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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beware of Neurotics With Impeccable Taste

Does life imitate art? Or vice versa? The answer in St. Petersburg is: neither. No, here in the Venice of the North, life is suddenly imitating a John Le Carr? novel.

The Mole has come to town. Last week, local police were led by an anonymous telephone tipster to Baltiisky Train Station, where they found a bomb made from a coffee can and 300 grams of TNT. Once police had defused the bomb, they looked inside the can and found a note promising all manner of future havoc from someone called the Mole, unless his conditions were met.

The conditions were straightforward: First, the Mole (krot in Russian) wanted to receive $100,000. Second, he (or she) wanted police to shut down a certain gas station in town.

But it was the Mole's instructions for how the police should show their willingness to cooperate that has fired the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, newspaper columnists and various others who have way too much time on their hands: Put a bouquet of roses, instructed the Mole, on the Channel Five news anchor's desk during an evening broadcast.

Roses! On the news anchor's desk! What can it mean? Shades of Kremlin intrigue! Remember those days of analyzing every obscure move and comment from the Soviet leadership, in hopes of gleaning some insight into power shifts among the Communist hierarchy? Perhaps all those long-out-of-work Kremlinologists should be summoned to help analyze the case and catch the Mole.

Why roses, indeed? Why not chrysanthemums, or lilies, or perhaps some perky little peonies? In fact, the police could work out a whole system for communicating with the Mole, assigning different meanings to different flowers: Daisies mean the police will negotiate a payment, for example, or creeping ivy means the police are on to the Mole's identity. A Venus fly trap means ... what else? It's curtains for the Mole.

No doubt about it, there's more to this bouquet of roses stuff than meets the eye. And in the best tradition of spy novels herewith is a thumbnail sketch of the Mole, in the hopes that the police will catch him before he does something more serious than simply make bizarre headlines:

I submit that the Mole is a disgruntled interior designer who couldn't get work decorating Channel Five's studio. So he's created this whole scenario so he could get the police to place roses on the news desk. In this roundabout way, he's decorating the studio as he sees fit.

Other clues: Perhaps he's called "the Mole" because he's hairy or has buck teeth. And perhaps he's addicted to coffee, which is why he planted his bomb in a coffee can.

So if you see a hirsute, buck-toothed guy walking around St. Petersburg carrying a copy of "House Beautiful" magazine in trembling, caffeine-fueled hands, call the cops. Especially if he's carrying roses.