crime of the decade, scandal of the century
Orlov
CHAPTER
1
Beginning of the End
His name was Victor Vasilevich. Tall. Pale. Occasionally seen wearing a trench coat. Former detective.
It was a dark night when it happened... Well, let me elaborate. All nights are dark, but this one was particularly so. This was the darkest night of the year, and Queen Yekaterina had thrown a great party in her palace in Saint Petersburg to celebrate this event. Victor Vasilevich, (having become quite renowned in his younger years for solving crimes for various Russian elites), was of course invited to this prestigious occasion. And I had been allowed to tag along.
My name is — well, that’s not important. Let’s just say that I am Victor’s assistant. Do I help him solve crimes? No. Do I provide moral support for him while he works? Far from it. What I do is go along with him on his adventures, take note of every detail, and recount his stories in a novel. You may have heard of my award-winning book, Victor Vasilevich and the Crime He Solved? No? Well, I’m not surprised. The book peaked in popularity around 1771.
Anyway, back to Victor. He was tall; pale; occasionally seen wearing a — well, I think you get the idea. On that evening in 1773, the night of the party, we had arrived to the palace by carriage.
Everything was stunning: the palace glittering with candles in every window, the stained glass windows, the crystal chandeliers... Everything showing off the enormous wealth of Queen Yekaterina Alekseyevna of Russia.
The party itself was equally impressive. Expensive food, live music played by an orchestra in the main hall, an exotic petting zoo outside... What more could you ask for, really? Victor and I were admiring a collection of portraits of strange fruits in bowls when we were both surprised by the appearance of a woman behind us. It was the Queen herself.
“Good evening, Victor Vasilevich,” she said. Of course, what she really said was “dobryj vecher, Victor Vasilevich”, but given that you probably do not speak Russian, I have taken the liberty to translate it for you. I’m so kind, I know.
“Queen Yekaterina,” Victor responded, “good evening. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Forgive my surprise, but I wasn’t expecting to be greeted by the queen herself when I came here tonight. There must be thousands of people here tonight.”
“Oh, yes, there are quite a few people here tonight. But I really did need to come greet you. And to thank you.” I wasn’t surprised, really. Victor, he sure is amazing. Wow, Victor is such a great person. Never mind the person who spends every waking hour documenting what he’s done, and — heh heh, sorry about that. Back to the story.
“To thank me, Queen Yekaterina?” he asked, puzzled.
“Why, yes. As I’m sure you know, a crime you solved a few decades ago resulted in the imprisonment of my Uncle Peter.”
“Er, yes I was aware of that,” Victor said hesitantly.
“I just wanted to come... thank you for that,” the queen said, without smiling. “It’s always good to keep these criminals locked away, where they can’t harm others.”
Victor started to say something, but before he could, Queen Yekaterina cut in.
“So thank you, Victor Vasilevich. Now, I should be going.” And off she went.
It was a few hours later into the night when Victor was finally able to shake off the potentially ominous conversation that he had with the queen. The thing that finally took the thought out of his mind was the appearance of a short, rat-like man who looked slightly out of place among all of the elegant people at the party.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Victor Vasilevich,” the man said. “My name is Vladimir Sergeevich. I love your work. It was absolutely brilliant when you solved the case of the missing poodle back in Paris forty years ago.”
Victor thanked him with a smile. Vladimir continued:
“This place is all so impressive, I’m surprised I was invited to this party. They’ll have to keep a close eye on me, otherwise I might steal something,” he said with a wink.
It wasn’t long before another partygoer came to introduce themselves to the great Victor. Her name was Natalya.
She was a very large, bear-like woman. Although she wore the same style of dress as most of the other high-class guests, she looked more suited to robbing a bank than attending a party at the Queen’s palace.
Despite this, Victor was still happy to meet his adoring fans, like always.
It was around 1:00 AM when a woman’s scream suddenly broke out, silencing the whole palace. It seemed like it was coming from right next to us.
Victor followed the sound of the voice and opened a door which led to the source of the sound. Vladimir and Natalya, who had been hanging around nearby, followed him into the room.
Inside the room, we found that the woman screaming was none other than the Queen herself, surrounded by bodyguards who were assuring that she was ok. Next to her, the shattered remains of a glass case littered the ground.
“The Orlov!” she was crying. “The Orlov! The most valuable diamond in all of Russia! Gone!”
“The thief is among us now. I’m sure of it, there wasn’t enough time to flee and there’s no one in the halls outside. You,” she said, pointing at Victor. “You’re a detective. Tell me who did this.”
Victor got to work immediately. He knelt to examine the pieces, he dusted for fingerprints, and he did other detective-y things whose purpose I couldn’t guess. When he was finished, some time later, he stood, at which time the police had arrived.
“Well, I’ve examined all I could. What I know for sure is that the culprit was extremely agile, to have been able to break into this secure room.” With that, everyone looked toward Vladimir.
“The culprit was also strong, strong enough to break a thick glass case.” This time, everyone turned to Natalya.
“Finally, I didn’t find any fingerprints. So the culprit... had to have been wearing gloves.” Everyone turned to me, the only person in the room who was wearing gloves.
The head police officer gestured towards me, Natalya, and Vladimir. “Well,” he said, “it was definitely one of these three. We’ll need to do a more thorough investigation, and possibly interrogation, before we can determine who actually stole the Orlov.”
“I... I think that won’t be necessary,” Queen Yekaterina said. “Victor Vasilevich, what is that in your pocket?”
An intense silence set in over the room. Then, the police officer walked over to Victor and reached into his pocket. When he withdrew his hand, sure enough, there it was.
The Orlov had been in Victor’s pocket.
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