Chapter 2 – Death Tub
When Igor came to, the water was still running in the bathtub. He sat up gingerly and placed his hand to his head. Suddenly, he remembered that Mr. Romanov was still in the tub.
He scooted over to the side of the tub and shut off the faucet with his left hand as he pulled Mr. Romanov’s head out from under the water with the other. Then he hit the lever to open the drain and let the water out.
Igor stood up carefully, still holding the old man’s head out of the water. He pulled Mr. Romanov to the edge of the tub and slid his body down onto the floor.
The old man’s face was blue, and he wasn’t breathing. Igor checked for a pulse but didn’t feel anything. He placed his hands over the man’s chest and pressed down several times to pump the water out of his lungs.
The liquid streamed out of his mouth and nostrils each time Igor pressed down. After clearing out the majority of the water in his lungs, Igor tried breathing air into his body. But his attempts to reanimate old Mr. Romanov were futile.
He had seen it in American movies, but he couldn’t remember what to dial. Not that his cell phone was even working here. Igor hadn’t had coverage since arriving and hadn’t yet had time to buy a chip that worked.
Suddenly, Igor realized how it would look if someone came in and saw him standing over Mr. Romanov’s dead body. There was no way he could cover this up to make himself look innocent.
Igor’s fingerprints were everywhere. His blood was even on the floor where he had bashed his head. Igor tried to think of what to do. He realized that he was panicking. That wouldn’t do him any good. He took a moment to focus on his breathing. To take several long deep breaths.
He stood to his feet. Trembling as the shock began to wear off. It took him a few seconds to compose himself.
“Where were Max and Vladimir anyway?” Igor thought as he raced down the hall. “They should have been here protecting the old man. Had they betrayed him? Or worse, had they been killed?”
When he reached the end of the hall, Igor turned the corner and burst through the doors at the top of the stairs.
“Help! Somebody call the ambulance!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.
The sound of his voice didn’t carry very far in the din with so many people talking loudly to be heard over each other and the live music coming from the band.
Igor spotted Alexandra at the far end of the hall. He raced down the stairs in her direction. As he passed the first group of people, he shouted for them to call an ambulance.
They simply looked at him like he was out of his mind. He continued yelling the same thing to each group of people he passed. By the time he reached Alexandra, most of the crowd had quieted down although the band was still playing in the background.
By the time he reached her, Igor was panting and out of breath. Alexandra cringed and backed away when she saw him. He realized that he must look like a sordid mess from slipping in the puddle of water. But that couldn’t be helped now.
“What is it, Igor?” She asked coolly.
“Your Father. Call the ambulance.” Igor managed to pant breathlessly.
“What about him?” Alexandra asked as if she didn’t understand what he was trying to say.
Igor didn’t want to tell her that her father was dead yet. He tried to think of an easy way to break the news. To prepare her for it. Soften the blow. But nothing came to mind. So, he continued to breathe deeply.
“I found him in the bathtub. Unconscious.”
“Well, where is Max?” she asked as if her father often passed out.
“I don’t know,” he panted. “There is no easy way to say this. But a man was holding his head under the water.”
The expression that flickered across her face was a mixture of emotions. Igor couldn’t quite read what all she was feeling. But she seemed to realize that Igor was serious.
“Call 911,” she shouted as she pushed her way through the group that had gathered around them.
Igor watched as she finally broke free from the crowd and gathered up her gown to race for the stairs. He followed along behind her a bit more slowly as his head was still throbbing from his fall.
A few people followed him, but most stayed behind to continue partying. Igor ordered them to stay outside the bedroom and direct the paramedics when they arrived.
Alexandra was on the floor beside her father when he entered the bathroom. He stood uncomfortably behind her and cleared his throat.
“Call off the ambulance. It’s too late,” she said. “He’s already dead.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” Igor replied. “I tried my best to revive him. I performed CPR on him, but by time I pulled him out, he was already gone. I’m sorry.”
Alexandra stood up and turned to leave. She paused and waited for him to step away from the door.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I don’t want to destroy any more evidence. Clear everyone out of here until the police arrive.”
Her coldness took him back for an instant. It made sense that she would be accustomed to death and dying. But still, her own father was lying on the floor dead. Drowned to death in his own bathtub. Igor would have thought that she would be more emotional about it.
He wanted to hug her and try to comfort her. To tell her that it was okay to cry. Igor reached out a hand awkwardly toward her shoulder, but she pushed on past him through the door.
Alexandra took a few steps into the bedroom. Igor followed her quietly. Before they reached the door to the bedroom though, she stopped and turned back toward him.
“You are free to go home. I will break the news to the guests and send them home.”
“It’s best to wait for the police to arrive. The killer may still be around. Perhaps they can still catch him. And he may yet make an attempt on your life. You must be careful.”
Igor sensed a flicker of fear in her eyes. Just then, Max and Vladimir came racing into the room. Both glaring angrily at Igor. Vladimir stopped beside Alexandra and reached out to hug her.
Max raced on past them into the bathroom. Igor heard him moan when he reached the door and looked in on Mr. Romanov. He stormed back out and shoved his finger into Igor’s chest, demanding to know what had happened.
“He asked me to meet him here at 9:30 to resolve something. I came early because he hadn’t shown up at the party. The real question is, why weren’t you two doing your job?”
Max growled and glowered. He glanced over at Vladimir.
“Vladimir told me there was a ruckus going on out front and sent me to check it out.”
Vladimir shook his head vehemently and denied it.
“I never said that. I heard Mr. Romanov’s voice on the com asking me to get his briefcase out of his car. But when I got there, it wouldn’t open. I thought you were still here watching over him.”
