psna.ru

Magazine for tourists

Table of contents


Kinds of tourism

Excursion (author BV Emelyanov)

introduction

1. Fundamentals Excursion

2. guided technique

3. Professional skills guide

Tunisia (author Danielle shetar Friedrich chum)

In the Sikhote-Alin (author VK Arseniev)

Michail bulgakov. the heart of a dog

Mikhail bulgakov. the master and margarita

 Contents
 1. never talk to strangers
 Pontius pilate
 The seventh proof
 The pursuit
 The affair at griboyedov
 Schizophrenia
 The haunted flat
 A. duel between professor and poet
 Koroviev's tricks
 News from yalta
 The two ivans
 Black magic revealed
 Enter the hero
 Saved by cock-crow
 The dream of nikanor ivanovich
 The execution
 A day of anxiety
 Unwelcome visitors
 Margarita
 Azazello's cream
 The flight
 By candlelight
 Satan's rout
 The master is released
 How the procurator tried to save judas of karioth
 The burial
 The last of flat no.50
 The final adventure of koroviev and behemoth
 The fate of the master and margarita is decided
 Time to go
 On sparrow hills
 Absolution and eternal refuge
 Epilogue
Charlotte bronte. jane eyre

F. scott fitzgerald / the great gatsby

Jerome klapka jerome / three men in a boat


 Home
     Mikhail bulgakov. the master and margarita
          The last of flat no.50

The Last of Flat No.50

Day was breaking as Margarita read the last words of the chapter '. . .

Thus Pontius Pilate, fifth Procurator of Judaea, met the dawn of the

fifteenth of Nisan.'

From the yard she could hear the lively, cheerful early morning chatter

of sparrows in the branches of the willow and the lime tree.

Margarita got up from her chair, stretched and only then realised how

physically exhausted she felt and how much she wanted to sleep. Mentally,

though, Margarita was in perfect form. Her mind was clear and she was

completely unmoved by the fact that she had spent a night in the

supernatural. It caused her no distress to think that she had been at

Satan's ball, that by some miracle the master had been restored to her, that

the novel had risen from the ashes, that everything was back in its place in

the basement flat after the expulsion of the wretched Aloysius Mogarych. In

a word, her encounter with Woland had done her no psychological harm.

Everything was as it should be.

She went into the next room, made sure that the master was sound

asleep, put out the unnecessary light on the bedside table and stretched out

on the other little divan, covering herself with an old, torn blanket. A

minute later she was in a dreamless sleep. Silence reigned in the basement

rooms and in the whole house, silence filled the little street.

But on that early Saturday morning there was no sleep for a whole floor

of a certain Moscow office which was busy investigating the Woland case ; in

nine offices the lamps had been burning all night. Their windows, looking

out on to a large asphalted square which was being cleaned by slow, whirring

vehicles with revolving brushes, competed with the rising sun in brightness.

Although the outlines of the case had been quite clear since the day

before, when they had closed the Variety as a result of the disappearance of

its management and the scandalous performance of black magic, everything was

complicated by the incessant flow of new evidence.

The department in charge of this strange case now had the task of

drawing together all the strands of the varied and confusing events,

occurring all over Moscow, which included an apparent mixture of sheer

devilry, hypnotic conjuring tricks and barefaced crime.

The first person summoned to the glaring electric light of that

unsleeping floor was Arkady Apollonich Sempleyarov, the chairman of the

Acoustics Commission.

On Friday evening after dinner, the telephone rang in his flat on

Kamenny Most and a man's voice asked to speak to Arkady Apollonich. His

wife, who had answered the call, announced grimly that Arkady Apollonich was

unwell, had gone to lie down and could not come to the telephone.

Nevertheless Arkady Apollonich was obliged to come when the voice said who

was calling.

' Of course ... at once . . . right away,' stammered Arkady's usually

arrogant spouse and she flew like an arrow to rouse Arkady Appollonich from

the couch where he had lain down to recover from the horrific scenes caused

by the theatre incident and the stormy expulsion from their flat of his

young cousin from Saratov. In a quarter of a minute, in underclothes and one

slipper, Arkady Apollonich was babbling into the telephone :

' Yes, it's me. Yes, I will. . .'

