drunk, had lost his legs in a trolley accident in 1939. But after the war, he put on a navy uniform and, pretending to be a wounded veteran, went begging on the street. To supplement his income, he taught young boys like Sipeniatin to steal.

Three years ago, Sipeniatin sold a supposedly antique icon at a bazaar. The buyer had it evaluated by experts, who declared it a forgery. Further investigation uncovered the inscription, "Property of Darya Sipeniatina" on the icon. So, naturally, Sipeniatin was arrested. Curiously and uncharacteristically, Sipeniatin confessed and took all the responsibility on himself, even though experts said the forgery was the work of a qualified artist. Stukov's theory is that Sipeniatin, knowning that he would get a light sentence, wanted to protect his partner for some future plan.

4. Demensky returns to town and comes to the police station. He says he's been off looking for Ovchinnikov and his key. A mutual friend, Alik Zarvantsev, an artist, suggested that Ovchinnikov might be fishing on the Ob Sea, but Demensky wasn't able to find him. Perhaps Ovchinnikov, who has a boat with an outboard motor, is headed for a fishing spot near Razdumie.

Anton shows Demensky a picture of Sanya and tells him what happened. Demensky identifies Sanya as Aleksandra Fedorovna Kholodova, his ex-wife. He divorced her back in 1973 in Novosibirsk when he caught her cheating on him with some pilot. He hasn't seen Sanya since the break-up. But on the day before the accident, he heard she was drinking in the Orbit restaurant with Ovchinnikov and Zarvantsev.

Ovchinnikov and Zarvantsev are old school friends. Ovchinnikov has asked Demensky to use his apartment for dates with his girlfriends, but Demensky has always refused. Zarvantsev is a talented artist and modest person, but he likes to hang out with celebrities.

Anton says that before her accident, Sanya smoked almost a whole pack of cigarettes. Demensky says that's unusual. When she's nervous, she might smoke one or two, but not so many. And Demensky knows nothing about the match box found in his apartment...he's been using a butane lighter for years.

Anton shows Sanya's letter to Demensky and asks about the "call" mentioned in it. Demensky says that after the break-up, he called Sanya to apologize for slapping her when he found out about her infidelity. He also identifies the "Revaz" as Revaz Davidovich Stepnadze, a pensioneer from Georgia who works occasionaly as a reserve conductor. He is a lover of books who used to order hard-to-get editions from Sanya, who worked in a bookstore. The "order" Revaz referred to in his telegram is some fresh fruit from the Caucauses that Demensky requested. However, since he has only just returned to town, this is the first time he's seen the telegram.

Demensky claims he arrived in Novosibirsk on August 21st. However, there is no record of his having flown out of Sverdlovsk on that date. Demensky says that's because he had gone to Cheliabinsk to see some friends and flew in from there.

After Demensky leaves, Anton confirms that Ovchennikov does indeed own a motorboat, but his license was recently suspended for drunk boating. The Soviet coast guard promises to track him down and arrest him if he is indeed on the Ob Sea.

5. Anton is informed that at the hospital a man tried to bribe a nurse to pass a bouquet of gladiolas to Sanya along with the note: "Get better and keep quiet. Greetings from your friends."

Anton goes to see Zarvantsev. He tells him what happened and asks him about his meeting with Ovchinnikov and Sanya at the restaurant. Zarvantsev says Ovchinnikov invited him for a few drinks. When he arrived, Ovchinnikov was already there with a woman he introduced as Sanya, Demensky's wife who's just flown in from Cheliabinsk. Ovchinnikov was bragging about his boat and kept pestering Sanya to come with him on the next day to the Ob Sea. Sanya, who drank only one shot of vodka the whole night, however, wasn't interested.

The next morning, Demensky came to Zarvantsev's, looking for Ovchinnikov. When he learned about the evening at the restaurant, Demensky grew very angry. He said that he was hoping to reconcile with Sanya, but not if she's up to her old tricks with Ovchinnikov.

As for the Darya Sipeniatina Bible, Zarvantsev bought that for Demensky for 150 rubles at the book market.

Ovchinnikov excelled at soccer and almost became a river boat pilot, but vodka interferred in both cases.

The doorbell rings and a very drunken woman staggers in. It is Lusya Priakhina, a hairdresser who sometimes works as a model for Zarvantsev. She says she was drinking cognac with Demensky, who promised to set her up as a designer at his factory. She then raves for a bit, accusing Zarvantsev of carousing with Sanya and killing her.

Lusya passes out. Zarvantsev explains that Lusya is in love with Ovchinnikov.

Anton asks if, at the Orbit, there was any conversation about Revaz. Zarvantsev emphatically says no, letting Anton know that Revaz is his uncle, but they have nothing in common and haven't seen each other for five years.

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6. Anton learns that Revaz has been working as a conductor on the Novosibirsk-Adler route. He returned the last time on August 21st, the day of Sanya's fall. The very next day he set out on another trip, even though he wasn't scheduled to--he probably switched shifts with someone else.