Both of them continued to glower at Igor as if they suspected that he had set them up. Before they could say anything, though, two police officers entered the room, and the paramedics followed close behind.
Everything was a blur after that in Igor’s mind. He watched the cops closely because he felt like he was in a real American movie as they questioned everyone, including him. He told them what he could about the person he had seen standing over Mr. Romanov.
After the crime scene had been secured and protected from the gawking party guests, more police officers and detectives arrived to initiate the preliminary survey and evaluate the physical evidence.
They tried to remove him along with Alexandra and the others after questioning him. But he flashed his Russian Military Police badge and refused to budge. They didn’t seem to be happy about him being there, but he refused to leave. He just smiled politely and rattled off random phrases in Russian.
Igor stayed most of the night. Watching from the sidelines. Observing the police as they evaluated the physical evidence and prepared a narrative for what had happened. He watched as they captured the scene photographically and then created the crime scene sketch.
Things seemed to be winding down by around 3:15 a.m. So, Igor stepped outside to get some fresh air. Everything was quiet, and the guests had all been allowed to go. Max was out front though. He scowled at Igor and came over immediately.
Igor answered his questions calmly. Max seemed extremely agitated when Igor described the masked man in the bathroom that had been holding Mr. Romanov under the water.
“The Rusalka!” Max swore under his breath and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
He offered one to Igor who declined with a scoff. “A Slavic Mermaid?”
“Just a theory I have. Did you know the old man’s been having a lot of health issues lately? Passing out. Losing his mind at times.”
Igor shook his head, “No, I didn’t.”
“He’s been in out of the hospital almost every week. Anyway, he goes on these rants about the Rusalka. Claims that they’ve been trying to kill him.”
Igor shrugged. “So, someone knew about it and figured drowning him in a tub would be the way to get away with it.”
Max scoffed, “Like the police would actually consider the Rusalka an actual suspect.”
“Wait, you’re not telling me that you actually believe the Rusalka exist, much less killed your boss,” Igor asked.
Max just shrugged and took another drag on his cigarette.
“How’s Alexandra holding up?” Igor finally asked when Max finished grilling him for the second time.
“As well as can be expected under the circumstances. Last I saw she was in the kitchen drinking coffee with vodka and calling relatives to break the news.”
Igor turned to leave. Max reached out a hand to stop him.
“Watch out for Vladimir. He has never lost a client on his watch, and he seems to suspect it was you. If he truly believes it, he will stop at nothing to avenge the old man’s death and his own honor.”
Igor frowned. “He’s more of a suspect than I am. He is the one who left Mr. Romanov unattended.”
Max shrugged again. “Just a friendly word of caution to make sure you convince us of your innocence as soon as possible.”
The two men stared at each other for a long moment. Igor trying to read Max’s expression in the shadowy glow of the cigarette outlining the burly man’s crooked nose.
A chill ran down Igor’s spine at the threatening words.
“I’m going to check on Alexandra,” Igor stated firmly, refusing to let the burly bodyguard intimidate him.
Igor could feel Max’s eyes boring into him as he entered the house. He walked back to the kitchen and waved to Alexandra. She seemed bleary-eyed but coherent.
He walked over and stood silently before her. Unsure of what to say. “How are you doing?” seemed to be the rhetorical question of choice, but at the same time seemed inappropriate.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get there earlier. In time,” he muttered.
Alexandra waved her hand in front of her face as if to brush off his guilt and motioned for him to sit down.
“He’s been going on about someone trying to kill him, but we all thought he was going crazy. It’s not your fault. We should have been more careful.”
Igor didn’t say anything. He just nodded and watched her eyes and the expressions on her face. She still seemed so cold about the whole thing.
Alexandra finally looked back up at him.
“Could you do me a favor, Igor? Help me get to the bottom of this. Figure out who did it and why.”
He frowned briefly before he realized what he was doing and could recover. That was the last thing he expected to hear coming out of her mouth.
Igor had been the last person with her father, a stranger in the house, and the most likely suspect in her mind. Unless Alexandra was like her father and wanted tokeep her enemies close until she could assess their motives to deal with them appropriately.
“I don’t believe it was you, Igor,” Alexandra said as if reading his thoughts. “I don’t know who did this, but you are not on my list of suspects. You refused my offer to leave before the police got here. Actually, as crazy as it sounds, you’re the only person I feel I can trust. I know you and Father had your differences, but he always said you were an honorable man. And I’m willing to pay you whatever you ask. Money will not be an issue.”
That was a surprise to hear. He seemed to sense the first crack in her emotional armor. Igor reached out his hand and placed it on her arm.
“I will do my best to help you resolve this, Alexandra. But you do not need to pay me. Your father is an old friend of the family. And I know he did many favors for my father over the years.”
“I know you will. Your background and skills will be the key to resolving this matter. If you help me resolve his murder and bring the killer to justice, I will find a way to repay you even if you don’t accept money. Father has friends in high places who can help you obtain your immigration papers and friends in the police force who can help you get your dream job of eating donuts while walking a beat.”
Igor smiled wanly realizing that she really had been paying attention earlier when he spoke with Denis and the group. He stood up and excused himself to get some sleep.
He smiled giddily at the thought of actually coming to live in America as he walked to his bedroom. The faint light of dawn outlined his window enough that he didn’t bother to turn on the lights after stepping into his room.
But Igor’s happiness was short-lived because as soon as he stepped through the door, someone attacked him in the shadowy darkness.
Continue Reading Chapter 3 – Dark Mess >>>