His wife, all thought of Arkady Apollonich's infidelity instantly

forgotten, put her terrified face round the door, waving a slipper in the

air and whispering :

' Put your other slipper on ... you'll catch cold . . .' At this Arkady

Apollonich, waving his wife away with a bare leg and rolling his eyes at

her, muttered into the receiver :

' Yes, yes, yes, of course ... I understand . . . I'll come at once . .

.'

Arkady Apollonich spent the rest of the evening with the investigators.

The ensuing conversation was painful and unpleasant in the extreme ; he

was not only made to give a completely frank account of that odious show and

the fight in the box, but was obliged to tell everything about Militsa

Andreyevna Pokobatko from Yelokhovskaya Street, as well as all about his

cousin from Saratov and much more besides, the telling of which caused

Arkady Apollonich inexpressible pain.

Naturally the evidence given by Arkady Apollonich--an intelligent and

cultured man who had been an eyewitness of the show and who as an articulate

and informed observer was not only able to give an excellent description of

the mysterious masked magician and his two rascally assistants but who

actually remembered that the magician's name was Woland--helped considerably

to advance the enquiry. When Arkady Apollonich's evidence was compared with

the evidence of the others, among them several of the ladies who had

suffered such embarrassment after the show (including the woman in violet

knickers who had so shocked Rimsky) and Karpov the usher who had been sent

to Flat No. 50 at 302a, Sadovaya Street--it became immediately obvious where

the culprit was to be found.

They went to No. 50 more than once and not only searched it with

extreme thoroughness but tapped on the walls, examined the chimney-flues and

looked for secret doors. None of this, however, produced any results and

nothing was found during the visits to the flat. Yet someone was living in

the flat, despite the fact that every official body in Moscow concerned with

visiting foreigners stated firmly and categorically that there was not and

could not be a magician called Woland in Moscow. He had definitely not

registered on entry, he had shown no one his passport or any other

documents, contracts or agreements and no one had so much as heard of him.

Kitaitsev, the director of the programmes department of the Theatrical

Commission, swore by all the saints that the missing Stepa Likhodeyev had

never sent him a programme schedule for anyone called Woland for

confirmation and had never telephoned Kitaitsev a word about Woland's

arrival. Therefore he, Kitaitsev, failed completely to understand how Stepa

could have allowed a show of this sort to be put on at the Variety. When he

was told that Arkady Apollonich had seen the performance with his own eyes,

Kitaitsev could only spread his hands and raise his eyes to heaven. From

those eyes alone it was obvious that Kitaitsev was as pure as crystal.

Prokhor Petrovich, the chairman of the Entertainments Commission . . .

He, incidentally, had re-entered his suit as soon as the police reached

his office, to the ecstatic joy of Anna Richardovna and to the great

annoyance of the police, who had been alerted for nothing. As soon as he was

back at his post and wearing his striped grey suit, Prokhor Petrovich fully

approved all the minutes that his suit had drafted during his short absence.

So Prokhor Petrovich obviously knew nothing about Woland either.

The sum total of their enquiries amounted to a conclusion which was

little short of farcical: thousands of spectators, plus the Variety Theatre

staff plus, finally, Arkady Apollonich, that highly intelligent man, had

seen this magician and his thrice-cursed assistants, yet in the meantime all

four had completely vanished. What could it mean? Had Woland been swallowed

up by the earth or had he, as some claimed, never come to Moscow at all? If

one accepted the first alternative, then he had apparently spirited away the

entire Variety management with him; if you believed the second alternative,

it meant that the theatre management itself, having first indulged in a

minor orgy of destruction had decamped from Moscow leaving no trace.

The officer in charge of the case was, to give him his due, a man who

knew his job. Rimsky, for instance, was tracked down with astounding speed.

Merely by linking the Ace of Diamonds' behaviour at the taxi-rank near the

cinema with certain timings, such as the time of the end of the show and the

time at which Rimsky could have vanished, they were able to send an

immediate telegram to Leningrad. An hour later (on Friday evening) the reply

came back that Rimsky had been found in room 412 at the Astoria Hotel, on

the fourth floor next to the room containing the repertory manager of one of

the Moscow theatres then on tour in Leningrad, in that famous room with the

blue-grey furniture and the luxurious bathroom.

