- Demian! he shouted at the junior sergeant. - Who's there?
- Someone - behind the hollow. From the other side. Go all the time parallel to our trail. On the trail do not go. The distance is not reduced.
-Did you watch them?
- Not. I think they are us too. We immediately changed the route.
- Leave alive. I will find you on the trail. Give Nelyubina - let him roll into the forest. Hiding there somewhere in the hollow and expose the sentries.
He continued to inspect the edge of the far birch forest behind a hollow, leaning to the left, apparently abandoned long ago, overgrown with reeds and some thick budylyy, dried out and tumbled down into a black rut. It’s good that they didn’t follow that road, didn’t use the ford and left no trace there. A wagon he ordered to move through the forest. But the trace behind them still remained. If they follow our trail, then most likely local policemen. These will not be left behind. Tracked down and will take. Maybe someone is worse.
Forty again dived into the birch and no longer appear. This meant only one thing: those who so irritated her were very close. It remained to wait.
A willow branch swung, dropping a leaf. The falling leaf instantly flashed through the eyepiece of the sight, like a flash of a shot and disappeared into the brown grass. A man in German camouflage appeared in the depths of the glade. Has stopped. Without looking back, he made a hand sign. And immediately three more in the same camouflage capes and caps with long visors jumped out from behind the alders and, on the run, rearranging themselves into a chain, straight went to the ford. Three. The fourth, squatting down, was sitting on the glade and looking through the field through the meadow and the opposite edge. Eyepieces flashed his optics. Judging by the movements, did not notice. The main thing now is not to move. Worse, if there are more. Four ... Four ... Four - too many. No, apparently, still no one else. Four. But if there are only four of them ... And if they go on the trail of their convoy ... The main thing is not to move. Squatting stood, put his binoculars in his bosom and also went to the ford. During all the time he was sitting on all fours on the glade and looking through binoculars, with no one else but the three who crossed the ford, he did not spread a word or a gesture. Four, then. There were only four of them. Armed with German machine guns. Butts folded for aimed shooting.
A minute later, machine gunners in camouflage moved across the gati through the swamp and disappeared behind the willow tree in the hollow. If they now go to the right of Hatia, the trail of the convoy will not be noticed. So, let them go their way. Let them go easy. They are theirs. We are ours. This option was possible if the Germans did not follow the trail.
But the "tree frogs" appeared exactly where the tankers jumped out half an hour ago. So, they still found the caravan trail and walk along it. Ran twenty steps, sat down. Apparently, deliberated. The older one got up and raised his binoculars to his eyes again. Got down. And immediately one of the group ran back to the ford.
Vorontsov, all this time feverishly tossing between the hope that everything would cost, that the "tree frogs", most likely, had another task, and not the pursuit of the train, and the need to act, instantly realized: if at least one of the four leaves, after a few hours on their trail a platoon with machine guns and mortars will arrive here, they will surround the wagon train and will shoot everyone from a distance. Someone less lucky - they will capture the living.
He slid his rifle into the fork of the young birch and took the sight of the man running toward the ford. No one should, before the deadlines, take out from the forest the secret of what is happening here and what will happen in a minute ...
Although their carts, as you can see, for someone is no longer a mystery. Then at least gain time. A few hours of time the squad can still beat the chase. Provided that he, Vorontsov, the detachment commander, will now act unmistakably.
The shot sounded so loud that the silence of the forest meadow, happily lost in the frontline and telling not to see any human blood and hear neither close shooting, nor a moan mortally wounded, turned out to be scattered. Vorontsov still had one more chance and another more or less sure shot if the “tree frogs” did not have time to control the flashpoint of his first shot. Although it was contrary to one of the main commandments of the sniper: do not shoot from one position, which was convenient and advantageous, it was more than once. Vorontsov ventured. He remained in the same posture: kneeling, with a rifle, conveniently fitted on a young birch bitch. The birch still rustled, flapped in the wind with loose leaves and disguised it well. It remained to hope that the wind instantly dispersed the powder smoke, and the "tree frogs" did not notice it either. To fall into the grass and roll away to the side in order to change the position in case of an aimed retaliatory shot meant to increase the reality of what they would notice during the execution of this maneuver. If the Germans go, then the huntsman. If there is a special unit, some kind of einsatz team, then all the more you should be wary of them. Everyone knows, including the forest and the habits of those who are persecuted. True, for some reason, without a radio transmitter. Usually such groups, detached to pursue or track down partisans, are provided with a Petriks portable transmitter. And these, apparently, carried out communication by means of coherent.
