Mr. Charles Carson opened the door precisely at seven-thirty on the morning of June 12th, 1934. Dressed in his uniform of black and precision, he put on a straight face as the motorcar of the Dowager Countess, a 1928 forest green Crossley, pulled up into the driveway. The Countess, who was wearing a dark blue dress with a floral design with matching hat that had a faux black flower, after being let out by her chauffeur, walked toward the butler with gratitude as if she had not been expecting him.
"Good morning My Lady," Carson replied with sincerity.
Violet smiled indifferently, like she always did with him. Carson knew from observation that the Dowager Countess does not care about greetings, only expectations and expectations equal results which end in praise and reward. She entered the house with jovial optimism, which is something she never did. Putting on a smile and a good image, she headed towards Robert, who was in the foyer. At the moment, he was talking to Thomas about the latest world news.
"Do you think that there will be a cleansing?" Robert asked, voice a bit hushed.
"I don't believe so," Thomas replied, "if anything the worst of it will be prison camps."
"What are you two conspiring about this time?" Violet asked once she got close enough.
Robert turned to her and with his best calm face said, "Stalin is apparently making some move toward his own people."
"Good," Violet replied, "it's about time the Russians do something about themselves."
"They're not savages," Thomas butted in, "they're people. They're just going through a rough patch is all."
Robert sighed, he knew somehow, someway the topic of Socialism versus Capitalistic Economy would turn up. It happened before the war during the revolt and it seems to be happening again. In a span of twenty years, history repeated itself and if there was one thing that Robert Crawley feared at the moment, was losing his house once again to men with schizophrenia and shell shock.
"Let's talk about this later," Robert said, "luncheon will be served in the library."
"Seems like I came at the right time then." Violet replied, smiling once again as they walked toward the library. Their footsteps echoed on the wooden floors and ascended to the ceiling harmoniously like a synchronized band of instrumentalists. Fittingly, Matthew's gramophone, which Mary had brought down from its place, played the sweet violin of Beethoven. The Pastoral.
Cora came into the library five minutes late for luncheon, apparently Phyllis Baxter was under the weather so Anna, who was busy as always, filled in. The Lady of the House came in wearing a black frilled shirt with matching necklace, hair in a respectable orderly and mature looking bun. Sitting on the couch, Cora looked over toward her mother in law with the slight superstition that she was too happy. For no one, in her American mind at least, would be this happy on any day. Granted the sun was out, the weather was fair and there was no reason to complain because every single affair (for the moment at least) had been settled, but it was still no reason to be gallivanting like Gerard Manley Hopkins.
"Why are you so happy?" Cora asked.
"Is it a crime to smile and be optimistic?" Violet asked back, giving her in law a stare which only in the mind of a fool could be mistaken as cheerful.
"I think she means, why the sudden mood swing." Robert said, sitting across from his wife on the beige couch, sipping his tea and reaching for the tray, selecting a few grapes and slowly eating them.
"He's right," Tom Branson, who was near the fireplace replied, "you're not exactly the jovial type."
"I beg your pardon." Violet said, slightly insulted, looking at Branson as if he had committed larceny.
"He's only joking Ma Ma," Edith (Gregson), who was dressed in a purple Parisian style dress replied. "but seriously, why the happiness?"
Violet rolled her head, she didn't like being pushed into mundane conversations and the subject of her happiness was one of them. It wasn't a scandalous affair to begin with, but it wasn't a mistake that one forgets about the next morning either.
"If you must know," Violet said, "I'm having an old friend come and visit me. It's been a long time since we've last spoken and I wish to look presentable."
"Where will he be staying?" Cora asked the same question she always did. If there was one thing she adored in this world it was to be hospitable to visiting friends and people in need. It showed, in her mind at least, that the rich can be rich for both themselves and to the less fortunate.
"I was expecting here." Violet said. "If you aren't busy that is-"
"Nonsense," Robert replied, "he will be most welcome. Who is he?"
"Commander Vasily Kazimir of the Red Army." Violet said.