Rimsky, found hiding in the wardrobe of his room at the Astoria, was

immediately arrested and interrogated in Leningrad, after which a telegram

reached Moscow stating that treasurer Rimsky was an irresponsible witness

who had proved unwilling or incapable of replying coherently to questions

and had done nothing but beg to be put into an armourplated strong-room

under armed guard. An order was telegraphed to Leningrad for Rimsky to be

escorted back to Moscow, and he returned under guard by the Friday evening

train.

By Friday evening, too, they were on the track of Likhodeyev. Telegrams

asking for information on Likhodeyev had been sent to every town and a reply

came from Yalta that Likhodeyev was there but about to leave for Moscow by

aeroplane.

The only person whose trail they failed to pick up was Varenukha. This

man, known to the entire theatrical world of Moscow, seemed to have vanished

without trace.

Meanwhile investigations were in hand on related incidents in other

parts of Moscow. An explanation was needed, for instance, of the baffling

case of the office staff who had sung the ' Volga Boatmen ' song

(Stravinsky, incidentally, cured them all within two hours by subcutaneous

injections) and of other cases of people (and their victims) who had

proffered various pieces of rubbish under the illusion that they were

banknotes. The nastiest, the most scandalous and the most insoluble of all

these episodes was, of course, the theft, in broad daylight, of Berlioz's

head from the open coffin at Griboyedov.

The job of the team of twelve men assigned to the case was rather like

that of someone with a knitting-needle trying to pick up stitches dropped

all over Moscow.

One of the detectives called on Profes sor Stravinsky's clinic and

began by asking for a list of all patients admitted during the past three

days. By this means they discovered Nikanor Ivano-vich Bosoi and the

unfortunate compere whose head had been wrenched off, although they were not

greatly interested in these two. It was obvious now that they had both

merely been victimised by the gang headed by this weird magician. In Ivan

Nikolayich Bezdomny, however, the detective showed the very greatest

interest.

Early on Friday evening the door of Ivan's room opened to admit a

polite, fresh-faced young man- He looked quite unlike a detective, yet he

was one of the best in the Moscow force. He saw lying in bed a pale,

pinched-looking young man with lack-lustre, wandering eyes. The detective, a

man of considerable charm and tact, said that he had come to see Ivan for a

talk about the incident at Patriarch's Ponds two days previously.

The poet would have been triumphant if the detective had called

earlier, on Thursday for instance when Ivan had been trying so loudly and

passionately to induce someone to listen to his story about Patriarch's

Ponds. Now people were at last coming to hear his version of the

affair--just when his urge to help capture Professor Woland had completely

evaporated.

For Ivan, alas, had altogether changed since the night of Berlioz's

death. He was quite prepared to answer the detective's questions politely,

but his voice and his expression betrayed his utter disinterest. The poet no

longer cared about Berlioz's fate.

While Ivan had been dozing before the detective's arrival, a succession

of images had passed before his mind's eye. He saw a strange, unreal,

vanished city with great arcaded marble piles ;

with roofs that flashed in the sunlight; with the grim, black and

pitiless tower of Antonia ; with a palace on the western hill plunged almost

to roof-level in a garden of tropical greenery, and above the garden bronze

statues that glowed in the setting sun ; with Roman legionaries clad in

armour marching beneath the city walls.

In his half-waking dream Ivan saw a man sitting motionless in a chair,

a clean-shaven man with taut, yellowing skin who wore a white cloak lined

with red, who sat and stared with loathing at this alien, luxuriant garden.

Ivan saw, too, a treeless ochre-coloured hill with three empty cross-barred

gibbets.

The events at Patriarch's Ponds no longer interested Ivan Bezdomny the

poet.

' Tell me, Ivan Nikolayich, how far were you from the turnstile when

Berlioz fell under the tram? '

A barely detectable smile of irony crossed Ivan's Ups as he replied:

' I was far away.'

' And was the man in checks standing beside the turnstile? '

' No, he was on a bench nearby.'