Vorontsov watched with one eye - in the eyepiece of the sight - as he lay motionless in the grass, falling flat, forward and slightly turning around, so that one hand was thrown back with a sweep, a binder, and the other, as peeped in a grass, turned like ducks beaks. They have not fired yet. And Vorontsov realized that he still got a second shot from fate. Coincidental signs of life is not filed. Nobody rushed to his aid. This means that he did not moan or emit other sounds that always make those who are close by run up or crawl over to the wounded man to assist. But it was impossible to shoot the first kepi caught in the target or the most convenient target. Mixed foliage, covering the scope with its yellow bursts. The next shot, he should do only one of them. Only in one. But Vorontsov has not yet seen him. In order to see a new target in the sights, it was necessary to transfer, shift the rifle to another knot.
Vorontsov carefully turned the barrel of the rifle to the left. The sight successfully passed the yellow flow of foliage and slid on brown grass stains. Soon stopped. Here they are ... They lie .. All three ... Cervical vertebrae creaked from tension. Which of them? Kepi lifted from the grass and disappeared. Moved smoothly, as if in water. In their movements felt confidence, experience. One began to crawl to the left. Vorontsov saw the trimmed back of the head and the white lining of the hood. Behind the duffel bag. But not the Red Army sample. The knot is tightened not by a strap, but by a cord, which is tied with a loop and hangs down. No, not this ... This one executes the order. The commander will not carry the bag. The Germans are strictly observed. So one of these ... Here it is. Lying to the right moved and slowly rose. He watched through binoculars. His movements were slow, like those of a predator preparing for an attack. He led binoculars in the direction of Vorontsov. He stopped, froze, stretched out his neck, binoculars in his hand started, or he had time to say something to his subordinates, or didn’t manage anything, but just a bullet that flew out of the trunk of the "Mauser", instantly describing a short one, a hundred and fifty meters, the trajectory under the rancid autumn grass of the unmowed meadow, broke through the Adam's apple, and the camouflage collapsed into the very grass that he had just settled in, grabbed, heated with his body.
Vorontsov partly foreseen what had happened in the following minutes. A man in war gains much. And if you didn’t disappear in one of the first attacks, didn’t disappear during the exit from the environment, when nobody learned to anyone, if you learned to sleep with half eyes and to hear not half hearted, but absolutely everything that happens around, and instantly evaluate the sounds heard it means that you have learned to live in war. You became part of the war. You are even less vulnerable than a spruce stake, standing twenty-five steps from your breastwork with scraps of barbed wire.
And now, without tempting fate, Vorontsov slowly sank into the grass. The rifles were already rumbling in long bursts, and the bullets were cutting the tops of dead wood and the bark of the trees around. But it was non-target, blind shooting. So frightened and insecure arrows fire, wishing, first of all, to psychologically crush the enemy, force him to make a mistake, hurried motion - an automatic gesture of self-preservation or a similar hurried response shot. Then it becomes clear where the enemy was hiding and where to throw grenades, where to shoot. By the nature of the shooting, Vorontsov realized that the "tree frogs" had not yet found him. The position could serve another true shot. So, there is no need to change it yet. We must lie and wait. Patiently wait for the right moment and certainly hit the target, as stated in the statute.
Here is one machine silent. Out of ammo. Even the most experienced soldier will need about ten seconds to recharge the new horn: pull the machine towards him, snap off the empty horn, pull it out of the shopping bag or from the full boot shaft, snap it into place, lock the cartridge to send the cartridge to the chamber . In this case, the shooter is unlikely to be distracted by the observation of the enemy. And this is quite enough to make another shot. But it is not necessary to shoot at him. Although Vorontsov saw him well in the gap between two willow bushes: the kepi was sticking out of the grass, like a dummy at a shooting range. And to put a bullet under the edge of this cap, in the temple or the nose, was not for such an arrow, what was Vorontsov, special work. But this is exactly what would be a fatal mistake, after which he would remain on an equal footing with the last submachine gunner. However, he still had an advantage, and so far it was significant: the distance that made the firing of machine guns ineffective.
In the meantime, the second machine gun continued to thresh on the square, concentrating fire mainly on the fir grove to the right of Vorontsov. It was there that he wanted to lie down at the beginning of the battle. But, as it turned out, it was the thickets of juniper bushes that most alarmed and attracted the attention of "tree frogs". Vorontsov slowly began to kneel, also slowly slipped a rifle between the branches. The sight slid over the brown stains of grass and rare bushes, stopped, froze. Vorontsov made a slight correction to the wind and gently pressed on the descent. There was a groan and a cry of a frightened man in danger. So, I missed, I realized Vorontsov and immediately I got down, crawled a few steps to the side. From here he did not see the second submachine gunner any more, that bushes closed that. But the bushes were closing him, Vorontsov, from the automatics, who probably already noticed him. The shooting has stopped. The wounded man continued to moan. And the second submachine gun was silent. Hid and waited too. The fight began.