Silence. Even Tom, the devout Socialist, could not speak at this. Everyone from Cora to Robert to Edith and Mary, who was sitting next to her mother, all had the look of disbelief and betrayal. It was as if the Great War had started up again, this time with the family in the literal line of fire.
"How could you associate yourself with a Russian? Let alone a Socialist?" Robert said, breaking the silence, when he turned to Tom in apology.
"None taken," Branson said, "I don't really like the sound of it. Just his name, Vasily, what kind of name is that anyway?"
"The name of composer." Violet replied, looking at Tom as if she were about to murder him. "He's named after Vasily Kalinnikov, a Russian composer of my generation." She turned towards everyone else, who still had that look of superstition that hint of uncertainty.
"You don't understand," she continued, "Vasily and I go back before the Boxer Rebellion. He's got to be about the same age as me, maybe even older. He does not agree with this Stalin business and he has no part in it. If it were up to him Russia would still exist."
"Why is he here?" Mary asked.
"He's visiting his nephew, Nikiv Popov, he's only a boy. Living with his grandparents who moved to London before the war." Violet said. "Vasily is a dear friend, he can be trusted."
"Alright then." Robert said.
Carson opened the door, allowing Alfred Nugent to walk in. He was delivering the day's lunch on a silver tray. It was Poulet aigu de Tarragon, a chicken dish with ginger cream sauce over steamed asparagus. There was still steam coming off the food so Alfred, in good nature, blew it away gently and left the room without a word with Carson following close behind.
"You have managed well for yourself as footman Alfred," Carson said once he closed the door. "I'm sure they will enjoy the lunch you prepared."
"Do you think so Mister Carson?" Alfred asked, a bit unnerved after his denial to the Ritz.
"If I told you that I secretly snuck a piece and told you it was heavenly would you believe me?" Carson asked.
"Not really sir, no."
Carson smiled as he and Alfred made their way back downstairs, "Believe it, because that's exactly what I did and that's exactly what it is."
Mister Bates, who was currently upstairs at the moment, checking in on everything being the sensible man he was, was delighted to hear that Rose, who decided that she wasn't hungry for some reason, took the liberty of changing the music selection on the gramophone to something more lively and beautiful than Beethoven. Rossini. Figaro was busy wooing a customer.
Bates walked towards Rose's room with purpose, for this particular piece gave him the confidence to walk without the use of his cane. Although he could never physically do it, he felt like he could every time Figaro started his famous and hilarious deception on the customer who was just trying to receive a decent haircut.
Rose MacClare, who was dressed in an ultramarine dress, white overcoat and dawning a string of pearls, imagined herself in Italy as she sprawled herself across the bed and laughed. She laughed as if she were being bombarded by a group of shih-tzus and rolled over, smiling at the thought of her being in Venice or Roma, somewhere off and away from this. Although she was appreciative of her mother allowing her to come, there was no question that she wanted more out of life, an adventure, which to her, simply breathing, eating and sleeping wasn't enough. She wanted to be a caviler, a Musketeer, a daring individual who's only last words are "carpe diem!"
She fell to the floor, closed her eyes for a moment, pictured herself in a fantasy and opened her eyes, allowing herself to be brought back to reality. She smiled at Bates who stood in the doorway.
"You must think me rather silly." Rose said.
"On the contrary," Bates replied, "I think it rather human to laugh when one is happy."
"Are you happy then Mister Bates?" Rose asked. "You never seem to laugh," she stood, "or are you just not the comedian sort of fellow who takes life too seriously."
"My personal life should not be a concern of yours." Bates said.
"Oh but it should, at least a little." Rose replied, "I hate to see someone who isn't happy. Is there anything I can do for you? Arrange a dinner for you and Anna someplace or buy you something?"
"No Lady Rose," Bates said sincerely, "but thank you for the Rossini."
Rose smiled, "Oh, so you listen to him?"
"He makes me feel like I can do anything. Like walk without a cane sort of anything." Bates said. "Well, I have other duties and matters to concern myself with. Have a good day."
"You too." Rose said, still smiling as Bates turned and went downstairs to the servant's hall to eat luncheon. If he was lucky, he would make it just in time for it.
