August 01, 2014

Enhanced Interrogation, Soviet Style

Enhanced Interrogation, Soviet Style

{Excerpt from Murder at the Dacha, by Alexei Bayer. Published by Russian Life books. All Rights Reserved}

I got there in time for the final act, which was exciting if you like that sort of things. No matter how familiar I was with the methods of my Moscow Region colleagues, it was too dramatic even for me.

Under a low ceiling, the room was dark and airless. Thick iron bars covered the windows. At one end there was a metal desk and several chairs. Captain Zapekaev sat behind the desk, wearing a grey police jacket and jodhpurs tucked into leather boots. He was smoking Kazbek cigarettes, squashing butts into a bronze inkstand decorated with a bust of Leo Tolstoy. An open police log lay in front of him.

At the edge of the desk sat a young, fair-haired cop. He kept the minutes, writing everything down in a lined notebook. His fountain pen was giving him trouble, making him stop every few minutes and, cursing, shake the ink onto the floor.

At the other end, next to the window, stood Sub-Lieutenant Rumin, one of Zapekaev’s subordinates.

All three were short and skinny. Their uniforms hung on them like potato sacks, making them look more like civilians.

The fourth man in the room was my friend from Sunday night, looking the worse for wear. His face was now covered with two days’ worth of stubble and a bandage was glued across the bridge of his nose, black with dried blood. He was a head taller than the tallest of his interrogators. His hands dangled in front of him, locked in a pair of shiny steel handcuffs. We too had got a shipment of such handcuffs recently, stamped Made in the German Democratic Republic.

“Am I interrupting anything?” I inquired politely as I pulled the door open.

“Here already,” said Captain Zapekaev gloomily. “You city guys move fast. God forbid you leave us alone and mind your own business. Always looking over our shoulders.”

I said nothing and positioned myself against the wall, behind the blond kid’s back.

“Let’s go on, my friends,” Zapekaev said.

The proceedings resumed.

“The night of September 10th,” Zapekaev read from the log. “Grand larceny at the general store of the collective farm Path to Communism. Where were you?”

Frezin’s face expressed disbelief.

“In Belgorod, where else. At my stepmother’s place.”

“Can she confirm it?”

Frezin nodded.

“No problem,” said Zapekaev, turning the page. “What about this one? September 12th, ten thirty at night. We’ve got the mugging of a pensioner on First of May Street in the village of Ramenki. According to the victim, the perpetrator had a knife. But it could have been a straight razor. It was dark, and the victim is half-blind.”

Frezin shrugged.

“I told you already,” he said in a flat voice. “I bought a third-class ticket to Moscow where a buddy of mine knew of a job opening. In Sepukhov, I got out to get something to eat and missed my train. I took a suburban train instead, without a ticket. What’s the punishment for that? Are you going to shoot me?”

“We might,” Zapekaev said.

He kept drawing on a cigarette. The blond copper didn’t smoke. He was too busy. He found the work of taking notes very hard. Sub-Lieutenant Rumin was also busy. He was staring down Frezin like a python hypnotizing a rabbit.

“Very well,” Zapekaev went on once his blond subordinate fixed his pen once again. “You’d better admit to something soon. Or else we’ll pick something for you at random. I can assure you you won’t like it.”

“Say, comrade police office,” Frezin replied, his eyes twinkling and making him look like an insolent juvenile delinquent. “Don’t you have somebody taking an unauthorized piss in a train car? I’ll take the fall for that.”

Rumin took two quick steps toward him but Zapekaev held him back.

“Wait, Rumin,” he said. “All in good time.”

Rumin restrained himself, halting a short distance from the prisoner.

“May I ask him a question?” I said.

Four pairs of eyes fixed at me in silence. My colleagues regarded me with hostility and Frezin had no reason to feel warm about me, either. After a long silence Zapekaev said, drawing out his words sarcastically.

“Go ahead, Comrade Senior Lieutenant.” Then he added softly: “Goddamn Sherlock Holmes.”

“What time was it when you got left behind in Serpukhov,” I asked, ignoring Zapekaev’s insult.

“I don’t remember,” Frezin replied cautiously.

“He was never in Serpukhov,” Zapekaev sneered, lighting another cigarette. “You think we didn’t check?”

“Great,” I said. “Then tell me everything you did that day. Start from the beginning.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you got up, what you had for breakfast, what time you caught the train for Moscow. Everything you can remember.

It was a simple question and I didn’t expect him to react that way. His face twisted suddenly in a rage, a real prison camp rage that had nothing attractive about it. He leaned forward, rolled his eyes so that his bloodshot whites showed and hissed in my face:

“You won’t hang this one on me, pig. Don’t even try.”

His violent outburst gave Rumin his chance. He took the last step toward Frezin and struck him in the face, aiming the edge of his hand at Frezin’s broken nose and lining it along the bandage.

Everything happened in an instant. Frezin gasped, suppressing a shout of pain. He spun around, lifting his handcuffed arms. The shiny East German handcuffs flashed through the air as he swung them at Rumin’s temple.

The blow was powerful and perfectly accurate. Rumin’s body flew to the left while his head jerked to the right on the thin stalk of its neck. He lost balance and fell. Frezin also fell, and, squirming on the floor like a huge black snake. got on top of poor Rumin.

Zapekaev was taken by surprise as he sat at his desk, smoking. The blond kid opened his mouth and stared. He was new on the force and had never seen suspects beating police officers, instead of the other way around. I reactly slowly, too, and by the time I joined the action, Frezin was sitting astride Rumin’s sagging body. 

This is the third and final free excerpt we are publishing from Murder at the Dacha. To read more you will need to get the full novel, in print or ebook form.

Read the first excerpt or the second.

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