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Authors: William Ryan

Tags: #Mystery, #Historical, #Thriller

The Twelfth Department

BOOK: The Twelfth Department


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For Charlie



Doctor Irina Azarova
—Professor Azarov’s wife

Isaac Babel
—famous author and also Korolev’s neighbor

Sergeant Belinsky
—Militiaman in charge of the investigating uniforms (uniformed police) at Leadership House

—State Security operative working for the NKVD’s Twelfth Department

Doctor Zinaida Chestnova
—pathologist and friend of Korolev’s

Count Kolya
—leader of the Moscow Thieves

—in charge of the removals at the Azarov Institute

The Deacon
—one of Count Kolya’s men

—a lieutenant with the NKVD

Nikolai Ezhov
—General Commissar of State Security and head of the NKVD

Monsieur Hubert
—a representative of the French embassy in Moscow

Captain Alexei Korolev
—a detective with the Moscow Criminal Investigation Division

Yuri Korolev
—Captain Korolev’s son

—Militiaman assisting Korolev

Valentina Nikolayevna Koltsova
—Korolev’s friend and neighbor

Natasha Koltsova
—Valentina Koltsova’s daughter

—forensics specialist for Moscow CID

—maid to Dr. Shtange

Maria Lobkovskaya
—Korolev’s elderly downstairs neighbor

Galina Matkina
—maid to Professor Azarov

—resident of Leadership House

—Count Kolya’s right-hand man

Pavel Morozov
—responsible for the car pool at Militia headquarters and a friend of Korolev’s

Petya the Persuader
—an informant

First Inspector Popov
—Korolev’s boss

—original doorman at Leadership House

Colonel Rodinov
—a senior NKVD officer

Semyon Shabalin
—a bank robber and gangster

Dr. Arkady Shtange
—deputy director of the Azarov Institute

Anna Shtange
—Dr. Shtange’s wife

—maid to Babel and a friend to Korolev

Nadezhda Slivka
—a junior detective with the Odessa CID

—director of the Vitsin Street Orphanage

—State Security operative working for the NKVD’s Twelfth Department

—also known as “Little Barrel,” attendant at the Vitsin Street Orphanage

—replacement doorman at Leadership House

—forensics specialist for Moscow CID

—Valentina’s friend and a worker at Moscow Zoo

Doctor Weiss
—neighbor and colleague of Professor Azarov

Captain Dmitry Yasimov
—Korolev’s fellow detective with Moscow CID

Colonel Zaitsev
—head of the NKVD’s Twelfth Department



Title Page

Copyright Notice




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Historical Note


Books by William Ryan




Patriarch’s Ponds was one of Korolev’s favorite corners of Moscow—a small park with a square-shaped lake around which, especially on a hot summer’s day like this, white-shirted men and their befrocked womenfolk strolled with slow steps. At the southern end a white colonnaded pavilion stood where, for a reasonable price, a citizen could sip a glass of tea and sit and watch the ducks. Alternatively, in the eastern corner of the park, there stood a wooden kiosk where beer and kvass could be purchased and, if you knew how to ask for them, stronger beverages as well. If they’d had time to spare and a less pressing matter to attend to, Korolev thought to himself, a sip of vodka mightn’t have been such a bad idea. But not today and not now. Not with a certain gangster he’d been after for six months about to walk into a trap of Korolev’s making.

Anyway, he decided, he’d need all his wits about him. Semyon Shabalin was as slippery as an eel dipped in oil, and clever with it. Korolev and his comrades had managed to catch up with most of his Gray Fox gang and put them where they belonged—but Shabalin had wriggled free each time they’d thought they had him, even when escape had seemed an impossibility. And while most of Moscow’s underworld had certain standards—which, it had to be said, they often seemed to forget about—the Gray Foxes had none. With each robbery they’d committed, they’d set new standards in brutality and viciousness—so that now even the Thieves, the organized clans that ran crime in Moscow, were shaking their heads in disapproval. Whatever else happened today, Korolev was determined Shabalin wasn’t leaving this park a free man.