At four-thirty seven Carson, the house staff and the nobility of the house: Robert, Violet, Mary, Tom Branson, Edith, Cora, as well as Isabelle (who arrived roughly an hour earlier) stood outside of the house as a 1932 Packard One Twenty Business Coupé pulled into the driveway. The motorcar was a purchase of Commander Kazimir after a visit to New York City and introduction to American automobiles sold him to buy one. The mahogany colored white wheeled vehicle shone in the sun like a new penny.
Jimmy did the kindness of opening the door for Vasily who came out dressed in military uniform displaying a medal, the Order of the Red Banner on his right chest pocket. He was a man of average height and cheerful disposition despite having gray hair, a receding hair line, a small goatee, which he kept in pristine military condition and a minor heart condition. His was seventy-four but he looked fifty.
"Ah, Violet," Vasily said in a very English sounding Russian accent, "it's been far too long."
"Yes it has Commander," Violet said smiling as he walked towards her. "How are you?"
"Fine as anyone can be considering the circumstances." Vasily replied. He turned towards Robert and shook his hand firmly.
"Lord Grantham," Vasily said, "I do hope I'm not burdening you with me staying here."
"Not at all Commander," Robert replied, "we're delighted to have you. I see you do not have a valet, we shall cover for you if you-"
"No that won't be necessary, my valet, Mikhail, is coming by later. He's a good fellow and has been here before."
"He has?" Robert asked, a bit intrigued.
"Oh yes." Vasily said, "As I'm sure you know, it's been a long time since I've been here. We were here when your father was Earl. He was a good man."
"Thank you," Robert replied, "come, let's not waste time out here. We can continue chatting in the library if you like."
"I would much prefer the dining room," Vasily said, as everyone proceeded to re-enter the house, "don't want to miss dinner." He laughed. "When will it be served?"
"In the next hour or so." Cora said. "If that is suitable for you."
"Of course it is!" Vasily beamed a bit, "In the meantime, I wish to reminiscence in the gardens."
Cora smiled at the old man, realizing that he was someone of her tastes, for the gardens was always a place of interest for her to take guests and she was delighted to hear that someone else wanted to see it (instead of being forced to). With a smile Cora said:
"I can take you if you like."
"Oh that would be splendid." Vasily said. He followed her through the library and out the side door.
Dinner was served promptly at five-fifteen. The china was set, the candles were lit and the meal was a beautifully prepared roast. Vasily sat across from Mary who looked at him with intrigue, specifically his medal.
"Which medal is that?" Mary asked. "I've seen one before in the papers but never actually got around to what it means?"
"It's the Order of the Red Banner, it means that I'm a branded Socialist." Vasily said. "If it were up to me I would never wear it."
"Why is that?" Tom asked. "What's wrong with it?"
Vasily turned towards him and looked at him as if he were an insane mental patient. The eyes of a man who has seen two wars, a revolution, a police shakedown and a forced military career stared Branson right in the face. A large frog developed in Tom's throat, just looking at the man made him want to cringe. It wasn't the fact that Vasily wasn't an ugly face to behold, it was the simple fact that Tom knew that Mister Vasily wasn't here simply for a friendly visit.
"Forget I asked." Tom said.
"Best keep forgetting," Vasily replied, "I do not wish to speak of this anymore whilst I'm here. Is that understood?"
Tom nodded, frankly, so did everyone.
"So," Robert said, changing the subject, "what exactly do you do Mister Kazimir?"
"Mostly retired these days." Vasily answered, "I just tend the house and the children now."
"Where do you live exactly?" Cora asked, a bit intrigued about everything involved with him. "You mentioned something about Moscow but you weren't very specific about it."
"On the outskirts of Moscow, on a small estate with few staff. Believe me, it isn't as glamorous as this." Vasily said with a laugh.
"I'm sure it's lovely." Violet said with a smile, "How is Katherine?"
Vasily sighed a bit, but there was a reminiscent smile to it, "She died about three years ago I'm afraid. Typhus is a deadly curse in Russia."
"Typhus?" Isabelle said, slightly concerned, "Surely you have proper care for people?"