' You distinctly remember, do you, that he did not approach the

turnstile at the moment when Berlioz fell? '

' I do remember. He didn't move. He was on the bench and he stayed

there.'

These were the detective's last questions. He got up, shook hands with

Ivan, wished him a speedy recovery and said that he soon hoped to read some

new poetry of his.

' No,' said Ivan quietly. ' I shall not write any more poetry.'

The detective smiled politely and assured the poet that although he

might be in a slight state of depression at the moment, it would soon pass.

' No,' said Ivan, staring not at the detective but at the distant

twilit horizon, ' it will never pass. The poetry I wrote was bad p.oetry. I

see that now.'

The detective left Ivan, having gathered some extremely important

evidence. Following the thread of events backwards from end to beginning,

they could now pinpoint the source of the whole episode. The detective had

no doubt that the events in question had all begun with the murder at

Patriarch's Ponds. Neither Ivan, of course, nor the man in the check suit

had pushed the unfortunate chairman of massolit under the tramcar;

n"o one had physically caused him to fall under the wheels, but the

detective was convinced that Berlioz had thrown himself (or had fallen)

beneath the tram while under hypnosis.

Although there was plenty of evidence and it was obvious whom they

should arrest and where, it proved impossible to lay hands on them. There

was no doubt that someone was in flat Nib. 50. Occasionally the telephone

was answered by a quavering or a nasal voice, occasionally someone in the

flat opened a window and the sound of a gramophone could be heard floating

out. Yet whenever they went there the place was completely empty. They

searched it at various hours of the day, each time going over it with a

fine-tooth comb. The flat had been under suspicion for some time and a watch

had been placed on both the main stairs and the back stairs ; men were even

posted on the roof among the chimney pots. The flat was playing tricks and

there was nothing that anyone could do about it.

The case dragged on in this way until midnight on Friday, wlien Baron

Maigel, wearing evening dress and patent-leather pumps, entered flat No. 50

as a guest. He was heard being let in. Exactly ten minutes later the

authorities entered the flat without a sound. It was not only empty of

tenants, but worse, there was not even a trace of Baron Maigel.

There things rested until dawn on Saturday, when some new anid valuable

information came to light as a six-seater passenger aeroplane landed at

Moscow airport having flown from the Crimea. Among its passengers was one

extremely odd young man. He had heavy stubble on his face, had not washed

for three days, his eyes were red with exhaustion and fright, he had no

luggage and was somewhat eccentrically dressed. He wore a sheepskin hat, a

felt cloak over a nightshirt and brand-new blue leather bedroom slippers. As

he stepped off the gangway from the aircraft cabin, a group of expectant men

approached him. A short while later the one and only manager of the Variety

Theatre, Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeyev, was facing the detectives. He added

some new information. They were now able to establish that Woland had

tricked his way into the Variety after hypnotising Stepa Likhodeyev and had

then spirited Stepa God knows how many kilometres away from Moscow. This

gave the authorities more evidence, but far from making their job any easier

it made it if anything rather harder, because it was obviously not going to

be so simple to arrest a person capable of the kind of sleight-of-hand to

which Stepan Bogdanovich had fallen victim. Likhodeyev, at his own request,

was locked up in a strong-room.

The next witness was Varenukha, arrested at home where he had returned

after an unexplained absence lasting nearly forty-eight hours. In spite of

his promise to Azazello, the house manager began by lying. He should not,

however, be judged too harshly for this--Azazello had, after all, only

forbidden him to lie on the telephone and in this instance Varenukha was

talking without the help of a telephone. With a shifty look Ivan Savye-lich

announced that on Thursday he had shut himself up in his office and had got

drunk, after which he had gone somewhere-- he couldn't remember where; then

somewhere else and drunk some loo-proof vodka ; had collapsed under a

hedge--again he couldn't remember where. He was then told that his stupid

and irrational behaviour was prejudicial to the course of justice and that

he would be held responsible for it. At this Varenukha broke down, sobbing,

and whispered in a trembling voice, glancing round fearfully, that he was

only telling lies out of fear of Woland's gang, who had already roughed him

up once and that he begged, prayed, longed to be locked up in an armoured

cell.

