The dead man's house was a museum.
The house had stood for more than 100 years. If Yuri Ives had lived to have his way, it would have remained for at least 100 more. The Victorian, with room enough to shelter a dozen people, overflowed with antiques that Ives had spent much of his 48 years collecting. Clutter made it impossible to count each painting, each figurine. The kitchen seemed to be missing its refrigerator, but a telltale hum emanating from a hand-built wood and glass cabinet gave it away. This was the kind of appliance that the house would have had in 1910. Tracking down, refurbishing and installing a refrigerator built before World War I was the kind of thing he made time to do.
Crime is common enough in Northeast Kansas City, but the gunshots late the night of February 28 weren't sounds anyone expected to hear from that house. The neighborhood was filled with people he knew, having rented apartments to them or sold houses to them.
When police arrived, they found Ives' body on the hardwood floor. His cell phone was missing, along with his wallet and his silver .44-caliber revolver. Near the corpse was a phone that didn't belong to him.
In the backyard, they found an empty knife sheath and a set of footprints. The trail of steps led to the missing knife. There was blood on the blade. The footsteps continued over a fence and out of the yard.
The news vans started making camp, and the neighborhood woke up to see broadcasters on their block, reporting on an as-yet-unidentified homicide victim.
This is how Ron Megee found out: by watching news footage of a familiar house where he'd been to so many parties. An actor known for gender-bending satire, Megee rented his first place in the Northeast from Ives and later bought a house from him. When his Late Night Theatre was on the verge of going under in 2005, Ives wrote him a $5,000 check to keep it going.
"Everyone was calling each other, just telling their neighbors to turn on the news," he says. "We all knew it had to be Yuri, but we were praying it wasn't."
Ives' partner, Mui Chin, was in Malaysia. He'd left a month earlier to attend his brother-in-law's funeral. A neighbor found Chin's number and called him.
"Yuri's been shot."
"Is he all right?"
"No. He's gone."
Chin hung up the phone. His sister was in the room with him. "Now your burden is heavier than mine," she told him.
At the offices of Northeast News, owner and editor Michael Bushnell was figuring out how to cover the death of one of his beat's most prominent and controversial citizens.
"You want a list of suspects?" Bushnell asked his staff later that morning. "Open a phone book."
The name in Yuri Ives' obituary wasn't the one he was born with.
The man who became Yuri Ives started life with that most anonymous American name: John Smith. That was the name he gave Mui Chin when they met, in 1987.
Chin was born in Malaysia. His family was poor, and his father died when he was young, leaving his brother to raise him. He immigrated to the United States because he had heard that you could make good money as a chef here. By the late 1980s, he had established himself at the Wrightwood, California, restaurant where Ives was a regular.
"He was studying to be a hairdresser," Chin says. "He liked my cooking and he kept asking the managers about me, and finally he got back to meet me. Right away, he asked me to leave and go into business with him running our own restaurant."