"We do Lady Crawley," Vasily said, "but it is too far a journey from our home. There is a hospital in Moscow and that's where she stayed really but by the time we admitted her there it was too late."
"Oh I'm terribly sorry." Isabelle replied, "I'm sure she lived well."
"She did, thank you." Vasily said smiling. "She was the love of my life, save for Violet that is."
Violet blushed, "You can stop with the flirting any time now."
The Russian laughed. "Don't worry, I'm not going to sweep you off your feet, too old and too tired to do such things anymore."
Carson entered the room, chaperoning Jimmy Kent as he passed a tray full of Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs, a side-dish that hailed from France. Vasily took a spoon full of it and tried it with his roast. It was divine. The Russian smiled, not because he was happy, but because he was relieved to have a decent meal without having to look over his shoulder. For a moment, he almost cried but remembered his place and where he was and kept his composure.
"Something the matter?" Mary asked, noticing that the Commander leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
"He must be reminiscent." Edith replied. "Michael managed to catch a train from Munich to Canen so he'll be able to make it here tomorrow."
"That's nice." Cora said.
"I still don't approve of this idea. I mean Michael didn't have to convert to the Reich just so he could marry you." Robert said, looking a bit distraught as if he were back on the frontlines witnessing the death of five-hundred soldiers, envisioning Matthew as well as Michael among the dead. It burned the man's memory, to think of such fantasies and he often wondered if he missed Matthew more than Mary did. He knew this to be folly.
"I think it's quite romantic." Edith said. "I mean, this Hitler fellow doesn't sound too terrible does he?"
"He's a fascist." Robert replied sternly, "I will not have a fascist in this house. I'm just getting used to having a Socialist, if you turn to Fascism, well, you might as well hire an Arsonist and an Annarchist and burn the house down while preaching about how governments are destroying the human spirit and such nonsense."
"Once Michael Gregson gets here," Robert said, "I will not allow him to go back."
"Then you would be breaking the law." Edith replied. "Hitler obviously has the ambition to have every single German under his roof."
"Michael Gregson is an Englishman first." Robert said, giving his daughter an authoritarian stare, "He has dual citizenship."
"So, there's your loophole in love Edith," Mary said smiling, "I'm glad to see that you two are finally settling down. When is the wedding?"
"We're not sure." Edith said, turning towards her sister, "we are going to discuss it when he arrives."
Vasily turned towards Violet, "If you all will excuse me for one moment, I have some business to discuss with Mikhail over the phone, would you mind showing me where it is?"
Carson stepped in, "Allow me sir."
The butler showed the man out and to the nearest phone, which was in the main hall.
"Hang it up when you're finished." Carson said.
Vasily nodded, "Thank you sir."
He dialed a number and picked up the phone. "Mikhail, it's me, how is everything going?"
"Not good I'm afraid." Mikhail answered, his voice a bit deeper, for he was thirty-seven, still had a full head of hair, and there wasn't anything English about his Russian accent.
"Why, what's going on?" Vasily asked.
Mikhail sighed, "I'll explain it all when I arrive in the morning. Right now, there's no need to worry, get some sleep sir. You're going to need it."
Vasily hung the phone up. He wore his worst fears on his face. The mouth dropped, the eyes showed a broken hearted man who never cried in his life and his hands trembled and felt clammy. Even though he didn't know specifics, Vasily didn't need to. He knew what was going on.
"June 12th, 1934," Vasily said looking at his medal and taking it off his shirt, "the day my pride died." He placed the medal next to phone as he and Carson walked back to the dining room.
The Russian turned towards Carson, "You seem to be a man who can be trusted with truth."
"I haven't been known to lie very often." Carson replied.
"Good," Vasily said, "because another war is coming."
"So what are you suggesting in terms of bringing out the news?" Carson asked.
"Say nothing, it isn't for certain, but Stalin is-" he paused, the heartbreak of his country destroying itself a second time was too much for him. Tears fell from his face.
"I'll excuse you from dinner." Carson said. "In the meantime, Miss Anna shall attend to you."
Vasily nodded, "Thank you sir."