Golubyov gets a photo of Revaz and returns to Ksenya's apartment building to show it to her. She's not home. While Golubyov is waiting for her in the courtyard, Demensky, drunk, staggers up. He complains that the militia won't tell him which hospital Sanya is in. He also admits that when Anton showed him photos of various criminals, out of fear, he didn't identify one that he recognized--a fellow who sold him his icon of the crucifixion. In fact, Demensky still owes him a little money for it. Golubyov shows him the photos again, and Demensky points out Sipeniatin.

When Ksenya returns, she identifies the photo of Revaz as the man Sanya met at the train station. She also recognizes the photo of Sipeniatin, saying that he came looking for Demensky a couple times when Demensky was out of town. She adds that Sipeniatin's hair is different than in the photo--all white, almost like Revaz's.

Inquiries made of the Cheliabinsk militia reveal that Sanya was scheduled to leave on August 18th for a vacation to Aleksin, Tula Oblast, where her 7-year-old son lives with her parents. Instead, she flew to Novosibirsk, telling no one of her change of plans. On the morning of the 20th, Demensky showed up in Cheliabinsk, looking for Sanya. Her neighbors told him that she had gone to Aleksin.

Anton orders Golubyov to fly on ahead to Adler and meet Revaz when the train arrives there.

7. The coast guard apprehend Ovchinnikov and deposit him on a beach near the Ob Hydroelectric Station, where Anton goes to meet him. Before the questioning begins, Ovchinnikov demonstrates his soccer talent, knocking over a bottle with a ball kicked both with the right and left feet. Anton also does the trick, but only with his left foot.

Ovchinnikov says he first met Sanya on the 20th, when she knocked at his door. She introduced herself as Demensky's wife and asked for the key to his apartment. Ovchinnikov took her to the apartment and invited her out to the Orbit. It took a bit of convincing, but, eventually, she agreed. And it was Ovchinnikov who left the matches in the apartment. He remembers because he had to keep bumming a light at the Orbit. But Ovchinnikov denies any knowledge of the cognac. In fact, he's offended by the suggestion that he would waste money on cognac, which is three times more expensive than Extra vokda.

At the Orbit, Sanya had a black patent leather purse that held a "pile" of money.

After drinking at the Orbit, Ovchinnikov says, he escorted Sanya to Demensky's apartment and left. On his way home, a volunteer patrol picked him up and he spent the night in the drunk tank. The next morning, he claims he was moored in Razdumye. He says he has a girlfriend as beautiful as Aphrodite who can corrobate that. Her name is Forsya Zvonkova and she works at a grocery store near Sukhaya Loga.

When asked about Revaz, Ovchinnikov remembers the telegram for Demensky, which was delivered two days before Sanya's arrival. Ovchinnikov was working on the plumbing at the time and left it on the table. Although Revaz is an old man, he is hot for the ladies and he likes gladiolas, Ovchinnikov continues. As for Lusya...Ovchinnikov calls her crazy and says she has a juvinile record.

As an inspector, you must have a clean conscience and clean hands. But in order to find out, say, the contents of a criminal's suitcase, you may have to dig around in dirty laundry. Don't turn up your noses at someone else's dirt, because it's the dirt that leads people to crime.
8. To check up on Ovchinnikov's alibi, Anton goes to visit Frosya. She says that, yes, he was in Razdumye on the 21st and, after a moment's hesitation, says he also spent the night of the 20th with her. Anton calls the drunk tank, and they confirm that Ovchinnikov spent the night there. So, Frosya's lie is exposed. She admits that Ovchinnikov just called and told her what to say, but she, apparently, got it wrong.

Ovchinnikov used to date Frosya's older sister, Nina, who, much to Anton's surprise, is married to Revaz, a man 30 years her elder. But Nina was looking not for love, but for financial security, and Revaz, after working in the Far North as well as Siberia has acquired a good-sized nest egg. He's generous, Nina is greedy, says Frosya.

Frosya identifies a photo of Sipeniatin and says his mother used to live next door to them, but has moved. She knows about the icon-selling scheme. Sipeniatin had found a trunk full of his grandmother's old icons and was selling them off one-by-one. He even speculated in church books. And, once he was selling factory-sealed jars of caviar that were really filled with breakfast cereal.

Frosya says that while Ovchinnikov is a cad, he's not a criminal, and she's supposed to meet with him now. Anton requests that she report to him on anything Ovchinnikov tells her.

9. While looking over Ovchinnkov's work references, he suddenly realizes that the type on them is similar to the type on the note left for Sanya at the hospital. He hurries over to the building management office where Ovchinnikov's references were prepared. There is a bouquet of gladiolas on the windowsill and a female accountant working at an old Moskva typewritter. She confirms that she typed the references and also says that Ovchinnikov spent half the day in the office on the 21st waiting for a letter. When he got it, he happily left. Also, it was he who brought the gladiolas.

Forensics determines that the management office typewritter was in fact used to create the note sent to Sanya. Also, the note paper used is identical to the paper in the management office.