' There soon won't be room for them all in that strong-room! ' growled

one of the investigators.

' These villains have certainly put the fear of God into them,' said

the detective who had questioned Ivan.

They calmed Varenukha as well as they could, assuring him that he would

be given protection without having to resort to a strong-room. He then

admitted that he had never drunk any loo-proof vodka but had been beaten up

by two characters, one with a wall eye and the other a stout man . . .

' Looking like a cat? '

' Yes, yes,' whispered Varenukha, almost swooning with fear and

glancing round every moment, adding further details of how he had spent

nearly two days in flat No. 50 as a vampire's decoy and had nearly caused

Rimsky's death . . .

Just then Rimsky himself was brought in from the Leningrad train, but

this grey-haired, terror-stricken, psychologically disturbed old man,

scarcely recognisable as the treasurer of the Variety Theatre, stubbornly

refused to speak the truth. Rimsky claimed that he had never seen Hella at

his office window that night, nor had he seen Varenukha; he had simply felt

ill and had taken the train to Leningrad in a fit of amnesia. Needless to

say the ailing treasurer concluded his evidence by begging to be locked up

in a strong-room.

Anna was arrested while trying to pay a store cashier with a ten-dollar

bill. Her story about people flying out of the landing window and the

horseshoe, which she claimed to have picked up in order to hand it over to

the police, was listened to attentively.

' Was the horseshoe really gold and studded with diamonds? ' they asked

Anna.

' Think I don't know diamonds when I see them? ' replied Anna.

' And did he really give you ten-rouble notes? '

' Think I don't know a tenner when I see one? '

' When did they turn into dollars? '

' I don't know what dollars are and I never saw any! ' whined Anna. ' I

know my rights! I was given the money as a reward and went to buy some

material with it.' Then she started raving about the whole thing being the

fault of the house management committee which had allowed evil forces to

move in on the fifth floor and made life impossible for everybody else.

Mere a detective waved a pen at Anna to shut up because she was boring

them, and signed her release on a green form with which, to the general

satisfaction, she left the building.

There followed a succession of others, among them Nikolai Ivanovich,

who had been arrested thanks to the stupidity of his jealous wife in telling

the police that her husband was missing. The detectives were not

particularly surprised when Nikolai Ivanovich produced the joke certificate

testifying that he had spent his time at Satan's ball. Nikolai Ivanovich

departed slightly from the truth, however, when he described how he had

carried Margarita Nikolayevna's naked maid through the air to bathe in the

river at some unknown spot and how Margarita Nikolay-evna herself had

appeared naked at the window. He thought it unnecessary to recall, for

instance, that he had appeared in the bedroom carrying Margarita's abandoned

slip or that he had called Natasha ' Venus.' According to him, Natasha had

flown out of the window, mounted him and made him fly away from Moscow . . .

' I was forced to obey under duress,' said Nikolai Ivanovich, finishing

his tale with a request not to tell a word of it to his wife, which was

granted.

Nikolai Ivanovich's evidence established the fact that both Margarita

Nikolayevna and her maid Natasha had vanished without trace. Steps were

taken to find them.

So the investigation progressed without a moment's break until Saturday

morning. Meanwhile the city was seething with the most incredible rumours,

in which a tiny grain of truth was embellished with a luxuriant growth of

fantasy. People were saying that after the show at the Variety all two

thousand spectators had rushed out into the street as naked as the day they

were born ; that the police had uncovered a magic printing-press for

counterfeiting money on Sadovaya Street; that a gang had kidnapped the five

leading impresarios in Moscow but that the police had found them all again,

and much more that was unrepeatable.

As it grew near lunchtime a telephone bell rang in the investigators'

office. It was a report from Sadovaya Street that the haunted flat was

showing signs of life again. Someone inside had apparently opened the

windows, sounds of piano music and singing had been heard coming from it,

and a black cat had been observed sunning itself on a windowsill.

At about four o'clock on that warm afternoon a large squad of men in

plain clothes climbed out of three cars that had stopped a little way short

of No. 302a, Sadovaya Street. Here the large squad divided into two smaller

ones, one of which entered the courtyard through the main gateway and headed

straight for staircase 6, while the other opened a small door, normally

locked, leading to the back staircase and both began converging on flat No.