Jimmy exited the room with an empty tray and smile on his face. "Mister Kent," Carson said, "would you be so kind as to send for Anna to care for Commander Vasily, he isn't well. Send Mrs. Hughes if she is available."
Jimmy nodded, "Of course Mister Carson." He said and walked rather slowly about the whole ordeal. To be honest, Jimmy felt that being a footman carried a bit more weight than it actually did and he felt obligated to show the nobility, but specifically, Mister Carson, that.
"Can I have a chair?" Vasily asked, voice a bit breathy.
Carson led him to a nearby one. He turned to see if Jimmy was walking smugly or not, he was still in the main hall, meandering like a tourist in the British Museum. "Be quick about it James!"
Jimmy looked over, saw the distress and practically ran down the stairs to fetch Anna and Mrs. Hughes. Carson meanwhile, re-entered the dining room.
"Apologizes for the disturbance My Lordship but Commander Kazimir is not feeling too well. He shall be taken to his room and looked after." Carson said.
"Oh my," Violet said, "whatever is the matter?"
"I'm sure it's nothing serious My Lady, just a bit of shock over some news." Carson replied.
"What news Carson?" Robert asked.
Carson sighed and although he technically swore to a mild level of secrecy, he went about saying the truth in a roundabout way. "If I were to tell you that Downton was to be reconverted back to a hospital in the near future would you believe me?"
"Yes, unfortunately." Robert said. "Is there cause for alarm?"
"Not yet," Carson said, "Vasily believes that there will be another war. He does not know when or where, but there will be another."
"Why is that? I thought the Treaty of Versailles was meant to keep the world at peace?" Mary said.
"Peace has a funny definition in politics," Tom said, "and think about it, you're dealing with Socialists, to be honest, we're not exactly the most understanding of people."
"For once Tom, I agree with you." Robert said. "Does anyone else know of this Carson?"
"If they did," Carson replied, "then they would be preparing themselves for heartache and misery. Good news is, they're not."
"Don't tell them," Robert said, "we don't want everyone going into panic or hysteria. It's the last thing we need right now."
"I'll keep a note of it sir." Carson said and left the room.
Anna settled Vasily into bed while Mrs. Hughes went downstairs to summon Doctor Clarkson. The room was splendid and almost insultingly red. Just because a man hails from a red country does not mean he approves of the color, but to be honest, Vasily was at the stage in his life when the color of walls and floors mean nothing and only a soft bed and hospitality does. Dressed in his bedclothes, Vasily managed to get himself into bed but Anna insisted on doing the rest.
"You suffered a shock sir," Anna said sweetly, "I don't think it's best you moving around."
"I can set my own clothes for tomorrow thank you." Vasily said. Anna smiled but continued with her routine anyway.
Mrs. Hughes entered the room. "Doctor Clarkson will be here within the hour." She said. "Is there anything I can get you sir?"
"A glass of water and perhaps an aspirin, my head is killing me."
Mrs. Hughes nodded and left, looking back on the man as if it were the last time he would see him.
Doctor Clarkson arrived earlier than expected at nine-thirty instead of ten. Carried his medical supplies he was shown in and administered Vasily a sedative to help him sleep through the night. When he was finished with his diagnosis, he left the room and beheld the waiting party of Robert, Cora, Violet, Mary, Isabelle, Rose and Tom.
"How is he?" Violet asked.
"He's fine, just a bit taken aback from shock." Clarkson replied, "He has a migraine so best keep him in bed for a few days. I'll come by again tomorrow and check on him."
"Thank you, Doctor Clarkson," Cora said smiling out of habit.
"Well," Violet replied, "it seems I best be going. Don't want to disturb his slumber." Robert and Tom lead her downstairs to the main hall.
"I think I'll turn in early," Mary said. "Good night." She hugged and kissed everyone she loved that was there and walked down the hallway to her room.
"I do hope he's alright." Rose said. "He seems like such a nice fellow."
"He'll be fine." Clarkson assured, "Now if there is no need for me, I best be getting to bed too."
He said his goodbyes and walked out, waving to Violet as her chauffer pulled up into the driveway and drove home just as the sky was beginning to turn the color raven and the moon shone like a lantern, illuminating the world, bringing light into a dark and confused world for one final time before the bombs are dropped and the life is spilled. The last moon of peacetime.
