The Beast in the Red Forest(63)
Author:Sam Eastland


    ‘Will that be all, Comrade Stalin?’ Pekkala glanced at the steam curling up from the food on the table.

    ‘As a matter of fact, it will not. There is something that I need to know.’

    ‘Yes?’

    ‘If you had walked into this room fifteen seconds later, I would be dead now. You knew that, but you walked in anyway.’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘Why did you let me live, Pekkala, after all I’ve done to you?’

    ‘Do you really want the answer, Comrade Stalin?’

    There was a long pause. ‘No,’ said Stalin. ‘On second thought, maybe I don’t.’ Without another word, he hung up the phone. For a moment, Stalin looked around his study, at the red velvet curtains, the picture of Lenin on the wall and the old grandfather clock standing silent in the corner, as if to reassure himself that everything was as it should be. Then he opened a drawer in his desk, removed a can of sardines in tomato sauce and peeled back the top with a small metal key. He took off his jacket‚ rolled up his sleeves and tucked a large grey handkerchief into his collar. But before he began his meal, Stalin lifted the headset, with which he had been listening to the conversation in Pekkala’s office. He had waited for the precise moment when they were sitting down to eat before ordering Poskrebychev to place the call. Now, as Stalin heard the sound of cutlery on plates, he slipped one of the greasy, headless sardines into his mouth. While he chewed, he felt the soft bones crush between his teeth. Pausing to lick the tiny, glistening fish scales from his fingertips, Stalin imagined he was there among them in that cosy little room, sharing the warmth and the laughter.





    Acknowledgements


    The author would like to thank the following:

    Walter Donohue, Deborah Rogers, Will Atkinson, Katherine Armstrong, Alex Holroyd, John Grindrod, Lisa Baker, Hannah Griffiths, Mohsen Shah and Christian House.





    About the Author




    Sam Eastland lives in the US and the UK. He is the grandson of a London police detective.

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