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Александра Маринина
The Stylist

The Stylist
Александра Маринина

Inspector Anastasia Kamenskaya of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department in a series of psychological mysteries by ALEXANDRA MARININA.

[ul]Concurrence of Circumstances [i]1993[/i]

Away Game 1993

Stolen Dream 1994

Unwilling Killer 1995

Death for Death’s Sake 1995

Sixes Die First 1995

Death and a Little Love 1995

Black List 1995

Posthumous Image 1995

You Have To Pay For Everything 1995

A Stranger’s Mask 1996

Don’t Disturb the Executioner 1996

The Stylist [i]1996[/i]

Illusion of Sin 1996

The Radiant Face of Death 1996

Name of Victim – Nobody 1996

Men’s Games 1997

I Died Yesterday 1997

Requiem 1998

The Ghost of Music 1998[/ul][b][/b]

Translated by Antonina W. Bouis All characters and events described in this book are fictional and any resemblance to actual people and events is purely coincidental.

Alexandra Marinina

The Stylist

Chapter 1

In recent months he had stopped liking the night. He was afraid of it. At night, he was more acutely aware of his helplessness and vulnerability. In the ensuing silence every sound, even the most innocent, was a harbinger of an invisible but inexorable danger. He chased the thoughts away, but they kept returning and there was no avoiding them.

But really, what was there to fear? He had nothing of value in the house, just some cash for expenses. He put his fees in the bank the day he received them, withdrawing the dividends every ten days. And that’s what he lived on. How much did he need, a legless invalid? And what did anyone need with him? What was there to fear?

He did not know the answer. But he was still afraid. Every night. And he cursed the day that Nature endowed him with good hearing. Not supernatural hearing, just good. Normal. There were so many people in the world who started losing their hearing through illness or trauma! Why wasn’t he one of them? If his hearing were slightly impaired, he would sleep soundly at night. No sounds would disturb him. But no, his legs couldn’t walk, his kidneys were failing, even his vision was worse, but his hearing was like a newborn’s. Fate was laughing at him.

He turned onto his other side, settling comfortably in the soft, cozy bed. His birthday was next week. Forty-three. Was that a lot? A little? Who knew… What would he be bringing to the annual passage?

He was well-to-do. Without a doubt. A two-story brick seemed to be a nice guy, maybe they should become closer friends and neighbors.

Tomorrow, he would tell Andrei, his new assistant, to be prepared for guests in case any should show up. He should get good drinks and drive over to the Praga Restaurant to pick up hors-d’oeuvres. He should buy a lot of things that would not spoil if no one ate them right away. If guests didn’t show up, who cared? The time in the wheelchair had strongly changed Solovyov’s perception of life. He couldn’t blame people for avoiding a cripple. You can’t expect them to come visit – there was no metro stop nearby, no bus lines, so only people with cars could visit him. And the trip took time.

Lord, why was he so scared at night?

* * *

The young men were still disappearing. Since September of last year – nine boys aged fourteen to seventeen. Naturally, they weren’t the only ones disappearing. There were many more reports from parents that their sons “had left and not returned”. But these nine were special. What set them apart from all the rest was that they had been found. Dead. And one more thing: all nine boys were amazingly similar – olive-skinned, dark-haired, Semitic-looking, with big dark eyes. Like brothers. And the cause of death was always the same – drug overdose. According to the autopsies, the rectums showed that the boys were active homosexuals. There was nothing unusual about a teenager abusing drugs and dying of an overdose. That happened all the time. And the fact that drugs and homosexual contacts were both present was also common. But the way they resembled one another was not.

Then a thin thread appeared, a tiny, tenuous one, and it wasn’t at all clear that it came from the same ball of wool. On one of the avenues connecting midtown Moscow with the southern suburbs, a highway patrolman tried to stop a light blue Volga for speeding. The driver did not pull over and the sergeant radioed the next highway patrol post. However, the car did not go past.

The sergeant, who read all the wanted bulletins closely and dreamed of a career as a great detective, had noticed that a dark-haired teenager was in the passenger seat. He thought about it a bit and then reported the fact to Petrovka, Moscow’s central police headquarters. When they learned that the light blue Volga never went past the second patrol point, they began searching the area. They found the car rather quickly – it was parked, sad and alone, while its owner was knocking on doors at the precinct of the North-West District asking them to find his car, which had been stolen that afternoon. The closest residential area to the abandoned car was a cottage complex with the romantic name “Daydream Estates”. That was the only clue in the case of the vanishing dark-eyed boys. When yet another report of a missing son came in a few days later, the photo of the boy was shown to the highway patrol sergeant. It was shown according to procedure, mixed in among several other photos, some of which were also of dark-haired, dusky teenagers.

“No,” the sergeant admitted honestly after a fifteen-minute perusal of the pictures. “The type is right, but I can’t say for sure. The car was going fast. It’s a good thing I have good vision. At least I saw the kid, but I didn’t get a good look at his features.”

But the ephemeral connection between the missing boys and the cottages to the south of Moscow was better than nothing. So they took a look at the residents of Daydream Estates. Twenty two-story brick houses. Twenty families.

Information about the people living in the cottages collected every day on the desk of Senior CID Detective Anastasia Kamenskaya. Her colleague Kolya Seluyanov, a big fan of visual aids and maps, made her a huge, wall-size diagram of the estates and beneath each cottage attached an envelope into which the information on the owners could go. This seemed sensible to Nastya, and she accepted the fruit of Kolya’s labors gratefully, immediately hanging the diagram on the office wall right opposite her desk. But she didn’t have much faith in the results this approach would bring.

The main thrust of their work was on the environment of the missing boys. There had to be something they had in common. Friends? Interests? Where were they going the day they went missing? Were they involved in sports? There were a great many questions, getting the answers took time and effort, and the results were zero. There wasn’t a single thing that united all the missing teenagers when they were alive. Not one. Besides their looks. But what kind of theory can you build with that?

“Maybe it’s an underground gay brothel?” Yura Korotkov suggested.

“Then it’s made for just one gay client,” Nastya replied. “All the missing boys have the same face. Various men would have various tastes. Blonds, brunets, redheads, fair-skinned, dark. But why are they pumped full of drugs? To keep them docile? To keep them on the needle and from running away? I could understand if the boys had been all different and were intended for many clients. But if it was all for just one man, I don’t see the logic. Why does he need so many partners? All looking the same. He could find one and love him all he wanted.”

“Nastya, he’s a madman. That’s clear. And you’re looking for logic.”

“I am.” She shook her head stubbornly. “Because madmen have logic, too. It’s not like ours, but it exists.”

“And you think that this psycho lives in one of the Daydream cottages?”

“Not necessarily. It could be his accomplice, who finds the boys for him. Although you’re right, Yura, madmen don’t have accomplices. An accomplice works on the same project with the boss and he has to share his interests and in the profit somehow.”

She was silent, making herself instant coffee in a glass, stirred the sugar, and got herself a cigarette. She inhaled deeply and then exhaled.

“Or else, it’s a very wealthy madmen. Who can hire an accomplice for a lot of money. If it all has to do with their looks, then he’s really cracked. Look.”

She handed Korotkov a chart showing the dates of the teenagers’ disappearance and the dates they were found dead in various parts of the city.
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