Dr. Shirokov, the physician attending Sanya, reports that he was approached by Sipentian who suggested that he stop treating Sanya because she had nothing to live for. Further, Sipentian threatened to kill Shirokov if Sanya lives. Shirokov says that Sipentian's hair is long and unnaturally white, as if treated with peroxide.

Shortly afterward, Shirokov received an anonymous phone call, seemingly made from a public phone in a railroad station. The caller told Shirokov to look in his mailbox. The doctor does so and finds a ticket to the Aurora Movie Theatre for tomorrow night.

"Yesenia" (1971). Story of a young girl born out of wedlock. To hide their shame, the family abandons her to gypsies. She grows into a free-spirited, proud, and wily young beauty who falls in love with the brave Osvaldo, an officer in the army of Juarez. Osvaldo is captured and disappears. Fate and an old gypsy man help Yesenia reuinte with her real family. Osvaldo escapes, and love prevails. Directed by Alfredo Crevenna.
While walking home, Anton sees an artist, Nikolai Ivanovich working on some sketches. On a hunch, he asks Nikolai about Zarvantsev. Nikolai says that Zarvantsev died as an artist five years ago. At the beginning, he showed much promise, but somewhere along the way he lost his nerve and how does only high-paying hackwork.

10. The next evening, Anton and other police are keeping watch on the Aurora Movie Theatre, where the film Yesenia is playing. Lusya shows up and, hiding around the corner of a cafe, spies on the crowd. As the first bell sounds. Ovchinnikov appears with Frosya on his arm. Dr. Shirovkov arrives. A gypsy woman, looking for an extra ticket, swoops down on Shirokov and buys his ticket.

Lusya runs off, and Anton follows her. She jumps into a light grey Volga (license plate 31-42 NSU), which roars off. Anton comandeers a taxi and pursues. The taxi get stopped at a red light and loses the Volga for a moment. The light changes, and the driver speeds up, maneuvering around a truck. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Lusya appears in the middle of the street right in front of the taxi. The driver slams on the brakes, and Lusya falls backward onto the pavement, where she lies motionless. There is a 10-ruble bill clutched in her hand.

Actually, the taxi never touched Lusya. She was drunk and fell on her own, knocking herself out when her head hit the pavement. Witnesses say that Lusya had gotten out of the Volga and was trying to flag passing cars and taxis when she leapt into the road.

A license-plate check shows that the Volga is registered to Revaz. A visit to his apartment reveals nothing, because no one's at home.

Golyubov, who is on Revaz's train, telegrams that Revaz got off the train in Rostov-on-Don and spent half the day walking around technical schools, taking an interest in the work of the admissions committees, then disappeared. The telegram had been sent at noon, making it quite possible that Revaz could have flown back to Novosibirsk and actually been driving the Volga.

The ticket sent to Dr. Shirokov was for a seat right next to Ovchinnikov and Frosya, but they exhibited no surprise at all when a gypsy appeared in the seat instead of the doctor--except for the fact that Frosya complained about the gypsy fidgeting and talking out loud the whole time. After the film, Frosya took a bus home, and Ovchinnikov took a taxi to midtown. Later, officers who are staking out Rezav's apartment, see Revaz's wife, Nina, arrive home with Ovchinnikov. The two of them go upstairs.

Where do these parasites come from? They're leeches, not people. They clamp on and suck your juices, growing fat until the militia put the squeeze on them. They can't stop on their own. Is it some disease with them? Like alcoholism?
Anton, checking into Revaz's past, learns that Revaz attended law school, but never graduated. In 1960 he was working as a representative for a Tashkent furniture factory, dealing with lumber firms. In 1962, some lumber workers were arrested for taking bribes from Revaz. Revaz proved, however, that the bribes were extorted from him and that he never profited from the dirty deals.

The hospital calls. Sanya is dead.

11. On the previous day, Golyubov met the train as it arrived in Adler. Revaz, looking like a successful businessman---polo shirt, slacks, black briefcase--gets in a taxi. Golyubov commandeers a Zhiguli driven by a fellow named Viktor Pashkov and follows. Revaz goes to a resort hotel and gives the superintendant on duty a collection of stories entitled God's Little Acre: Caldwell, Faulkner, MacDonald and Other American Writers. In exchange, Revaz gets a copy of Foreign Mysteries.

Revaz then goes strolling on the beach. He sits next to a woman and a schoolgirl, who is studying a textbook. He strikes up a conversation with them and, when told that the girl is applying to the Sukhumi Pedagogical Institute, Revaz says that he has a relative who's department head there. The mother, hoping for some "protection" for her daughter, immediately takes an interest. After a swim together, Revaz hands the woman his calling card and leaves. He spends the rest of the day visiting book stores, where he seems particularly friendly with all the female clerks.

Golyubov and Pashkov return to the train station for the return trip. Taras Tarasovich Yarko, a friend of Pashkov's, runs up. He and his wife, Dusya, are desperate to get tickets to Novosibirsk. Their son was rejected at the Siberian Construction Institute, and is now applying to NETI (the Novosibirsk Electrotechnical Institute), and they want to go help him. Golyubov uses his influence to get them tickets in the same compartment as him.