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) Headquarters
St. Petersburg Division
December 1st, 1934
"Send in Commissioner Medved please." said Sergei Mihaylov.
"Yes sir." said Isidor. "How do you want him presented?"
Sergei stood from his desk chair and waved cigar smoke away from his face. Placing his hands on the visibly warped desk, the Executive of the Secret Police stared directly at his underling's collar so that when he sneered it wasn't too personal.
"As degrading and humiliating as possible." Sergei said, placing a very thick Sobranie cigar in his mouth. He took a drag, letting the fumes get into his system before exhaling like St. George's dragon: smoke, no fire, too yellow to be fierce, but daring enough to cause fear. The perfect display of power in a single puff of cigar smoke.
Isidor nodded and headed towards the door. The silver doorknob squeaked as he turned it, its voice silenced by the door and Isidor's swift stride out.
On Sergei's desk lay a manila folder labeled "Phase I". Opening it, Sergei felt the weight of ten thousand pounds come down on his chest. Even though he had seen the contents of the folder, mostly photographs, he still couldn't control the urge to be human. He resumed his chair and individually examined each photograph, hoping to find some sort of justification for the means.
There was a photograph of a man in a red polo shirt and fall jacket. He had a well defined mustache and beard as well as massive ears. His eyes stared into the camera as if he had nothing left to live for, as if the world was now occupied by an alien race who's only ambition was annihilation. He had no political party affiliation and had no reason to be involved. An innocent fly caught in an unforgiving spider's web. On the back was a date, October 5.
Another was of a grieving mother who had just witnessed the death of her last child. Her face was chiseled into eternal mourning for herself, her country and her husband, who had been detained in Black Dolphin Prison three weeks before this photograph. She wore a white button up shirt and a black overcoat. Her hair was combed and presentable, for she always did this out of habit- for the University of Donetsk required professionalism. She had no political party affiliation and her only sin in the world was being a professor. On the back was a date, August 28.
A man of respectability and service hadn't a speck of fear as he was branded a counter-revolutionist. His posture was honorable, his eyes were clairvoyant, his mind was clear. The only sin he committed was being in service to God. On the back was a date, August 14.
A child of thirteen, a man of seventy-four, a woman of twenty-eight, a priest, a writer, a farmer, a Bolshevik political official, a ditch digger, a fisherman and a poet. All of them immortalized in fear and destruction and all in purview of The Red Banner.
Isidor knocked at the door. "He's here sir."
Sergei closed the folder and placed it to the side of his desk before grabbing a tissue and dabbing his eyes a bit. He didn't cry, but he just wanted to make sure. He discarded the tissue in the garbage can.
"Come in." He said.
Isidor opened the door and stood to the side, allowing Commissioner Feodor Medved to walk into the room. Wearing the uniform of his position and carrying an off white piece of paper in his hand, Medved boasted a tranquil face as Isidor closed the door behind him and blocked it. Sergei stared at him, giving an accurate impression of why he called him in.
"Sit down Commissioner." Sergei said motioning to the vacant chair opposite him with his hand. Feodor took a seat, noticing that Mister Mihaylov was beginning to wave his cigar like a hand-held fan- back and forth back and forth. The smoke swirled like a boa, constricting the air and killing any confidence or self worth that was present.
"I suppose you know why you're here." Sergei said.
"I do," Feodor replied, "I understand my failure and I wish to hand in my resignation."
Medved handed Mihaylov the paper, detailing the reasoning as well as giving a clairvoyant explanation as to why there was no justification for the means. Sergei scanned the letter once, twice and a third time. To his right was a blue Stipula fountain pen. The gold nip had a bit of tarnish but other than that, the pen was a sound instrument of business. Sergei reached for the pen and underneath Medved's name below the words 'Sincerely Yours' he signed his name large enough for Joseph Stalin himself to be able to read it.
Sergei placed the pen to its original position, looked towards Feodor with all the sincerity in the world. "I suggest that you pack your belongings and head to Switzerland, Mister Medved."
