Lew the Russian. Lew the killer. Or just the Russian. Or just the killer. That was fitting for those who knew nothing more than that he came from Russia. That’s all they needed to know. Russians are warmongers. Russians are homophobic. Russians are communists. And Russians are murderers. Also, murderers of nice old ladies who only ever did good deeds.
On the morning of May 28, 2022, the body of Sofia Andreyevna Smirnova was found in her villa. Her skull had been crushed. With a spade. Said instrument was found leaning against the wall by the front door of the cottage where Lew lived. It was the same cottage that Countess Smirnova gave Lew for one-time use while he worked for her as a gardener. The spade, bloody as it was, had been placed there. Criminal police officers found the owner asleep in bed. Without resistance, he allowed himself to be handcuffed and taken away. And he didn’t say a single word. Neither during the arrest nor during the subsequent interrogation. What was he supposed to say? Everyone agreed, in the village and among the police, without exception, that Lew, the Russian, was also the perpetrator. All but one. Lea Lenz, who lived next door to Lew, protested loudly. It didn’t change anything. At least nothing about the arrest, but for Lew. At least one person stuck by him.
“Lew Ponomarew is the ideal criminal,” mused chief inspector Krystian Kowalczyk, who had made himself comfortable in the plush armchair in the living room of the Smirnowa villa and let his gaze wander through the garden, which was easy to overlook thanks to the large picture window, ” He’s a foreigner, and from Russia at that. He has no friends and no influence. He’s just a boy in a foreign country, living quietly and by himself. That makes him the ideal scapegoat. The mob doesn’t ask about the motive. It’s fitting. None of us.” “But there is a motive,” interrupted him Helga Unterhuber, his young colleague. “Really?”, replied the Chief Inspector, “We already know that. And what does this look like?” “Lew Ponomaryov is the main heir”, explained the addressee, “He inherits the house, the land, the jewelry and all the money.” “Not bad”, he said, “Did he know that? I mean that he will inherit?” “You can’t say that after he doesn’t open his mouth,” said the inspector with a resigned undertone, “but his girlfriend, this Lea Lenz, is all the more talkative. Even if you don’t know what to believe.” “Just tell me what she said. Then we can still worry about whether it’s credible or not, or whether we can verify it or not.” “Okay. Lea Lenz told us the following. Lew Ponomarev is the son of Russian dissidents. When his parents were arrested six years ago, he fled Russia and ended up here in this place after an adventurous journey,” explained Helga Unterhuber, “Except for the few things he had hastily stuffed into a small backpack he nothing. Only the address of this Smirnova. So, he went straight to her and rang the bell. It was said that this noblewoman, whatever she was, countess or whatever, was known to help fellow countrymen in need. Anyway, he asked to be employed as a gardener, because that’s what he had learned. As a result, she not only hired him, but gave him the garden shed to live in. Meals were also free and, if Smornowa’s garden was in order, he was allowed to take on other jobs. He made extensive use of it. He was considered hardworking, but he hardly spoke.” “Probably because he doesn’t speak German and I don’t know many people in our part of the world who speak Russian,” interjected the chief inspector. “Not at all, because this is where Lea Lenz comes into play,” explained the inspector, “She is his immediate neighbor and somehow a do-gooder. Anyway, she offered to learn German with him, which she says he’s now fluent in, but he doesn’t talk to anyone except her.” “How ironic,” explained the Chief Inspector, “One of his benefactors cracks his skull in with his spade, with his fingerprints and puts the instrument there. In fact, everything seems crystal clear. As if offering himself at the serving tray. I’m sorry, as well as everything fits together including the motif, I can’t believe that someone should be so stupid.”
Lev, known locally simply as the Russian, sat in his cell on remand, hopeless, unable to imagine that anyone would take his side. He knew everything was against him and he was ready to accept anything.