All In A Night's Work

Based on the 1940 Katyn Massacre, in which roughly 22,000 members of the Polish officer corps and intelligentsia were executed over a period of several weeks and buried in Russia's Katyn Forest.


At first dark, the men arrived to get ready for the night’s work. Blokhin arrived before the others, in order to project authority and make sure everything was set up for another busy shift. He was a thick, serious-looking man, and very particular about his work. The first part of the night was always tense as he kept his eye open for any shortcomings in procedure and corrected the men of the special contingent. When Petukhov arrived, Blokhin did not hesitate to admonish him, saying (rather harshly), “Make sure you hold the arm tightly enough. That one last night almost got free.” There would be time for cordiality later, after the work ended. Now was the time to get down to business. In the first week of this special assignment, the men, carefully selected for the duty, had grown used to his gruff manner and exacting over-attention to detail. 

At 7:30 precisely, The Major-General instructed Kapustin to begin preparing the prisoners. Like almost all NKVD prison buildings, this one was ugly - a short concrete and brick structure with no decoration whatsoever, built on a bare patch of dirt, like a rough-and-tumble peasant squatting over a lavatory pit. Aesthetic principles, and indeed all principles, paled in the face of the revolution. Function mattered much more than appearance; the walls were soundproofed and the floor sloped. Blokhin set his briefcase on the table and opened it so that he could perform the nightly check of his tools. Not trusting the standard Soviet-made revolvers, he used his own collection of Walther PPK pistols. Besides being more reliable, these pocket pistols also had less recoil, which was important when one was firing several hundred rounds every night. He used them because they were his preferred pistols, but using German-made weapons also had the beneficial side-effect of providing some plausible deniability if the operation was ever discovered. 

After checking the action on all the weapons, applying a bit of oil, and loading them all with ammunition, Blokhin began to dress himself. Over his NKVD uniform, he donned a long leather apron, leather cap, and shoulder-length leather gloves. At five minutes to eight, he walked out into the hallway to check on the preparations. A folding table had been set up, and Kapustin had readied the paperwork for the identity check.