Authors: Tony Hernandez
"Yes, I can," he said looking down. He hated that the tears came, only validating to the world that he was a coward. But he didn't care. He looked up into her eyes and said, "I'm going in there, and I'm going to shoot whoever's in there. And that's it."
They stared at each for a moment that seemed to last an age, the sounds of explosions and gunfire seeming to dim in their ears. He was serious. He felt he was serious. He had to do this. What she didn't know was that it wasn't so much for her and Richard so much as it was for him.
She seemed to sense his determination and didn't argue the point any longer. "Okay, Otto. I'll see you at the top."
"I'll see you at the top."
Otto walked up the hill of broken walls as carefully as he could, but even that was near impossible.
Those hills, if that's what they could be called, were new. They weren't steady and would easily give. The man in the feathered hat hadn't been clumsy. It was just the world under him that was unstable.
The climb towards the house was one of feet, knees, and hands. He could only use one hand at a time, since he was always holding his gun, but even that was becoming slippery in his sweaty hand. As he made the climb, he finally did get to the back of the house, unnoticed by the men inside.
He tried drying his hands as much as his dusted pants would allow him to. He checked and rechecked that the weapon was in firing mode. There was nothing else left to do but to act but he still didn’t want to commit, but then he saw it—saw them. It was Ursula, making the same climb as the man in the feathered hat, with Richard in hand. All that was left was to act.
He grabbed the gun with both hands, tensely in front of him, so much so that he had to tell his body to relax, or else he would be hitting wall and not a Nazi. He came up to a window that was oddly still intact. It was old, however, and offered a limited view. But what it did provide was enough.
He saw two men. One firing the machine gun and the other feeding it bullets. There was just the two of them. Otto hadn't checked the gun, but he was sure that it had more than two bullets. Well, he hoped that it had more than two bullets.
As if to mock his attempt at bravery, there was a door, already cracked in front of him. He could come in through the side and fire on them without them even seeing him. He went.
He got up, stumbled once, and opened the door entirely. He aimed the gun at the machine gunman, and then—nothing. He didn't fire. His hands shook, but he didn't pull the trigger. He couldn't.
he told himself, yet the only thing that his hand produced was the shakes.
He then realized that someone was looking at him. It was the boy who was feeding the gun its bullets. He just stared at Otto, waiting for him to shoot. He didn't seem alarmed, scared, or angry. He just looked straight at him without a thought in his mind.
The boy slowly moved his hand from the ammunition belt to the shoulder of the machine gunner. It took two strong shakes, but it finally got his attention. He turned first to his comrade, then up to their unannounced visitor. Unlike the other two men in the room, he was decisive.
He popped the machine gun off of its tripod and swung it around towards Otto as fast as he could.
Otto knew he had only a moment left to do something, but by then he had already heard the gunshots—two; maybe three.
Otto just shook, still squeezing the gun. He slowly opened his eyes and looked in front of him. Both men were dead, and smoke was coming out of the barrel of his gun. To his surprise, he had done it. He had shot the men.
He fell to the ground. He started grabbing his body, looking for the gunshot wound that he was sure was there, but found nothing. He checked again and again. He realized he had fallen from the pure exhaustion and relief.
He found himself gently crying. They were tears of joy. Proud that he had done the job he had promised someone he would do.
He knew that he needed to get up, that he needed to go join Ursula and Richard, but he needed to give himself a moment to rest, a moment to gather himself.
With the sound of machine gunfire no longer filling the house, he could hear his heart pumping in his ears, and was trying to breathe to slow it down. He could even hear the door in the other room creak open, obviously from the wind outside.
He looked at the two dead men on the ground and the window they had been firing from. He needed to go that way. To join Ursula. Join his Ursula.
The door across the room burst open—a Nazi, holding the same type of handgun that Otto had.
As soon as they saw each other, each man fired bullets into the other—Otto hitting the man's heart, the man's landing in Otto's belly.
Now there were four men on the ground, only this time, Otto was frustrated.
I was so close to making it out alive
, he thought. Then he stopped himself.
going to make it out alive.
He grabbed his gun and used it like a small crutch to push himself up, while grabbing the right side of his body.
He stumbled outside and felt a breeze. It felt nice. He looked around. It seemed as if the sun had gotten brighter, but the world was more silent. Everything seemed to be moving slowly.
He looked up and saw her. Ursula. She looked like a hiker with the silhouette of the sky behind her. She was running towards a man. That man was waving to her, to come closer. To hurry. Spots of dirt were popping up around her. She was being shot at, but it seemed that the bullets were missing.
Otto looked down again. The blood was black—his liver. And that's when he realized he wouldn't be joining her. He laid back against the wall of the house and slowly slid down, taking in the last moments of his life.
He realized that one of these thoughts that he was having would soon be his last. He wasn't sure what to do. To pray, or to think of something lovely. He didn't have any experience in dying, because he had never done it before.
But for what he lacked in thought, he more than made up in realizing the feeling in his body.
He felt great.
He had never realized and appreciated how much pain covered his body, from his muscles to his bones. He didn't feel well per se, he just didn't feel horrible anymore. And to him, that was great.
The world was now entirely quiet, which he liked, but he could still see. He saw that Richard was the first to be grabbed by an American, followed by Ursula. She seemed to resist, however, as if she was looking for someone. She was calling for someone down the hill, until, finally, an American grabbed her, pulling her away from the line of fire. And then she was gone.
That's when another feeling hit Otto—this time it was one from the heart. He felt vindicated. As if the past wasn't so much forgiven, but as if it had never happened. The only thing that existed was the present, and that meant that Ursula and Richard, Ulrich's son, were free. Just like him.
He grabbed some of the dirt on the ground and lifted it up, letting it run through his fingers.
It was strange that he couldn't feel it.
I hope you loved reading the book as much as I loved writing it for you. If you have a second, I would really appreciate a short review. Your time and graciousness makes it that much easier for readers to find and share this journey we just had.
Thank you in advance!
To sign up for my newsletter, for free giveaways and the latest news and releases, please go here:
Connect with Tony online:
First, all honor and glory go to God and Him alone.
A special thank you to my beta readers Debby O'Connor and Jeremy Bogart whose advise and input was invaluable.
My biggest thanks goes out to my adopted French family, Mayeul Fournier de Saint Jean and his son, my
, Joseph Antonin. But in particular, my biggest thanks goes out Mayeul’s wife and Joseph’s mother, Dorothée.
Dorothée, you know that I was in a rough patch when I stayed with you and your family and your warmth and hospitality has carried me and this book till the end. There was that afternoon that we both sat down in your home and started writing on our respective books, both our second and the one you are reading now. That is my favorite memory in creating this novel so thank you for being such a big part in this small creation.
About the Author
Tony Hernandez is from Phoenix Arizona