This story is described in the essays of the legendary Russian detective Arkady Frantsevich Koshko and therefore, despite all the mysticism of what is happening, undoubtedly deserves trust. In the future, the narration will go on behalf of the author without changes.
In the memory of some employees of the Petersburg detective police, a story lived for a long time, which at one time caused a lot of noise in the capital. The details of the case I want to tell you about are familiar to me from the data of the police archive. It was as follows.
In the nineties of the last century, the capital, which lived a life incomparably more peaceful than in the first decade of this century, was shocked by a sensational murder that took place on Vasilyevsky Island at the end of Sredny Prospekt. In the attic of one of the houses, the corpse of a raped 14-year-old girl was found.
The child was strangled, and his corpse lay in the midst of the disorder, leaving no doubt about the heinous act committed over the victim.
The press sounded the alarm, public opinion was agitated, but the police, put on their feet, fought in vain in search of the villains.
A month passed, another, a third, finally, six months, and the case was dropped for failure to find the culprit.
This is where the "something" begins, which I attribute to the realm of the miraculous. I have already said that the population of the capital was shocked by this murder. The artist B. was also shocked. The dramatic descriptions of this crime, which appeared continuously in all newspapers for two months, influenced his artistic imagination, and he painted a picture on a corresponding plot. The painting came out brilliant, won an academic prize and was then exhibited at Daziaro's.
She attracted crowds with her expression. On it, the attic, the scene of the murder, was exactly reproduced; and an accurate portrait of a strangled and prostrate girl. In the background of the picture, in dark colors, was seen the ominous silhouette of a hastily retreating killer who had just completed his heinous deed.
With the palm of his right hand, he opened the attic door, half-turning at his victim. It was a hideous hunchback; the expression on his ugly and repulsive face was especially striking; a huge mouth, a wedge-shaped red beard, small evil eyes, protruding ears.
This picture appeared in Datsiaro's six months after the day of the murder. And then one day, among the crowd, staring at her, there was a shout, and a man, falling face down on the ground, began to convulse. Those who came to his aid were surprised by his striking resemblance to the hero of the picture - the same disgusting hunchback!
He was transferred to the nearest pharmacy, where, having regained consciousness, he wished to be taken to the police himself. Here, in the greatest excitement, seized by mystical horror, he confessed to his crime and explained the criminal impulse that pushed him to the crime.
- From that very day, - he said, - the image of a strangled girl relentlessly pursued me, I heard her heartbreaking screams day and night. Quite unexpectedly, I approached the crowd at the Admiralty and could not believe my eyes: in the picture I saw not only my victim, not only the same attic with all the smallest details, but myself! How could this have happened, who could have sketched changing this terrible minute - I can't imagine!
This is some kind of obsession, this is some kind of devilry ...
The then head of the Petersburg detective police, Chulitsky, obviously did not believe in miracles and, not without reason, decided to arrest the artist B., reasonably suspecting him, if not of complicity, then at least of concealment and non-reporting.
However, it was not possible to arrest him immediately, since B. was at that time in Italy, where, obviously, he was gaining artistic impressions. He returned from there after about a month.
During this time, Chulitsky tried in vain to penetrate the secret of the crime.
He could not get out of the vicious circle of logical contradictions. And in fact: it was difficult to doubt the hunchback's confession, made voluntarily by him, and the seizure that happened to him at the sight of the picture was witnessed by both passers-by and the pharmacist. From this it followed that the artist B. was unknown to the hunchback. On the other hand, the artist B. could not fail to know the hunchback, since the hunchback was captured by him and precisely in that situation and for the crime to which he himself confessed.
It is difficult to assume that the hunchback voluntarily agreed to pose for the artist for such a picture, since the hunchback carefully concealed his crime and would not risk playing with fire, not so much for logical reasons as for an unaccountable feeling of fear.
Finally, the mystery was cleared up.
During B.'s stay abroad, the most accurate and detailed inquiries were made about the artist, which turned out to be quite favorable for him; nevertheless, he was arrested upon arrival.
Upon learning of the charge brought against him, he recounted the following:
- Like many others, I was captured by stories of a sensational murder and decided to paint a picture on this plot. I immediately went to the scene and made detailed sketches of the attic. I saw her body and sketched it in the deceased.
Trying in my imagination to reproduce the whole picture of the atrocity, I made the most accurate inquiries about the position in which the body was found. I drew all this. I missed the main character, that is, the hastily hiding killer.
My imagination painted him for some reason physically disgusting, something like Quasimodo. I used to wander around my Vasilievsky Island, where more than once in the taverns of the Galernaya Harbor I looked for suitable models and sitters. Cherishing the idea of finding Quasimodo, I went to the corner of Line 20 to the inn. And suddenly, fortunately for me, a man enters, surprisingly responding to the image outlined in my imagination.
He ordered himself a couple of tea and sat down not far from me. I took out a notebook and carefully began to sketch it: but he was in a hurry and, having drunk tea, quickly left. I asked the innkeeper who he was and where he lived. The innkeeper did not know this, but said that this man happens every day at about the same time. I took advantage of this and painted an accurate portrait of him in five sessions.
- I am endlessly surprised by the strange coincidence, - finished the artist, - but it is so!
The police questioned the innkeeper, who exactly confirmed the artist's words, and B. was immediately released.
The hunchback was sentenced to 20 years in hard labor.