“Don’t call me that, you know I don’t like it, Vilya.”
I chuckled, moving to lay my hand on the desk, to gain his attention, and once Josef took a better look at me, I hastily pulled away and smirked, rummaging through my pockets for a cigar. “You’ve been here all day, and I understand you’d be a little…frightened. But Chuikov and Vasilevsky have everything under control in the city.”
As I spoke, I gave a brief glance to the surroundings of the tiny bunker. The walls were shiny with varnish, a deep chestnut-red hue to a certain height, while the rest were a creamy white. An old red carpet covered the floor, sitting before the single desk where my brother was. On the wall behind him pasted was a huge map of Stalingrad’s roads and buildings, but at other times in its place were the Russian map, or a World map. A small shelf rested on the corner, adorned by a candleholder, while a weak yellow light emanated from the lampshade on Josef’s desk.
As if to mimic my actions, my older brother slammed both his hands on the desk and stood to tower before me. “Don’t insult me. What you tell me- is something I already know. And you wonder why I will never make you my successor.”
“You will make no one your successor, at this rate. If you could, you would have Mikheil succeed you, but of course he is a mere actor. He may look like you…” At this, I bit back a chuckle. Really, Mikheil was a God-given, improved version of Josef. Taller, with a smoother face, and a perfect moustache. “..b-but, he isn’t you. Though I do think he did a good job in The Defense of Tsaritsya.”
“I don’t have petty time to make movies. The people need a constant reminder of my presence, and through Mikheil, it is possible to be at two places at the same time.” Appearing to calm himself down, the great dictator exhaled slowly and sank back to his seat, picking up his pen and writing another name on his neat list.
“I see.” How amusing. While he sits here, writing his lists, commanding the deaths of many others, and observing the thick blanket of snow outside the tiny bunker window, Russia’s children are marveling at the huge silver screen, of a Josef whom walked among them, waved and smiled, and kissed the hands of important ladies and royals. Or saving citizens.
After a few more moments, my brother finished writing the last name of the list, before handing the piece of paper to me. “Another list for the Gulag? Might I remind you, Ioseb, I can attest that at least three in your last list is dead by now.” I reminded him, taking the thin parchment and scanning the names.
I didn’t know any of them. “Sacrifices, are needed for the sake of the whole. Remember that. As long as this doesn’t reach the newspapers, it will be for the greater good.” Josef’s moustache twitched slightly, as he looked over to me, creases were starting to form in the collars of his dark uniform.
“Those are a lot of sacrifices. But of course, necessary. Have I mentioned to you? The provinces in Moldova have quietened down their little ‘rebel party’.” I was there personally, and quite content finishing off the current leaders myself, before ordering the rest of their families to the Gulag.
Josef merely nodded. “As I expect from you, Vilya.”
“You had launched the orders, brother. You should celebrate a little, mother would have been proud. What is it that you told her? That you were like…the Tsar?” I teased with another chuckle. Oh, it was rather interesting to see Josef when his strings were pulled.
An enraged glare was sent to my direction, a warning, as the dictator’s hands began to shake slightly. “I stole you from her deathbed, Vilya- and you owe me your life. No matter how many times you end the lives of whom I name, you can never repay that debt!”
Did everyone else know this? How short the great Stalin’s fuse was? Seeing my brother’s anger was nothing unusual. “I can kill as many as you like, that is not an issue for me, Ioseb. As Vilya, or Katyusha.” I said calmly, my gaze lingering on him.
“Then what is—” Suddenly, Josef stopped mid-sentence, eyes wide. At that moment, I spotted the tail of a mouse disappear underneath the curtains. “Wh-who was that? Is someone listening in on us? Vilya, I want you t–”
I could only roll my eyes as I produced a lighter from my right pocket and lit the cigar, taking a short puff. “It was a rat, Ioseb.”
Now, Josef did not even seem as angry as before, with my name-calling, and was more focus on scanning the window and the door, to see if any shadows would appear.
Blowing a ring of smoke mixed with steam, it was only a minute later when a real figure approached the door, I could hear the heavy steps and grunts outside. Without being asked to, I made my way to the door and opened it, revealing Malenkov, another mouse of an ally to my brother. He brought forward an Asian man whom was handcuffed, wearing a simple grey coat, thick trousers and boots. Obviously, he was quite frightened and panicked to be inside the bunker.
“Supreme Leader, we have found a Japanese spy among our midst. He was working as a delivery man, and drove the trucks with the new batch of handguns off the specified route.” Malenkov reported.
Horrified at the man’s version of events, the captive shook his head. “N-no! Great Father, there was traffic, and the snow was going to block the road!”
Josef, now not so startled anymore, looked at the man from head to toe, I could see that wariness, mixed with a certain hint of cruelty in his eyes. “Vilya.”
That single word was a command, an order and a demand all in one. Setting the cigar down in the ashtray on the desk, within the next second my Tokarev TT-33 had blown a hole into the man’s forehead, sending him crumpling to the ground and slowly forming a pool of blood onto the carpet. “Malenkov, clean it up.”
As the Asian man’s corpse was dragged out of the room, a few minutes later Malenkov returned with a cloth, lifting the carpet off the ground and wiping the slight stain away before exiting.
By then, my brother was already distracted reading the report submitted earlier today on Stalingrad’s status. As far as I knew, the Luftwaffe has already dropped approximately a thousand tons of bombs over the city, and the casualties were up to half a million. “Inform Chuikov and Vasilyevsky to get the injured and the civilians to evacuation centres, send the Red snipers into the rubble and shoot those aircraft down. By the end of this, a quarter of Hitler’s troops will be gone.”
As much of a strange man Josef was, he was an intelligent strategist. “Mm.” With a slight bow of the head, and a few silent steps, I was out of the bunker. Knowing my brother, he would eventually leave the bunker for a little while, and would survey the city from its outskirts. Passing through one of the commanders’ offices I stopped and muttered softly through the doorway, glancing at Voronov who was inside.
“Make sure the Supreme Leader’s armoured car is ready and maintained at all times.”
Note: This is an experimental piece of creative historical fiction.
-The Musing Mestiza, 2nd Year