Behemoth and Koroviev visit a currency store. When the doorman tells them that cats aren’t allowed in, he instantly morphs into a “fat fellow” with a cattish face. Once inside, Koroviev and Behemoth praise the store as “wonderful!”
Currency stores were government-operated shops in which customers could pay for foreign clothes and fine good using only foreign currency. They were not intended for the general public as possession of foreign currency was banned; they were aimed at foreigners and high-ranking officials, or Soviet citizens that received some income from overseas (e.g. Bulgakov himself).
Behemoth and Koroviev go past expensive fabrics and shoes to the grocery section. An employee is skinning a salmon with a knife “much like the knife stolen by Matthew Levi.” Without paying, Behemoth helps himself to some mandarins; a salesgirl comes over to try to stop him. Behemoth takes a chocolate bar, causing the other artfully balanced bars to go flying, before tucking into some herring.
The store is a place of abundance, full of delicious food that the general populace doesn’t have access to do. It is therefore a symbol of greed and the corruption of the Soviet state. The knife is a neat touch by Bulgakov to link the Yershalaim and Moscow narratives.
The distressed salesgirl calls for the manager, who in turns calls for the doorman. As they surround Behemoth and Koroviev, the latter appeals to the gathering onlookers on Behemoth’s behalf, saying “the poor man spends all day reparating primuses. He got hungry … and where’s he going to get currency?”
Koroviev and Behemoth’s antics here, though undeniably mischievous, highlight the fundamental contradiction of there being this site of luxury with the fact that many citizens struggle to get enough food. They are drawing out the latent feeling of being treated unfairly that resides in the Moscow population.
As the shop descends into chaos, Behemoth sets fire to the counter. The narrator then says that, according to later unconfirmed reports, Behemoth and Koroviev fly up to the ceiling and “pop” away like balloons. Exactly one minute later, they are at Griboedov’s, the Massolit headquarters.
Behemoth continues with his ceremonial fire-starting, signaling that the book is drawing to a close and emphasizing his demonic status.
Standing outside Griboedov’s, Behemoth and Koroviev talk sarcastically about the idea that someone in there is writing the next Don Quixote or Faust. They go to the restaurant, where the hostess asks for their identity cards to prove that they are writers. They quibble with her, asking whether Dostoevsky would need to bring his.
The point, of course, is that no-one Griboedov’s is writing the next Don Quixote or Faust because they’re too busy enjoying the spoils of their state-approved cultural output. Dostoevsky is held up as an example of an authentic, uncompromising artist, and highlights the absurd insistence on bureaucracy and official status (which represents the extending arm of the state).
The hostess insists that Koroviev is not Dostoevsky, and that Dostoevsky is dead. Koroviev continues, saying that “a writer is defined not by any identity card, but by what he writes. How do you know what plots are swarming in my head?” The hostess asks Koroviev and Behemoth to step aside to let one of the writers go past. Just then, the restaurant manager, Archibald Archibaldovich, instructs the hostess to let them in.
Bulgakov’s implication here is that Dostoevsky is, in fact, not dead. His art—because it is true and real—lives on. Koroviev’s point makes the contrast between people’s private and public selves: the outward-facing “dutiful” citizen and the real thoughts harbored within.
Archibald shows Koroviev and Behemoth to the best table on the verandah and ensures that the staff wait on them hand and foot. Archibald, it turns out, has heard about the strange goings-on of the past few days and has guessed the identities of Koroviev and Behemoth.
Archibald thinks that he can avoid the fate that has befallen so many others and get the better of Koroviev and Behemoth. Though Behemoth has changed form, he still has a distinctly cattish appearance.
As Archibald goes to fetch the restaurant’s two finest fish fillets for Koroviev and Behemoth, two diners at a nearby table discuss the rumor that the recent trouble-makers in Moscow are somehow bullet-proof. Just then, armed men arrive and open fire at Koroviev and Behemoth.
The fish fillets are intended as an acknowledgment of status, meant to placate Koroviev and Behemoth for just long enough to have them caught. The reader has confirmation that Behemoth is bullet-proof.
Koroviev and Behemoth disappear, sending the restaurant up in flames. The fire quickly spreads to the entirety of Griboedov House as the diners run for their lives. Archibald, meanwhile, has already left the building with two fish under his arm.
Griboedov is ceremonially sacrificed, signaling a kind of momentary purge of what it represents—cowardice, corruption, inauthenticity.