Once in childhood Vorontsov heard from his grandfather Evsei such a lesson: if you don’t see a beast or a bird, but you hear it at a distance of a shot or you know for sure that it is here, have patience and wait. Do not twist your head, do not move from foot to foot, do not move your gun and in any case do not try to find it. You can only move your nostrils. Do not make a sound. Dissolve in silence. Turn into a beast or a bird. Be as careful and wise as she is. But remember that you are a man, and you have more patience and cunning. Listen, smell the air and wait.
... If they are alone, then you can wait calmly. And a minute and an hour. The last one to whom Vorontsov had not yet presented his bullet, also froze and also waits. But he is waiting for another. And he has other hopes. Because he does not see anything except the forest in front, rare bushes overgrown with grass, with the first frosts turned into straw and budlylya, but his comrades who were bleeding to the right, left and behind him. This, of course, did not add strength or courage. About the most important and most dangerous for him, he did not see the shooter, who with three shots knocked out almost the whole group and was now hunting him. True, it could get one of the machine gun bursts with which they whipped, albeit at random, but thickly, so that they thoroughly treated all the bushes surrounding them. But the distance ... The distance that separated them reduced the chances of whoever turned out to be weapon melee combat, and increased the chances of one who had a rifle.
Vorontsov stood motionless between two bushes, resting his elbow on his knee and holding a narrow corridor of a meadow and thickets of bushes on the front sight. Somewhere behind those willows, the last machine gunner from the “tree frogs” group froze. Vorontsov will have time to take him on the fly, even if he now appears not where he burns it. The main thing is not to move. The first thing that the last “frog” might think: the shooter is killed by an automatic burst. Second: left, quietly crawled into the woods and left. But there remained the third, the most dangerous. But the "frog" is not sure of one or the other, or the third. And Vorontsov knows for sure: the German is alive, lies somewhere there, a hundred steps from him, behind the bushes and also waits.
The wounded man groaned again. But already quiet. Groans were heard at regular intervals, quieter and quieter. We must wait ... Wait ... Do not move ... Turn into stone ... Vorontsov felt the cervical vertebrae creaking from the strain. He moved his fingers - no, everything is in order, his hands are not numb, not numb, quite obedient and ready to instantly fulfill any of his will.
The wounded man finally subsided. Only the wind rang hollowly on the tops of dry grass, pulling the remains of sheets on willows. Soroka again zastrotikala in the forest. Or maybe Vorontsov had simply paid no attention to her until that minute, absorbed in the bout. He knew that it was precisely now that the sorrow din could also become part of a scramble that had not yet ended. Forty obviously someone noticed and accompanied. But this time she raised a stir not in the hollow, where the "tree frogs" came from, but on the left and a little behind him, almost where the tankers had gone. Vorontsov froze, listened. If the fourth German crawled away and now passes him, he will hear it. But nothing, not a single sound broke the echoing rustle of the grass, crushed by the wind. It seemed that no one except the wind had been here in these constricted moments of anticipation. Even him, Vorontsova, with a rifle raised to the shoulder, also did not exist here. Only wind, grass and shrubs with loose leaves. Even the forty fell silent. And Vorontsov, unable to withstand the tension, began to slowly turn his head.
There, to the left, in the birch, the figures of tankers flashed. Apparently, having heard the shooting, the guard was back. Vorontsov was worried: tankers were running in a crowd, perhaps directly at a shot of a hidden machine gunner. But it was too late to stop them, and he instantly betrayed himself. And then, realizing that everything will happen in the next minute or two, and maybe much faster. Vorontsov made an instant decision: he began to slowly get up, holding his rifle at the ready. Every hillock in front, every branch of a thick bush, where a few minutes ago he had lost sight of the fourth German, felt his eyes. Meanwhile, tankers were approaching, covering the meadow on the left with their short chain. A junior sergeant was with them - Vorontsov heard his voice clearly: Demyan asked the tankmen where they were going, and then he ordered: into a chain. Vorontsov straightened his back and was already standing to his full height. The left hand supporting the cold rifle shake began to tremble, and the brown tides of meadow grass, approximated by strong sight optics, trembled even more.
- Go around to the left! - I heard the voice of Demyan.
And immediately, from behind a bush, he got up and stood with a raised machine gun, a man as cautious as a lynx. He waited when the tankers, who had clearly not seen him, would approach the distance of the correct line. Butt machine was thrown back. German risked. But it betrayed in him an experienced and cold-blooded warrior.
Vorontsov led the corners of the sight under the edge of the kepi, then lowered a little more and gently pressed the trigger. The German raised a gun over his head and fell over on his back.
Vorontsov assembled machine guns, unfastened shop pouches, took down the knapsacks.
“There, then, the fourth,” he pointed to Demian in the direction of the hollow.
- Well, commander, you piled Hans! Four!
An excerpt from the novel by Sergei Mikheenkov
"The height of suicide bombers"
("Our Contemporary", No. 5 2011 g.)