50 by different stairways.

While this was going on Koroviev and Azazello, in their normal clothes

instead of festive tailcoats, were sitting in the dining-room finishing

their lunch. Woland, as was his habit, was in the bedroom and no one knew

where the cat was, but to judge from the clatter of saucepans coming from

the kitchen Behemoth was presumably there, playing the fool as usual.

' What are those footsteps on the staircase? ' asked Koroviev, twirling

his spoon in a cup of black coffee.

' They're coming to arrest us,' replied Azazello and drained a glass of

brandy.

' Well, well . . .' was Koroviev's answer.

The men coming up the front staircase had by then reached the

third-floor landing, where a couple of plumbers were fiddling with the

radiator. The party exchanged meaning looks with the plumbers.

' They're all at home,' whispered one of the plumbers, tapping the pipe

with his hammer.

At this the leader of the squad drew a black Mauser from under his

overcoat and the man beside him produced, a skeleton key. All the men were

suitably armed. Two of them had thin, easily unfurled silk nets in their

pockets, another had. a lasso and the sixth man was equipped with gauze

masks and an ampoule of chloroform.

In a second the front door of No. 50 swung open and the party was in

the hall, whilst the knocking on the door from the kitchen to the back

staircase showed that the second squad had also arrived on time.

This time at least partial success seemed to be in their grasp. Men at

once fanned out to all the rooms and found no one, but on the dining-room

table were the remains of an obviously recently finished meal and in the

drawing-room, alongside a crystal jug, a huge black cat was perched on the

mantelpiece, holding a Primus in its front paws.

There was a long pause as the men gazed at the cat.

' H'm, yes ... that's him . . .' whispered one 'of them.

' I'm doing no harm--I'm not playing games, I'm mending the Primus,'

said the cat with a hostile scowl, ' and I'd better warn you that a cat is

an ancient and inviolable animal.'

' Brilliant performance,' whispered a man and another said loudly and

firmly:

' All right, you inviolable ventriloquist's dummy, come here! '

The net whistled across the room but the man missed his target and only

caught the crystal jug, which broke with a loud crash.

' Missed!' howled the cat. ' Hurrah! ' Putting aside the Primus the cat

whipped a Browning automatic from behind its back. In a flash it took aim at

the nearest man, but the detective beat the cat to the draw and fired first.

The cat flopped head first from the mantelpiece, dropping the Browning and

upsetting the Primus.

' It's all over,' said the cat in a weak voice, stretched out in a pool

of blood. ' Leave me for a moment, let me say goodbye. Oh my friend

Azazello,' groaned the cat, streaming blood, ' where are you? ' The animal

turned its expiring gaze towards the door into the dining-room. ' You didn't

come to my help when I was outnumbered . . . you left poor Behemoth,

betraying him for a glass of brandy--though it was very good brandy! Well,

my death will be on your conscience but I'll bequeath you my Browning . . .'

' The net, the net,' whispered the men urgently round the cat. But the

net somehow got tangled up in the man's pocket and would not come out.

' The only thing that can save a mortally wounded cat,' said Behemoth,

' is a drink of paraffin.' Taking advantage of the confusion it put its

mouth to the round filler-hole of the Primus and drank some paraffin. At

once the blood stopped pouring from above its left forepaw. The cat jumped

up bold and full of life, tucked the Primus under its foreleg, leaped back

with it on to the mantelpiece and from there, tearing the wallpaper, crawled

along the wall and in two seconds it was high above the invaders, sitting on

a metal pelmet.

In a moment hands were grabbing the curtains and pulling them down

together with the pelmet, bringing the sunlight flooding into the darkened

room. But neither the cat nor the Primus fell. Without dropping the Primus

the cat managed to leap through the air and jump on to the chandelier

hanging in the middle of the room.

' Step-ladder! ' came the cry from below. ' I challenge you to a duel!

