Beautiful Assassin by Michael C. White

By Michael C. White

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Once it had been rolling farmland, green and fertile and verdant, but now it resembled more a lunar landscape than any place on earth. An apple orchard, most of whose trees were broken and splintered as if by a giant’s angry fist. Grazing land pockmarked by the Germans’ 88s. The blackened remains of a farmhouse, in the yard of which lay the rotting corpse of a cow, its belly bloated obscenely in the heat. To the right of the house was the barn, curiously still intact. I inspected the upper and lower doors closely, then the stone wall that ran behind it, but instinct told me the shot had not come from there.

I should have listened to Zoya, the young corporal who was my spotter. We worked in teams, a sniper and a spotter. Zoya, always the cautious one, had warned me against taking up a position in the tree, especially one off by itself. The first thing we’d been taught in sniper training was that you must always have an escape route. You must move often, so that your position couldn’t be discovered. Shoot and move, that was how we were taught. But now it was too late to move. I’d been discovered, my position known by my foe.

She is fearless. She has on her side the vanity of youth, the blindness that comes from a righteous sense of revenge. She believes herself on a sacred mission, that each death she inflicts on the enemy brings her a little closer to peace. She doesn’t yet know that she could kill every single German in the Third Reich, and she would not find peace. She has yet to learn this. But she will. That time in the tree was mere luck. Nothing more than that. In war, you cannot count on luck. You can only avoid making mistakes.

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