12. Once on the train, Revaz tells Dusya that his best friend is the dean of NETI. Dusya immediately runs to Taras and tells him she wants to give Revaz 500 rubles.

The next morning, when the train arrives in Rostov-on-Don, Revaz gets a telegram. He changes into his "businessman" suit and leaves the train. Golyubov follows him to Rostov University. There Revaz gets into a conversation with a young woman, makes a few notes, then hands her his calling card. He then goes to the Railroad Institute, where Golyubov loses him.

Golyubov decides to fly ahead to Millerovo and rejoin the train there. As he is waiting for his flight, he is unaware of the fact that at that precise moment, Revaz was on a TU-134 Aeroflot jetliner departing for Cheliabinsk and Novosibirsk.

13. The morning after the incident at the Aurora Movie Theatre, Anton reads the report from the agents who were following Ovchinnikov. He stayed with Nina, Revaz's wife, until three in the morning.

Looking over the traffic reports, Anton is startled to see that at almost precisely the moment of Lusya's accident, Revaz's Volga was stopped for speeding. The driver of the car was apparently Revaz himself and his driver's license was confiscated. Anton summons Little Kolya the volunteer inspector who stopped the Volga. He says the driver was a disginguished-looking older man in a railroad uniform. Anton shows him various photographs and Little Kolya hesitantly indentifes the driver as Revaz, but he's not completely certain.

An anonymous tip comes in that Sipeniatin is hiding out at his mother's place. Anton dispatches an inspector to check it out.

Demensky is brought in for another meeting with Anton. Still thinking that Sanya is alive, Demensky admits that he and Sanya had planned a reconciliation and that on his trip to Cheliabinsk he was really looking for Sanya. His "order" with Revaz wasn't for fruit, but for four skeins of blue-grey royal mohair that Sanya wanted.

Demensky says that whenever Sanya received a request for a book from Revaz, she grew nervous and fearful. He asked her about it, but she refused to say anything. Once, in anger, Demensky suggested that Revaz was the father of her son, Seryozha. This enraged Sanya and they never touched the subject again.

Further, Demensky is certain that there is no hanky-panky going on between Nina and Ovchinnikov. Nina wants a financially secure life and would never throw over Revaz for a kopeckless womanizer like Ovchinnikov.

14. Anton is summoned to the apartment of Mariya Anisimovna, Sipeniatin's mother. In a corner niche of the apartment, the militia inspector sent to look for Sipeniatin, found Sanya's black purse, containing four skeins of blue-grey mohair and her passport.

Mariya says that her son did in fact drop in last night, but didn't stay long. Later, about 11:00 pm, Frosya, her former neighbor, came by. Frosya said that Sipeniatin had phoned her, claiming that Mariya was sick and asked her to check up on his mother. A short time after that, there was a knock on the door. Frosya became frightened and hid behind a curtain. Mariya opened the door to reveal a man answering Revaz's description. He said he was looking for the Ptechkin family--a name Mariya never heard of. The man then politely asked for a glass of water, drank it, and left. Frosya spent the night and, in the morning, started rambling on about some woman who was thrown from a balcony and worried that the same thing could happen to her.

Speniatin is picked up coming off a communter train with 3,000 rubles in his pocket. When stopped by the militia, he tries to run.

15. Anton calls on Ovchinnkov, who is at home, painting a stool. He says that yesterday Zarvantsev asked to him come over and pose for some project. Lusya came, saying she had some tickets to Yesenia to sell. Zarvantsev bought two for Ovchinnikov. Ovchinnikov says he went to the movie with Frosya, then went home alone. Anton points out this lie, and Ovchinnikov admits that when he went to pick up Frosya, Nina was there, too. She said she was going to the opera and gave Ovchinnikov a brazen look. While Frosya was dressing, Ovchinnikov arranged to meet Nina after the opera. They went to Nina's place and started drinking cognac. But when Ovchinnkov tired to kiss Nina, she slapped him. After more drinking, he made another pass but Nina stopped him, saying she thinks Revaz is on his way in, so Ovchinnkov would have to sneak out.

As for his activity on the morning of the 21st, Ovchinnikov hung out at the management office because he wanted to intercept the letter from the drunk tank to his bosses.

Anton points out that Sanya received a note at the hospital that was typed on the typewritter in the management office. Ovchinnikov denies ever using the machine. But he remembers that some time ago Revaz spent a whole evening at the typewritter making calling cards for himself.

16. Frosya comes to Anton to report on her evening with Ovchinnikov. The only new detail she adds is that Nina was once attracted to Zarvantsev, but chose Revaz instead because he's wealthy.

Sipeniatin is then dragged in front of Anton for questioning. He denies any connection to the Sanya case. He says he went to Demensky's apartment to get the money Demensky owed him for the icon; he rang the bell, but no one answered. Sipeniatin says he got the icons and books he sold from his grandmother's effects. Anton points out that the icon was not inscribed with his grandmother's name, as were all her other icons and books. Sipeniatin then "remembers" that he got the icon from a religious old lady when he was working in Toguchin six weeks ago. However, six weeks ago, Sipeniatin was still in prison, so he "remembers" that a pal gave it to him. As for the 3,000 rubles Sipeniatin had on him, he says some Georgian fellow gave him to the money to pay a doctor not to treat some injured woman.

