An Excerpt from The Brodsky Affair: Murder is a Dying Art

A Suspense Thriller

Darkness, like a blanket.

At 2:30 a.m. not even a boat moved on the black waters of the Neva.

Vladimir Novikov’s objective, the large post-Gorbachev house of Alexsandr Molotov, stood silent, lit by ground-mounted floodlights. A wall made of heavy stone, four metres high and topped with razor wire surrounded the property. Its only visible entrance were two massive ornate wrought-iron gates. It looked designed to withstand a lengthy siege. From where he stood, he could see a uniformed guard wearing a black beret, matching his military style uniform. He sat in a heated cabin, with a window looking directly out of the front gates. He was reading, and propped up on the desk was the mandatory Kalashnikov. 

Novikov decided not to climb the wall. He turned the ignition key, fired up the engine and the small black unmarked van crawled towards the entrance.

Looking suspicious, the guard had moved to the front of the gate. The Kalashnikov pointed towards him. Novikov brought the van to a halt, opened the door, got out, and at a brisk pace walked to the floodlit gates. He spoke loudly, his breath in the cold air, mushrooming skywards in a white billowing mist. 

“Sorry to startle you, comrade, but is this the house of Alexsandr Molotov?”

“Yes, it is. Who are you and what do you want at this time of morning?” The snub of the Kalashnikov rattled across the iron railings.

“Good news. I’ve driven all the way up from Borovichi. I’ve an important package for Molotov and was told it must be delivered immediately, whatever the time.” He held up a thick, brown envelope. “It has to be signed for by him personally.”

“Don’t be so stupid. If you think I’m waking him at this hour, you are mistaken. Let me see that.” He stretched out his hand between the railings.

Novikov dropped the packet, and with a hard grip, seized the guard’s outstretched wrist and with his other hand produced a large hypodermic syringe, plunging its contents into the back of the startled man’s hand. It took less than ten seconds before his eyelids began to flutter. He slumped forward, prevented from falling by Novikov’s fierce grip. Class Z drugs… they rarely fail. He’ll be out until later in the morning. 

Before he let the man drop, he removed the keys from his belt to open the gates and drive in. Once inside, he entered the guard’s cabin and was pleased to see it also held the controls for the entire security system. He recognised the make and model, and with two swift flicks on an array of switches, he deactivated them. 

He drove the van into the grounds, halting in front of a narrow veranda floored with expensive decking. He got out and stood where he could see the odd solitary vehicle passing by below, their sounds broken only by the whine of a decelerating jet descending into Pulkovo airport. Ahead stood a small cloister of bare trees, through which a cinder path led up to the main house which had an immense wooden door with a hefty brass handle. It surprised him that the door hadn’t been locked, and it opened with ease. 

In front of him, a staircase wound upwards into a blackness that he guessed would lead to the main rooms. He knew the staff would be asleep in their quarters to the left of the building. The place was as dead as the night outside. He reached inside his pocket and pulled out a dark, olive-green balaclava. The time had come to wear it. He refrained from switching on house lights, preferring his flashlight.
He navigated around the upper floor, and located the bedroom area across a large landing. At the far end, a door hung open and from it wafted the unmistakeable grunts of sleep. Cloaked in silence, he slid in and shut the door. Thick carpeting, heavy curtains, sumptuous fabric and upholstery, swallowed up any other noise. He gazed at the two mounds lying under silken bed linens. 

Novikov was used to these assignments. He had prepared himself with meticulous care. His suppressed PSS pistol nestled with a hard reassurance against his left shoulder. He enjoyed the sense of rising adrenaline. It loaned him a surge of power. He swung the beam around the spacious bedroom and noticed ornate mirrors on every wall, and mounted on the ceiling above the bed. Paintings hung in between the mirrors. He directed the beam onto the face of the sleeping man. He saw a man in his mid-fifties, with a flabby and florid face. Thick lips hung apart with the dribble of sleep drying on his chin. Within seconds his eyes opened.

