Hearing the commotion, Ivan rushes to the turnstile and sees Berlioz’s head bouncing on the pavement. He overhears two women discussing what happened, learning that a woman called “Annushka” accidentally spilled sunflower oil by the turnstile, making the floor slippery. Ivan realizes that this is precisely what the professor had talked about earlier.
The manner of Berlioz’s death is intentionally paradoxical: it seems like a freak accident but, having been predicted by Woland, is also predetermined. The reader, like Ivan, has the problem of how to ascribe responsibility. Perhaps Berlioz brought it upon himself for his cowardly allegiance to official policy (and misguided views on art); or, equally possible, Woland is responsible; a third possibility is that it was an accident and that Woland’s powers merely allowed him to know in advance. Ivan, in his distress, chooses the second theory.
Ivan tries desperately to figure out what happened, concluding that the professor can’t have been insane and, furthermore, must have set up Berlioz’s death. He goes back to the bench, and finds the strange man still sitting there, talking with a companion (Koroviev) wearing checkered trousers and a jockey cap.
Woland has now been joined by his assistant, Koroviev. It’s worth reiterating that Bulgakov deliberately doesn’t name these characters yet, adding to their air of mystery and foreignness.
Ivan asks the professor to confess his identity, but he pretends to not speak Russian. Koroviev tells Ivan not to bother “a foreign tourist.” Ivan pleads with the second man to help him arrest the professor: “Hey, citizen, help me to detain the criminal! It’s your duty!” Suspecting the second man of being an accomplice, Ivan tries to grab him but is astonished as the man, seeming to defy the laws of physics, keeps materializing in different places.
Ivan comically appeals to Koroviev’s sense of civic duty, unaware of who he is talking to. Koroviev’s movements mark out him and Woland as from a different world; this is the first of many occasions in which they seem to defy scientific possibility.
Ivan notices the two men suddenly far off in the distance. They appear to be joined by a big black cat, as “huge as a hog,” walking on his hind legs. Ivan gives chase. As the three split up, Ivan is amazed to see the cat sneak onto a tram.
The cat is Behemoth. His anthropomorphized ability to walk and talk quickly ramps up the surrealism of the book, further destabilizing Ivan’s mind.
Ivan keeps chasing the professor, “struck by the supernatural speed of the chase.” After many twists and turns, Ivan loses the professor completely, but is overwhelmed by the feeling that he must be hiding in a particular apartment on the street. Bursting into the flat, and then the bathroom, Ivan accidentally walks in on a naked woman taking a bath.
It’s clear that the chase is Woland’s way of toying with Ivan—he, Koroviev, and Behemoth could escape much more easily if they wanted to. They are trying to break down Ivan’s character, which at this point in the story, appears malicious.
Without knowing why, Ivan steals a religious candle from the apartment and heads to the Moscow river, convinced now that this is where he’ll find the professor. Ivan dives into the water, entrusting his clothes to a stranger nearby.
As Ivan’s psyche continues to unravel, his subconscious makes him pick up the candle. He dimly senses that Woland might be Satan, that he is in the presence of powers he doesn’t understand. His dive into the water, then, comes to represent a hapless attempt at ablution and cleansing of the soul.
Exiting the river, Ivan is horrified to see that his clothes have disappeared. Someone else has left a torn shirt and some long underwear, which Ivan puts on, worried about how he will get through Moscow in such ridiculous attire. He decides to head to Griboedov’s, the building that houses Massolit, thinking he’ll find the professor there. As he tries to make his way unseen through the city, passers-by are shocked at his appearance.
Ivan’s predictions about where Woland will be don’t seem to be his own—there is no logic to his choices of a random apartment, the river and finally Griboedov’s. More likely is that Woland’s mischievous side is at work, orchestrating the absurd scenario of the following chapter.