Anton then pulls out Sanya's purse. Sipeniatin says he remembers trying to steal that purse from some woman at the train station. Unfortunately, the woman saw him and screamed, so he dropped the purse and ran.

Sipeniatin denies ever calling Frosya and asking her to go over to his mother's place.

Forensics expert Dymokurov reports that, besides Sipeniatin's prints, Sanya's bag also bore the prints of the same scarred fingers as the ones left on the balcony door in Demensky's apartment.

17. Sanya's parents arrive in town. Her father, Feodor Fedorovich, tells Anton that Demensky plans to adopt Sanya's son, Seryozha. At age 26, Sanya was to marry, but on the day before the wedding, the groom got run over by a bus and killed. Seryozha was the result of that never-to-be wedding.

In 1970, when they all were living in Omsk, Sanya took over a bookstore, and on the first audit, there was a discrepency of 2,500 rubles. Revaz stepped in and gave Sanya the money to cover the shortfall. He gave her the option of repaying him in rare books or by marrying him. She chose the former option. By 1974 the debt had been repaid.

Anton's superior tells him that airport documents confirm that Revaz flew on to Omsk from Cheliabinsk, so he couldn't have been in Novosibirsk at the time of Lusya's accident. Lusya, who is being held at the hospital, claims that she was at the Aurora theater just to see who Ovchinnikov was fooling around with.

18. Later that day, the Adler-Novosibirsk train pulls into the station. Golyubov tells Anton that Revaz rejoined the train in Omsk, where, Revaz claimed, he was visiting his cousin.

Nina is at the station to meet Revaz. Revaz brings her a bouquet of gladiolas, gets into the Volga, and they drive off. Anton, a lieutenant, and Little Kolya follow. Suddenly, the Volga stops dead in its tracks. Anton and the lieutenant pull up alongside to see if they can "help". The Volga is out of gas. This shocks Nina, who says she just filled up two days ago. Anton suggests that teenagers probably broke into Revaz's garage and stole the gas. Revaz says his garage is secure, but Anton insists that they go check it out. The police give Revaz a little gas, then, without asking to be invited, Anton gets in the Volga with Revaz and Nina. On the drive, Revaz looks for his sunglasses in the glove compartment, but they're missing.

When they arrive at the garage, they find no signs of theft or forced entry. Anton notices that Revaz's fingertips are scarred and asks about them. Revaz says he accidently burned them with battery acid some time ago. Checking Revaz's driver's license, Anton sees that it is new, issued just last year. Anton gets Revaz to sign a statement, surreptitously collecting his fingerprints on the pen.
Leonid Brezhnev says:
"I play dominos.
You should, too."

Learn the:
History of Dominos
Then visit:
Domino Plaza
for rules, variants,
tournaments, and everything

Anton ambles over to some men nearby who are playing dominos. One of them is the elevator operator in Revaz's building. He says that last week he saw Nina driving off with some strange railroad man. He knew it wasn't Revaz because of his bearing and because the uniform was baggy on him.

19. As Anton drives away, he asks Little Kolya if Revaz as the railroad man he stopped near the Aurora Theatre. Little Kolya is 99% sure that it was someone else.

Anton drops by the airport to see if Revaz flew out to Omsk two days ago. The duty officer reports that a boarding pass for the flight to Omsk was make out to a Revaz Stepnadze, but then transferred to a journalist named Aleksandr Brazhnikov. Apparently Brazhnikov needed a ticket, and Revaz decided not to go. They both appeared at the counter to transfer the ticket. The ticket agent got suspicious because the photo in Revaz's passport didn't resemble him. Revaz then disappeared, leaving behind his passport. Anton looks at the passport photo...it's of Revaz from about ten years ago.

Anton calls Brazhnikov and gets a description of the fellow who sold him the ticket. Based on the description, Anton suspects Sipeniatin.

Back at headquarters, Golyubov tells Anton that the Yarkos' son was admitted to NETI yesterday, apparently with no help from Revaz. In fact, no one at NETI has ever heard of Revaz. Nevertheless, Dusya Yarko is convinced that Revaz was behind it all. When Dusya offered Revaz 500 rubles, he refused and merely handed her his calling card, telling her to have his son send him a case of American cognac when he graduates.

Forensics reports that Revaz's fingerprints were the ones on the cognac glass and balcony door at Demensky's apartment.

I'm an honest thief. I steal the way my ancestors stole. And now there are vipers that steal the modern way. They don't leave fingerprints and don't eye cheap ladies' purses, but like vacuum cleaners they suck up big money that wasn't earned through hard labor.
Anton questions Sipeniatin about the airplane ticket. He says he stole it when he picked the pocket or some stranger on the bus, then sold it to make some money.

