The Sniper and the Spy
A Russian shell exploded, close enough to throw debris into her fox hole. She was covered. She hoped it was dirt, but on the eastern front, in 1942, one never knew. She was rolling a cigarette before the blast and now began looking for the rolling papers she had dropped to take cover. Though, for a trained sniper, she was often impatient and soon quit the search. Instead, turning her attention to the ground, to the dead German soldier’s corpse at her feet. A corpse that made the floor of her fox hole. Noticing a bulge, she quickly began groping through the dead man’s pocket and grinned. Instantly, her fingers recognized the smoothed edges of a smashed cigarette pack. She lit one. Maybe my luck has changed. She thought.
The morning sun broke and brought the Russian front into view. That was one issue, but a familiar one. It was not her first time dodging her comrade’s shots. It was, however, her first shot wound. She examined her left arm and was relieved to see the stream of blood had slowed to a trickle. She had no recollection of being shot, but it was likely a stray bullet from the fire fight she had been trying to avoid the night before. She was behind the German line now, only not far enough. She could see their lake to the North, it meant she was miles West of her Objective. Her arm was throbbing. In search of bandages, she began to take stock of her few resources. Already regretting last night’s haste, abandoning her burning plane, leaving without her rifle. Surprisingly, the crash landing had left her mostly unaffected. Her limbs were working, even her left arm. She was calm. She did not know why, she guessed it was the blood loss. She knew she needed to eat. She knew that surviving meant she would depend on the dead. Their rations, their munitions, and hopefully, their morphine.
Everything is different. She thought. The plan had to change. There was no rifle, only the hairpin and the heels, it would have to be in person. In person, would mean no escape. Her son would be an orphan, but the Objective was paramount. It was time, she was steady.
Luckily, she grabbed the jump-pack before retreating from the plane, and so, had her mother’s dress, her only German clothing. She removed her uniform and slipped into it, intentionally smearing blood across her chest. Painfully using both hands to pull her hair up, she inserted the hairpin, then slid on the heels. She could tell the shoes looked ridiculous, after all they were not hers. They were intended for another woman, this was not supposed to be her mission, but, as far as she was concerned, he would not die at anyone else’s hands. She stole the plane, and the rest, during the chaos that followed last night’s attack. It was treason. Surely, they did not plan to let her live. All fronts are enemy fronts now, unless, I accomplish the mission. She thought. She needed to secure a soldier’s escort to German headquarters. Any commanding officer would identify her there and promptly send her to him. The soldiers, though, were savage, and warranted caution. If they found out who she was, they would kill her. That’s the least they would do. To their credit, they had a right. She had murdered dozens of them.
The Russian bombardment had ended. The Germans would be by any minute to survey the damage. She was planning on it, what she needed was a place to be found. A road would suffice, she would find one. Thinking of him, she imagined he would find it entertaining, watching her gracefully pop out of a foxhole, covered in blood and wearing her mother’s dress. Then she realized, she didn’t truly know him it all. She could, at least, take solace in the fact that maybe he didn’t know her either.
In little time, she came upon a road that was worn deep. They come by here frequently. She thought. A tree sat perfectly near a straight section up ahead and cast an inviting shade on the grass. She wrote a note in pencil and stuck it to her bandage with the little tape she had left. She would sleep until someone woke her up, maybe, that someone would be a medic.
Her eyes opened on their own and only slightly. She felt better, only tired and drugged. Her arm was still throbbing. She looked around. The room was not familiar. The voice was.
“Has it been a year?” He asked, truly not knowing.
“Bastard.” She exhaled, mad that her voice sounded so weak.
“My men told me you had a note. It read: Property of the Commander, his Mistress…I remember you always saying, the best lie was often the truth. A lie good enough to get you here alive…It’s nice to see you.” He added.
“I know now. After 3 years. I know! Don’t be coy.” She yelled. Rage made her less tired. She sat up, noticing the heels in the corner and feeling the pin still tangled in her hair. Do it now. She thought.
“Do they know you’re here?” He asked.
“They didn’t send me.” That was the truth, she was too important for suicide missions and they were unaware the two of them had spent three years sharing missions and hotel rooms before the war. It was obvious Russian Command didn’t know, no one came to kill her when he left, but maybe she could survive today too. Her response had given her an idea.
“I just had to see you, had to talk. You broke my heart when it started. When you turned. You used me. You lied to me and to Russia.”
“I was always German. You were too proud to notice” He said, affected by her apparently broken demeanor.
“You turned on me, on us. On me…and our son!” It was true. The child of the sniper and the spy, born in riot and living in war, was currently alone at home. Maybe alone forever, she thought.
“I was needed to command. My mission was over. So are we.” He questioned his own sincerity at hearing the words. He did miss his son, he missed her too. Quickly, he poured a drink, finished the glass and lit two cigarettes. He handed her one, she started to feel better. They must have given me blood, she thought. He began to talk again.
“I cannot kill you. I can take you as far as the path by the lake…our lake. It will be clear for you to walk back to base from there.” She almost laughed, it was so unexpected for him to be sentimental, and for a plan to fall into place so easily.
“If this must be our last time together, take me in your car. It will be like when we used to park at the dock.” She said.
“Are you strong enough?” He sounded dumb. She knew he was unhappy and felt validated.
“To be with you, I’ll endure.” She almost made herself laugh.
“We must go now.” He said, moving to her and pulling her into a wheel chair.
“Please give me my shoes! I’ll need them.” She said. He placed them on her lap and wheeled her through the hall, out the back of the building. His car was waiting.
Putting on the heels, she stood up slowly and stepped into the passenger seat, slyly inserting her right heel under the brace that held the seat to the carriage. It snapped loudly as it broke when she sat down.
“I did it again. It really is like old times.” She said, placing the broken heel in the glove box like she had done that summer day over a year ago. Only, she had broken her heel on accident that day.
“You’ll have to make do.” He said and started the car.
Her arm was lifeless now and bounced freely at every bump the car hit. She looked pitiful. He was feeling guilty and tried to explain himself. She let him babble. He continued.
“Life is love and war, all’s fair.” He summarized, they had arrived and he put the car into park. The path was only yards away, at the tree line. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his ID tags. His Russian ones, from the country the had betrayed, to woman he had used.
“For my son.” He said. She smiled, and perhaps thought it sweet, so she kissed him.
“Goodbye, my love.” She said.
“I’ll watch you till the tree line. Goodbye, Katya. Take care of our boy.” He said
Her heel was still broken, so she hobbled, steadily swinging her left arm lifelessly from side to side. She continued towards the forest, whose path would lead her to her son. The car made a hitch as he switched it into to gear. “Life is love and war, all’s fair,” he had said. She ran over the sentence in her mind again, as she removed her hairpin and held it tenderly, slowly releasing the safety on the detonator hidden inside. The heel containing the plastique explosive was still in the glove box. She had his ID tags in her hand, proof of his demise, and she was only a mile from base. The mission would be accomplished. She would be celebrated instead of punished. She turned and waved to him from the tree line, at a safe distance from the impending explosion. All’s fair, she thought.