The brief look of non-comprehension transformed to fear.
“Tovarich Alexsandr Molotov. Good morning. So sorry to wake you. You can switch on the light.” His lips tightened, severing the possibility of a cold smirk.

Molotov’s trembling wrist moved to the switch, and clicked on the bedside lamp. His eyelids fluttered at the sudden glare. He wore pyjamas made of fine blue silk. 

Novikov kept his gun aimed directly at Molotov’s head, enjoying the man’s terrified expression.

“Wake your bitch up.”

“Who are you? What do you want?” His voice shook as the words tumbled out.

“I asked you to wake her, not ask questions. Speak only when I ask. Now, fucking wake her.” He waved the gun directly in his face.
Molotov gulped. Beads of sweat sluiced down his fleshy face. Turning to his side, he nudged at his wife’s prostrate body. Vladimir reached out and from beneath Molotov’s pillow, removed a Beretta pistol. Not a man to take chances. Evgenya Molotov shifted in discomfort, before the light and the weight of her husband’s hand on her shoulder forced her to wake. 

“What?” she muttered, sounding irritable, shaking her head and sitting upright. She was naked. It was then she saw Novikov. Her eyes widened with terror in the fatty crevices of her face, before they bulged like popping rivets. “Oh! Mother of God!” Her shriek, like a hen on fire, filled the room.

“No one is going to hear you. Scream as you like. Now Alexsandr, I want the combination to your vault, and I want it now.”

“Poshio Ty!”

“I’m not going to fuck off. We can do this the easy way or if you prefer, I can start with some gentle persuasion. It upsets me to be persuasive. It reminds me of my own pain.” He grabbed Evgenya by her hair, pulling it hard and causing her head to jerk backwards. “I know how it feels, believe me.” His low voice had the reassurance of a surgeon’s hand on an exposed nerve. “You want to escape the pain and terror, but you can’t. I never could and it still haunts me. I don’t like putting others into similar situations, but I’ve put that all behind me. Now, the combination please, comrade.” He gave her hair another savage pull. 

Evegenya’s shriek filled the room. 


“Give it to him, Alex, for God’s sake!” she yelled, attempting to hold the sheets across her fat breasts.

“You heard her.”


Molotov’s refusals stirred further memories of his own traumas, tortures and beatings – childhood memories of when he had screeched and pleaded “no, no!” over and over again as the assaults continued. The pain of the memory caused him to bare his teeth. Her cries of No! No, please no! meant only more pain. In one swift mental snapshot, he saw it so plainly.

He yanked the sheet off her with a rapid tug, and at the same time jerked harder on her hair, hauling her to her feet, exposing her overweight body. With one arm wrapped tightly around her neck, he pushed the pistol barrel up against her temple. The inexplicable rising hatred, the desire to harm, to humiliate, to terrify and kill, filled him. 
“Face up against the wall.” He pointed with the pistol, his voice descending to a whisper. He turned her around to look at the fear in her eyes, savouring it for a fraction, before he slapped her hard on the mouth with the barrel of the gun.

Her howling bawl dissolved into a pained groan.

Molotov made a lunge at the pillow.

“Too late comrade, I have your toy.” He waved the Beretta at him.
“For Mother of God’s sake,” shrieked Evgenya, a trickle of blood leaching down from the corner of her mouth. “Give him what he wants.”

“I won’t,” shouted Molotov, his voice sounding too loud.
Novikov’s voice was as tense as cheese wire. “You don’t understand, do you? I’m going to count to five and if by then you still refuse, I shall rip her lips open across her ugly face. Believe me, I’ve done this before.” Forcing open her mouth with his gloved fingers, he stretched the side of her mouth viciously, forcing her lips across her cheeks, a fraction away from what he intended.

“One… two… three… four…”

“Stop! For the love of Christ, stop! I’ll give it to you.”

“For a moment I thought you were going to let her suffer.” With a violent shove, he flung her back onto the bed. But before she could cover herself, he swung his pistol around and fired a bullet through her left shoulder.