20. Revaz is called in for questioning. He says that he met Sanya in 1970 when she was taking over a bookstore from his cousin in Omsk. He gave Sanya the money to cover the deficit because his cousin, as former manager, was also under suspicion. He denies, however, ever asking her to marry him.

He confirms that Demensky called him to order the mohair. Revaz was surprised when Sanya arrived to pick it up. He escorted Sanya to Demensky's apartment, where they shared some cognac. And, yes, Revaz gave Sanya the gladiolas as a gesture of friendship.

Revaz says that Demensky is really Seryozha's father, but doesn't want to admit paternity.

As for his fingerprints on the balcony door--Revaz says he opened the door because Sanya, seemingly nervous, was smoking so much.

When shown his passport that was left at the Novosibirsk airport, Revaz says it's his old passport which he lost--along with his driver's license--last spring.

Revaz shows Anton the telegram he received in Rostov-on-Don. It was supposedly from his wife, telling him that his cousin in Omsk was ill and that he should go there immediately. It was a hoax, however. The cousin wasn't sick, and Nina didn't send it.

When shown a picture of Sipeniatin, Revaz says he's never seen him before.

21. Anton tells Golyubov to trace the origin of Revaz's telegram and also to see if there's anything waiting at the post office for Revaz to pick up.

Nina unexpectedly appears at the station and shows bruises on her back, saying that Revaz beat her. She thinks he was responsible for the missing gas in the Volga and is trying to cook up something against her so he can divorce her and not have to share his assets with her. Further, she says that Sanya was Revaz's former mistress and that it's not from civic pride that Sanya sends him books.

22. Anton goes to Zarvantsev's apartment to interview him again. Zarvantsev says that Nina just called and told him that Revaz has been beating her.

Zarvantsev surprises Anton with the information that he, Zarvantsev, was also attending the opera the same night Nina was. He knew that Nina was there, but tried to avoid her.

Zarvantsev also claims that Revaz sometimes can't control his sexual impulses and that he probably tried to rape Sanya.

23. At the hospital, Lusya threatens to commit suicide unless she is discharged. After receiving a sedative, she calms doen and starts babbling about a railroad conductor who instructed her to deliver movie tickets to Dr. Shirokov and Ovchinninok. She was then spy on the movie crowd and see if the doctor showed up. When he learned that Shirokov didn't go into the theater, the conductor got scared and gave Lusya 10 rubles to buy her silence.

After telling this story, Lusya falls asleep. A half hour later, however, she is gone--apparently escaped.

Golyubov reports that the telegram Revaz received was sent from the Novosibirsk railroad station and that the original was typed on the same building management office typewritter as was the note to Sanya. Further, in the last two weeks, Revaz has received money transfers totalling 2,500 rubles from all over the country, including Sukhomi and Rostov. Anton and Golyubok assume the payments are bribes for Revaz's assistance in getting students admitted to various schools, even though there is still no evidence that Revaz knows anyone at these schools.
Be the envy of
Novosibirsk bibliophiles.
Read Shukshin's:

"Snowball Berry Red"
(detailed summary)

"I Want To Live"
(entire text)

24. The next day, Saturday, Anton goes to the park for the weekly book market. There, a titanic struggle is going on between bibliophiles attempting to exchange the two-volume set of Shukshin's works for Valentin Pikul's Word and Deed. Another intellectual is renting out his own translations of French mysteries. (25-ruble deposit, 20 rubles of which are refunded when the manuscript is returned).

Anton is able to learn that Revaz only visits the market during winter, and then he does no trading, but merely watches prices. One bibliophile suspects that Revaz is a COD-er, a book speculator who sends parcels COD (Cash on Deliver) to his buyers.

25. Anton attends Sanya's funeral, where Demensky keeps Seryozha close to his side. He also puts a ring on Sanya's finger before the coffin is closed.

Anton calls the office, and Golyubov says he found a notice in Zarvantsev's mailbox about a 20-ruble money order waiting to be picked up at the post office. The notice was in Zarvantsev's mailbox, but it is addressed to Revaz. Anton orders that Zarvantsev be located and hauled in for questioning.

Later, information comes in that the Yarkos visited Revaz. They were greeted warmly upon arrival, but seen off with curses shortly thereafter.

The forensics lab determines that the signatures on the receipts for the money orders addressed to Revaz are forgeries. It was not Revaz himself picking up the money...perhaps someone using his old passport.

Frosya calls from the Orbit restaurant. She's there with Ovchinnikov, who is holding two empty seats, expecting someone to join them.

26. With Makokina posing as his finacee, Anton arrives at the Orbit, hoping to keep Ovchinnikov under surveillance. Instead, Ovchinnikov immediately sees him and invites him to his table. Anton asks Ovchinnikov if he knows where Zarvantsev or Lusya are, but Ovchinnikov doesn't know.

Ovchinnikov mentions that about six months ago--approximately the same time that Sipeniatin got out of prison--Zarvantsev had asked for Ovchinnikov's help in securing a residence permit for a friend who just recently got out of jail. Ovchinnikov promised to help, but he never kept the promise. In another curious incident from the past, Zarvantsev once asked Ovchinnikov to make a key from a wax impression.