Korolev walked outside the park’s railings while Petya the Persuader, their informant, followed the tree-covered path that ran alongside the sky-reflecting blue water. Slivka was a few paces behind Petya, wearing a pretty white dress, her short blond hair looking almost golden in the dappled sunlight. Her lips might be a little thin and her expression grave, but she was a good-looking woman and he watched men’s heads turn one after the other to follow her procession through the park. He wondered if they’d be so keen if they knew the hand nonchalantly resting inside her open purse was wrapped around the butt of a service-issue revolver.

Korolev glanced at his watch. If Petya was to be believed, Shabalin would meet him on the fourth bench to the left of the pavilion—in just a few minutes’ time. He adjusted the ticket machine he had slung over his shoulder—part of his disguise as a tram conductor on a break—and found himself, to his surprise, wishing there was a sandwich in the tin lunchbox he was carrying—as opposed to his Walther.

Korolev kept his eyes moving—examining each of the pedestrians who passed him, watching for anyone or anything that seemed out of place. If things went as he hoped, there’d be a small scuffle and Shabalin would be in the bag. If things didn’t go to plan? Well, if he had to shoot Shabalin’s legs from him, then so be it.

Korolev took a seat beside an elderly lady ten meters from the bench Petya now occupied. Slivka found herself a spot a little farther along the path on Petya’s other side and, two minutes later, a familiar-looking balloon seller began hawking his wares in their general vicinity. From where Korolev was sitting, Yasimov’s disguise looked less than convincing—it seemed one end of the detective’s mustache was slightly higher than the other. But it was too late to do anything about it now.

Korolev sighed, took his newspaper from the pocket of his coat and opened it, scanning his surroundings one more time as he did so. All was peaceful—a toy sailing boat moved slowly across the water, leaving a v-shaped wake behind it, the only disturbance on the pond’s surface. It was a sweltering afternoon and the heat seemed to be pressing down on everything—making even the noises of the city that surrounded them seem distant. He found himself yawning as he opened the latch on the lunchbox so that his Walther would be easily accessible. It wasn’t much good having a gun if you couldn’t get to it quickly. The toy yacht moved onward and Korolev had no idea where it was picking up a breeze from. He could feel nothing—just the remorseless weight of the heat. It occurred to him that if he couldn’t have a sandwich, then an ice cream would be just the thing on a day like this.

He yawned again. He could feel his eyes growing heavy and put a hand to his ear to twist it—hard. The pain woke him up a little—just as a gaggle of
came ambling into the park and caught his attention. Most of the street children were barefoot and wearing nothing but short trousers, their shirts tucked into belts or slung over their bare shoulders—skin dark as oiled wood from the long summer. They walked with chests out and shoulders back and it seemed that if they didn’t own the place, then no one had told them.

Korolev didn’t like the look of them—the thing was, they looked in the mood for wickedness, staring impudently into the faces of the citizens they passed and sharing jokes among themselves that seemed to have more than a hint of malice about them. They were out for trouble, no doubt about it. And, in a moment of complete clarity, Korolev realized that the target they’d choose for their mischief would inevitably be the odd-looking balloon seller with the unbalanced mustache.

“Twenty kopecks for a big red balloon,” Yasimov called out and his voice sounded like the sad bleat of a lambless sheep. The
turned as one, like hounds catching a scent. And, without anyone needing to say a word, they fanned out around the unhappy detective.

“Twenty kopecks? Twenty? For a balloon that you filled with your own gas?”

This from the leader—a ratty-looking rascal and one Korolev didn’t doubt would be a long-standing future acquaintance of the Moscow Militia.

“Get lost, puppy, or you’ll feel the toe of my boot,” Yasimov said, whipping around as another of the youngsters pulled at the striped sailor’s shirt he’d thought, for some unknown reason, would make him look the part.

“Two for ten would be more like it, damned speculator.”

A stunted, dark-haired boy, this one, with a prematurely lined forehead and a nose that had been bent sideways somewhere along the way. A cigarette jutted out of the corner of his mouth and the runt blew a cloud of smoke up into Yasimov’s indignant face to make his point.

“I’d say he’s more than a speculator, Comrades,” their leader drawled. “I’d say he’s an enemy. He’s got that look about him.”

“Get out of here, fleas, or you’ll regret waking up this morning.”

That was when the first balloon popped—the runt stabbing it with a glowing cigarette end. And simultaneously, as if the balloon had been a signal, from farther down the pathway came a rapid series of explosions not unlike machine-gun fire, as a separate group of children let off a belt of firecrackers.

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