She slumped back, her agonized wails pierced the air, as blood spattered across the sheets and onto the plush carpet.

“You manda! My god!” Molotov swung over to his bleeding wife, struggling to nestle her against his chest. 

“Combination please, or I might take aim when I fire the next one.”

“I’ll give it to you. Leave us alone.” His voice creased with terror.

“Stand up, both of you, and lead me to the vault.”

Molotov stood, looking helpless as he struggled to haul the petrified body of Evgenya to her feet. She was shaking like a plucked harp string. Blood gushed between the fingers of the handpressing the wound on her left shoulder. Her other hand clutched at a sheet that trailed onto the bed, the fine material sprayed with blood. 

“Down to the vault.” Novikov waved his pistol toward the stairs. “And no smart-arse moves, comrade.”

He pushed them along, with Molotov struggling with the weight of his wounded wife hanging off his arm. They passed down through the living and dining room areas, where the staff had already set up the table for breakfast. One further flight down, and they entered into a small library complete with racks of ancient books stacked in shelving that ran around the walls. Molotov didn’t hesitate. He pressed a small button concealed behind the edge of one of the shelves. There was a buzz, followed by a click. Novikov watched a section of shelving directly in front of them slide open, to reveal a small grey-bricked room.

“Here it is.” Molotov sounded defeated.

“Get in.” The gun waved at them both.

Inside, and built into the structure, bristled beefy steel bars and handles. Mounted into the surrounding support wall was a thick circular dial displaying an array of numbers, letters, and mathematical symbols. 

Molotov looked around at Novikov’s eyes glinting from behind the balaclava. “This is the vault.”

“Open it.”

Without hesitation, ignoring his wife’s whimpers, he punched in the eight-figure combination. There was a short pause before the substantial door silently swung open, automatically activating the internal lighting system that came on with a flickering vibration.
“Get in there.” He pushed them inside. He looked around, and noticed the walls and floors crowded with paintings, porcelain and books. He didn’t doubt they were all valuable. His instructions concerned only the Russian paintings. “Late nineteenth and twentieth century Russian and Soviet paintings, where are they?”

“Over there.” Molotov pointed to a corner.

Stacked against the brickwork stood fifteen paintings beneath a wall-mounted label that simply stated: Modern Soviet/Russian Art. 

“Is that them?”


He quickly counted the frames. Standing away from them both, he realised he couldn’t risk moving them without the possibility of Molotov activating a hidden alarm or attempting to escape. Many vaults had them in case of theft or being accidentally locked in. He wasn’t about to hang around and find out. 

He gazed at Molotov, who continued trembling, his wife leaning her head back into his shoulder. Novikov never could subdue the pang of pity he felt at these moments. Without fail, his emotions got mixed into a confusing jumble in his head… a desire to be merciful marched behind a greater desire to harm, mutilate… and kill. He knew it so well, and his brutalised psyche had never been able to truly escape. What he had to do was inevitable. 

“Forgive me,” he muttered with a forlorn expression, as he fired a single shot into the man’s thigh. 

Molotov screamed in agony. He fell to the floor, clutching his leg but unable to prevent the plume of blood cascading in a dangerous arc across the floor. His femoral artery, fatally ruptured, resembled a spilled pot of crimson paint. 

Novikov looked blank, as if in a trance. He knew that Molotov would last no longer than fifteen minutes. He didn’t blink, nor did his expression change as he gazed into the wife’s shocked eyes, and his next bullet penetrated the centre of her forehead. She went down like a tower in a controlled explosion. Please forgive me.

When all the art had been removed, Novikov looked down at the stricken couple. He felt confused, but only for a moment. He killed with a mixture of pity and conviction, seeing each one as a job he had to do. That pang of pity always reared its head, but disappeared as soon as it arose. Turning, he strolled out, picking up a Faberge egg which he placed in his pocket before pulling the door shut. He automatically set the combination back in place and switched off the interior lights, leaving the inside as dark as midnight.

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