27. Lusya is found dead on the banks of the Ina River not far from Revaz's dacha. She was in her underwear. Her clothing and an empty bottle of Extra vodka were nearby. Perhaps she was drunk and drowned while swimming. Or perhaps someone held her under. Rain has washed away all evidence, except for the imprint of a man's sneaker found under the body.

The ten rubles were still in Lusya's jeans, which means someone else bought the vodka and brought her to the river.

Yarko calls the station, wanting to speak with Golyubov. He says when he went to see Revaz, he and his wife were greeted warmly. But when Dusya put the bribe money on the table, Revaz began shouting angrily and threatened them with jail.

At the post office, Golyubov discovers that in the past two months, 23 money orders for 20 rubles each were sent to Revaz--but at Zarvantsev's address.

In another part of town, Zarvantsev is apprehended, and soil samples taken from his car tires.

28. During questioning, Zarvantsev repeats the story that Lusya told the nurse in the hospital. Then he adds that Lusya told him she saw Revaz running out of Demensky's courtyard right after Sanya fell. He again says that Revaz can't control his sexual impulses and probably tried to rape Sanya.

When discussing the night at the opera, Zarvantsev can't remember the name of the lead singer.

Anton asks about the money orders sent to his address in Revaz's name. Zarvantsev says Revaz trades in books and sends the books out COD (Cash on Delivery). Revaz uses Zarvantsev's address because Nina disapproves of this sort of thing.

Anton notices that Zarvantsev's sneakers are about the same size as the footprint left under Lusya's body. Makovkina takes Zarvantsev to the lab to make a shoeprint.

Anton thinks that Zarvantsev is trying to get Revaz charged with rape because the statute doesn't call for the confiscation of the rapist's property--as does the statute for murder.

29. Anton calls in Sipeniatin and informs him of Lusya's death. He also says that Sipeniatin's associates are trying to make him a patsy. Returning to the subject of the forged icon, Anton asks who really did it. After some hesitation, Sipeniatin tells this story:
Learn how to
Forge an Icon
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
Icon Craft
Windows Into Heaven

Sipeniatin sold a couple of his grandmothers icons for 10 rubles each to Revaz. The next week, he sees Revaz in the market selling them for 100 rubles each. Sipeniatin demands an equal share of the profits or he'll denounce Revaz for speculation. Revaz agrees to the demands. Sipeniatin then tells Revaz that he has a bigger icon. Revaz takes the icon and some time later brings it back, all fixed up with gold and jewels. He tells Sipeniatin to try and sell it for 2,000 rubles. In the market, Sipeniatin gets a potential buyer, who is hesitating. Revaz, pretending to be some sort of expert, comes up and praises the icon, saying it is worth 3,000 rubles. So, the customer quickly buys the icon. When the forgery was exposed and Sipeniatin arrested, he threatened to expose Revaz, but Revaz promised to pay him 3,000 rubles after release if Sipeniatin took the rap, so Sipeniatin agreed.

But Sipeniatin maintains that he doesn't know who actually altered the icon. The forensics report comes in and Anton shares the results with Sipeniatin: It was Zarvantsev's shoe that left the imprint under Lusya's body. Dirt and grass taken from Zarvantsev's car shows that it was at the site of the murder. And a handwriting analysis shows that it was Zarvantsev who signed for the money orders at the main post office. Finally, Anton shows Sipeniatin a composite photo of Zarvantsev with sunglasses and a railroad uniform. The resemblance to Revaz is obvious.

Sipeniatin admits that Zarvantsev was the icon forger. When Sipeniatin got out of prison, Revaz was out of town, so he went to see Zarvantsev. Zarvantsev gave Sipeniatin the run-around, claiming that he didn't have any money. One day, Sipeniatin caught Zarvantsev and Nina making love. Sipeniatin was gleeful, knowing that this was perfect blackmail material. Zarvantsev made a proposal: he'll give Sipeniatin his car if Sipeniatin kills Revaz. Sipeniatin suggested that, instead of murder, they frame Revaz to be sent to prison. Zarvantsev rejected this idea because Revaz's property would be confiscated, leaving Nina kopeckless. So Sipeniatin offered the plan of framing Revaz for rape, because the crime does not result in confiscation of property. They called Lusya, who agreed to falsely accuse Revaz of rape.

They scheduled the fake-rape for 21 August, when Revaz was returning to town. At the train station, they saw Revaz talking to Sanya. Zarvantsev recalled that Sanya had a grudge against Revaz, so they decided to lure her into their plot instead of Lusya.

After Revaz left Demensky's, Zarvantsev went up to talk with Sanya. A short while later, Sipeniatin came in just as Sanya started running around shouting "Damn you all!" She ran out onto the balcony. Sipeniatin tried to catch her, but only managed to grab her robe as she leapt off.

