At first glance, the man stretched out on the rose patterned carpet of room 411 in the Hotel Forum, a fading landmark in the crumbling post Communist city of Bratislava could have been drunk or passed out. When Marek Holzt of the Kriminal Politzei turned him over, unnaturally pinkish skin tones, almost exactly matching the carpet and the contorted rictus of pain on its face told him, this was a corpse, a very dead corpse.
His first task was to figure how the man had died. Carefully scanning the room’s surfaces, his attention was caught by an open box of matches bearing the hotel’s logo; nothing surprising there. Most Eastern European men still smoked like fools. One match, an odalisque stretched across the top of the box, sported a most unusual burn pattern. His cop’s sixth sense jangling, he pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, (Not everything you see on American cop shows is erroneous.) and gingerly lifted the match to his nose.
A quick sniff told him everything he needed to know. “Josep,” he said to his partner, handing him the match and box. “Get these analysed. I would guess our dead man was poisoned when he went to light a cigarette. Now all we have to do is find out who he was and why someone wanted him dead.”