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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Ron Capshaw: Reds Under Beds

redsunderbeds_sowder.jpg
Art by John Sowder 2022

Reds Under Beds

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

Stalin was going to have me killed.

In my country.  On my soil.

I felt it. 

I had a full body shudder that I intuitively knew occurred the very moment he ordered my death an ocean away.

It must have been a novelty for him to sign an execution order for an American;  a break from his late hour routine of ferociously signing those for his countrymen; even his truest believers; pausing only to take a swig from a vodka bottle and making sure some enemy had not snuck in and emptied his pistol of bullets.

It could have resulted from a careless comment I made to another agent questioning the wisdom of Stalin executing his military high command.

In my subconscious I think I was being deliberate.  That I really wanted out.  Bad.  And that was the first of several fatal moves.

I’d like to say I came out of the shadow world of what we did in Stalin’s name because of patriotism; because I wanted to write the wrongs of how I betrayed my country for over a decade.

But in the wee hours of the night, when every creak of every board in that rented Long Island beach house had me sliding my hand under the pillow for my pistol, I couldn’t fool myself with such lofty reasons.

I simply wanted to save my skin.

The government boys who gave us top secret governments were the only ones untouchable.  But we who had them microfilmed and sent to the Soviet Union weren’t.

 

Within 8 months, three in my original cell had “disappeared.”  I know for a fact that two of them were en route to their midnight meeting with Karkov on that DC park bench when they went missing.

It wasn’t hard to piece together what happened.  We heard the rumors.  The absence of their corpses meant they were kidnapped onto a ship bound for Russia where they would soon be screaming and begging their captors to tell them what they wanted them to say to make the pain stop in basements where stood beefy men in undershirts holding truncheons.

The third, who I knew only as “Julian,” codenamed “The Poet,” was the victim of a nighttime hit-and-run.  No witnesses.

Conclusion:  Stalin’s paranoia was not satisfied by Russian blood.  He needed fresh foreign blood and he was reaching across the ocean to get it.

I defected quietly and intended to re-emerge publicly.  I stopped meeting Karkov and as “David Gregory,” codenamed “Writer,” forever left my Washington DC apartment with the radio transmitter and the code book underneath a loose floorboard.

I needed to be “known.”  I wanted to have a lot of light on me to discourage Stalin from having me suspiciously killed.  If he did, at least there would be questions asked.  Leads followed.

Through a journalist friend from Columbia University days who knew what I was but hopefully didn’t know the sickening things I did, I let  Congress know  I would appear in open session and expose communist moles in the State Department in exchange for immunity from prosecution and a new identity.

They agreed.

That was why I was now on the DC streets on foot and en route to testify on a cool Spring day.

That was when I saw him.

He was dressed as a hep-cat.   Shirt open at the neck, pointed collar.  Dingy double-breasted suit.  Unfashionably long hair in that year of our Lord 1938 that almost reached his collar.

The last person you would think of as a Communist assassin.

Which meant he was.

But he himself was followed.  I may have a friend.

The follower was FBI to the core.   Sedate dark-colored suit.  Shoes shined to another dimension; things all demanded by J. Edgar of his agents.  That was why we were able to get away with what we did.  Because the FBI was too busy shining their shoes to notice what we were funneling to Stalin.

I stopped at a store window, and briefly glanced at Hep Cat.  He stared at me and then nodded to someone ahead of me.

The “someone” was carrying an umbrella even though it was a clear spring day in DC.

Conclusion:

The umbrella had a poison tip on it and its owner would casually tap me on the leg with it as he passed by me…  And when I fell to the ground in a seizure,  he would bend down and yell for a “doctor.”  Even if a doctor was within shouting range, I would be dead in seconds.

Another conclusion:

I had misjudged Stalin.  He didn’t care how it looked that I had a heart attack—I’m sure the poison was untraceable—on the way to exposing him.

He’d kill me no matter where I was.  He would just as readily do it at high noon in Washington on a busy street as he would in a dark alley.

I hurriedly turned away from the Umbrella Man  and hailed a taxi to take me back to the hotel room paid for by Congress.

Then I would fade away, using the tricks Moscow taught me.

As we drove away, I looked out the back windshield of the taxi and didn’t see Umbrella Man or Hepcat or even the FBI guy.

I gave the cabbie a generous tip when we arrived at the hotel.

I didn’t see Hep Cat or Umbrella Man hiding behind a newspaper in the lobby.

Nevertheless, I took the stairs to my room.

I went in, scanned the room, looked in the bathroom shower stall, and got my suitcase out and began packing.

I took the pistol out of it, opened it and bullets spilled out onto the carpeted floor.

When I reached down to retrieve them I happened to look under my bed.

Hep Cat and the FBI guy were under it.

They both fired.

Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida.  His debut horror novel, The Stage Mother's Club, came out in June from Dark Edge Press.



From the hollows of Kentucky, John Sowder divides his spare time between creating art for Sugar Skull Press and working on various cryptid-themed projects.  He illustrated GEORGE THE HOLIDAY SPIDER by Rick Powell, which is due November of this year.  You can see more of his art at www.deviantart.com/latitudezero  

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022