Before beating it out of Demensky's apartment, Sipeniatin noticed Sanya's purse and the pile of money inside it. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity for some free cash, he stuffed the purse into Zarvantsev's briefcase.

Sipeniatin and Zarvantsev feared that Sanya would finger them to the police if she survived, so they attempted to intimidate Dr. Shirokov, but he wouldn't scare. Still wanting as much cash as possible, Sipeniatin lied to Zarvantsev, saying the doctor had agreed to a bribe, which was to be paid at the Aurora Theatre. Lusya was supposed to make sure that the doctor got the bribe from Sipeniatin. And it was, of course, it was Zarvantsev in his Revaz disguise who drove Lusya away from the theatre in Revaz's Volga.

Also, as part of the plan, Sipeniatin was supposed to follow Revaz to Omsk and murder him there. But Sipeniatin realized that if he did this, Zarvantsev would have far too much over him, so he sold his ticket and didn't make the flight.

And it was Zarvantsev who killed Lusya because she knew too much.

30. Revaz is brought in to see Anton. He says he's never met Sipeniatin and knows nothing about the icon forging. As for the money orders, Revaz confirms Zarvantsev's story that he's been dealing in books behind Nina's back. Anton suggests that some of the payments--including one for 500 rubles from Sukhomi--are bribes for getting people into schools, in this case the girl from the beach in Adler who wanted to attend the Sukhomi Pedogogical Institute. Revaz dismisses this as fantasy.

Anton shows the receipts for money orders which Zarvantsev signed in Revaz's name. Revaz, looking confused, says he never received such payments. Anton produces the handwriting analysis which proves that Zarvantsev was forging Revaz's name and accepting the payments. Muttering, Revaz calls Zarvantsev a scoundrel.

Anton then plays the recordings of Zarvantsev's and Sipeniatin's statements, including the parts about the plot against Revaz. Revaz becomes grim. He finally admits that the usual payments of 500 rubles were from parents hoping to get their kids in various schools. But he's not guilty of taking bribes, Revaz says. He's merely a swindler. After all, he only promised to help the parents, but never actually did anything. He only pretended to know members of the various admissions committees. When the kids were accepted based solely on their merit, the foolish parents thought that it was through Revaz's mediation and sent him the money. There are thousands of such fools, Revaz says.

Zarvantsev used to help Revaz find suckers, but obviously, in recent weeks, he's been beating Revaz to the post office and claiming the money first.

Revaz's only consolation is that now his property will be confiscated, leaving the conniving Nina with nothing.

As for Sanya, Revaz, not wanting her to quit her job in the bookstore in Cheliabinsk, lied to her, saying that Demensky had another lover. This made her quite nervous and was why she smoked so much that day. But Revaz never touched her.

I had to place a major bet, since it's a waste of time to hope for major returns on small stakes.
Anton asks why Revaz took up this life of crime. Revaz says that when he was working up north and making big money, he got used to the good life and wanted to continue it. So he placed a major bet, knowing that it's useless to hope for big returns when small stakes are involved. Anton asks, "Doesn't it seem to you that in betting on book speculation and fraud you were placing a losing bet?" In response, Revaz quotes Jack London: "Life is a game that no one wins.

The next Sunday, Anton appears on television during the intermission before the Vremya news show. He asks that anyone who was at the opera last Tuesday near seat 21 in row 30 call the militia. In response, five callers confirm that Zarvantsev's seat was vacant for the entire performance. An hour later, Zarvantsev is arrested.

31. Cowardly, weak-willed Zarvantsev tries to mitigate his sentence by a complete confession. The school-admissions racket was a seasonal business. Book speculation was a year-round afair. For over four years Sanya had been sending Revaz books. On those books alone he made about 20,000 rubles. In addition, he has booksellers in Adler, Rostov, Omsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk sending him copies of every hard-to-get edition.

As for the school racket, about half of the parents they touched sent payments. Last year, Revaz got 59 payments of approximately 500 rubles each.

Stuttering, Zarvantsev confirms Sipeniatin's account of what happened with Sanya. When he was talking with her, she became distraught and started to write a note to the prosecutor in which she intended to reveal all her dealings with Revaz plus the disgusting scheme proposed by Zarvantsev. Zarvantsev had tried to snatch the note away from her, and that's when Sipeniatin entered and Sanya ran out to the balcony.

Later, Zarvantsev suspected that Sipeniatin was about to turn him in, so he planted Sanya's purse at Sipeniatin's mother's apartment in an attempt to implicate Sipeniatin first.

He confesses to killing Lusya. He got her drunk and bet her she couldn't swim across the river. She tripped and he held her down in the water. She didn't really struggle.

Some more money orders for Revaz and company trickle in for a few days, but it it is their last, dying gasp.


Biography of Mikhail Chernyonok

Chernyonok, Mikhkail Yakovlevich. Destined to become the "Siberian Simeon", one of the leading writers of detective fiction in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Chernyonok was born in 1931 in Siberia. He studied at and graduated from the Novosibirsk River Transport Technicum, after which he worked on ships up and down the Ob River for nearly . . . .(...Continued...)

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