' screamed the cat, sailing over their heads on the swinging chandelier. The

Browning appeared in its paw again and it lodged the Primus between the arms

of the chandelier. The cat took aim and, as it swung like a pendulum over

the detectives' heads, opened fire on them. The sound of gunfire rocked the

flat. Fragments of crystal strewed the floor, the mirror over the fireplace

was starred with bullet holes, plaster dust flew everywhere, ejected

cartridge cases pattered to the floor, window panes shattered and paraffin

began to spurt from the punctured tank of the Primus. There was now no

question of taking the cat alive and the men were aiming hard at its head,

stomach, breast and back. The sound of gunfire started panic in the

courtyard below.

But this fusillade did not last long and soon died down. It had not, in

fact, caused either the men or the cat any harm. There were no dead and no

wounded. No one, including the cat, had been hit. As a final test one man

fired five rounds into the beastly animal's stomach and the cat retaliated

with a whole volley that had the same result--not a scratch. As it swung on

the chandelier, whose motion was gradually shortening all the time, it blew

into the muzzle of the Browning and spat on its paw.

The faces of the silent men below showed total bewilderment. This was

the only case, or one of the only cases, in which gunfire had proved to be

completely ineffectual. Of course the cat's Browning might have been a toy,

but this was certainly not true of the detectives' Mausers. The cat's first

wound, which had undoubtedly occurred, had been nothing but a trick and a

villainous piece of deception, as was its paraffin-drinking act.

One more attempt was made to seize the cat. The lasso was thrown, it

looped itself round one of the candles and the whole chandelier crashed to

the floor. Its fall shook the whole building, but it did not help matters.

The men were showered with splinters while the cat flew through the air and

landed high up under the ceiling on the gilded frame of the mirror over the

mantelpiece. It made no attempt to bolt but from its relatively safe perch

announced:

' I completely fail to understand the reason for this rough treatment .

. .'

Here the cat's speech was interrupted by a low rumbling voice that

seemed to come from nowhere :

' What's happening in this flat? It's disturbing my work . . .'

Another voice, ugly and nasal, cried :

' It's Behemoth, of course, damn him!'

A third, quavering voice said :

' Messire! Saturday. The sun is setting. We must go.'

' Excuse me, I've no more time to spare talking,' said the cat from the

mirror. ' We must go.' It threw away its Browning, smashing two window

panes, then poured the paraffin on to the floor where it burst spontaneously

into a great flame as high as the ceiling.

It burned fast and hard, with even more violence than is usual with

paraffin. At once the wallpaper started to smoke, the torn curtain caught

alight and the frames of the broken windowpanes began to smoulder. The cat

crouched, gave a miaow, jumped from the mirror to the windowsill and

disappeared, clutching the Primus. Shots were heard from outside. A man

sitting on an iron fire-escape on the level of No. 50's windows fired at the

cat as it sprang from windowsill to windowsill heading for the drainpipe on

the corner of the building. The cat scrambled up the drainpipe to the roof.

There it came under equally ineffective fire from the men covering the

chimney-pots and the cat faded into the westering sunlight that flooded the

city.

Inside the flat the parquet was already crackling under the men's feet

and in the fireplace, where the cat had shammed dead, there gradually

materialised the corpse of Baron Maigel, his little beard jutting upwards,

his eyes glassy. The body was impossible to move.

Hopping across the burning blocks of parquet, beating out their

smouldering clothes, the men in the drawing-room retreated to the study and

the hall. The men who had been in the dining-room and the bedroom ran out

into the passage. The drawing-room was already full of smoke and fire.

Someone managed to dial the fire brigade and barked into the receiver :

'Sadovaya, 302a! '

They could stay no longer. Flame was lashing into the hallway and it

was becoming difficult to breathe.

As soon as the first wisps of smoke appeared through the shattered

windows of the haunted flat, desperate cries were heard from the courtyard :

'Fire! Fire! Help! We're on fire!'

In several flats people were shouting into the telephone :

' Sadovaya! Sadovaya, 302a! '

Just as the heart-stopping sound of bells was heard from the long red

fire-engines racing towards Sadovaya Street from all over the city, the

crowd in the courtyard saw three dark figures, apparently men, and one naked

woman, float out of the smoking windows on the fifth floor.


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