"Why Switzerland sir?" Medved asked.
Sergei stood up, folded Medved's resignation letter and handed it to him. "Switzerland is the last place Stalin would look for you." He motioned for a small drawer to his left, opening it and producing a Nagant M1895 revolver and one 7.62x38mmR ammunition cartridge. He loaded the bullet in the chamber and turned the safety off.
"Don't worry Feodor, it's nothing personal." Sergei said. "It's just business."
Medved stood from his chair, placed the letter in his inner coat pocket and straightened his uniform. The belt was resituated to line up with the buttons of the coat as well as the zipper of the pants. He placed his hands by his side lining up with the seam after he straightened his name tag as well his Order of the Red Banner medal that proudly hung on the left pocket.
Isidor smiled, crossed his arms and laughed. He took pride in moments such as this, when the accused are given their sentence and pronounced guilty. His mind began to wander, thinking of the yarn he would spin when telling this story. The Greatest Era of the Russia began with the trial, conviction and execution of Commissioner Feodor Medved, head of security for that son of a bitch Kirov.
Sergei raised his pistol.
"Any last words?" Isidor asked.
Medved said nothing. He did not even blink as Sergei applied pressure to the trigger. He did not twitch his eye when the gunpowder exploded and Newton's third law of motion took over, sending the bullet through a grooved barrel. There was however, a bead of sweat that trickled down the left side of his face as the bullet exited and headed towards his left side at approximately 1,700 mph and a sigh of relief as Isidor Dalca slowly fell to the floor dead.
"I suggest that if you want to live," Sergei said, "then you get yourself to Switzerland."
Feodor nodded slowly. Looking back at Isidor, he had a mixed emotion of remorse and guilt. He walked over to the poor soul, kneeled down and closed his eyes. He sighed, it was long, deep and mournful.
"How many more must die like this Sergei?" He asked.
"Until Stalin bleeds and dies." Sergei replied as he grabbed his pistol, all of the ammunition for it, his pen and the manila folder of photographs and made his way around to desk quickly. Even though he had nothing to fear he felt as if he had assassinated Czar Nicolas and felt guilty about it.
"Now," he said, "get yourself to Switzerland."
"What about you?" Medved asked as he quickly pushed Isidor's body out of the way.
"I have bigger problems to deal with than the execution block." Sergei replied, "Besides, he was expendable anyway. I could always make something up saying that he was attempting to assassinate me. I'll be fine. You my friend need to get out of the country."
Medved nodded and placed his hand on the doorknob, "Why are you doing this?"
"Sergei," Feodor said, "calm yourself."
Sergei took a breath and motioned for Feodor to open the door. He did so and they walked down the hallway, Mihaylov didn't even bother to shut the door. Instead, he just kept on walking.
"What are you going to do, I mean I know you have nothing to worry about, but won't there be suspicion somewhere?" Feodor asked as they passed a women's restroom.
"I have relatives near Moscow," Sergei said, "they own a small estate. I'll go there for a few months if need be. For now, I'll see about turning this fiasco around. Now, catch a train, go to Switzerland. Contact me when you get there."
Feodor nodded. "Of course but, you still didn't answer my question, why are you doing this for me?"
Sergei sighed and stopped walking. He knew his reasoning but he also knew that he was being a hypocrite in some circles and a crazy fool in others. He turned towards Medved, looked into his eyes and said words that a certain mutual friend said hours before: " Leonid Nikolayev"
Medved's heart skipped a beat. Someone who wasn't even there to witness it knew the last words of his comrade, Sergey Mironovich Kirov. He reached out his right hand, Sergei shook it.
"Be safe Sergei Mihaylov. God knows you need it." Feodor said. They ceased the handshake but they didn't let go as a mutual sign of respect.
"The same comrade, I'll create a diversion long enough for you to get to at least Vienna." Sergei said.
"I'll make arrangements." Medved said. He released the grip and smiled a bit. "Thank you sir, you saved my life."
Sergei nodded quickly and motioned for him to leave. Without a moment's delay Feodor left the building and by seven o'clock that evening was in Eastern Poland.