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She was not used to being hunted.
The lake stretched slate blue, glittering. The woman gazed over it, hands lying loose in her lap. A folded newspaper sat beside her on the bench. The headlines all trumpeted arrests, deaths, forthcoming trials. The trials would be held in Nuremberg, it seemed. She had never been to Nuremberg, but she knew the men who would be tried there. Some she knew by name only, others had touched champagne flutes to hers in friendship. They were all doomed. Crimes against peace. Crimes against humanity. War crimes.
By what law? she wanted to scream, beating her fists against the injustice of it. By what right? But the war was over, and the victors had won the right to decide what was a crime and what was not. What was humanity, and what was not.
It was humanity, she thought, what I did. It was mercy. But the victors would never accept that. They would pass judgment at Nuremberg and forever after, decreeing what acts committed in a lawful past would put a man’s head in a noose.
Or a woman’s.
She touched her own throat.
Run, she thought. If they find you, if they realize what you’ve done, they will lay a rope around your neck.
But where was there to go in this world that had taken everything she loved? This world of hunting wolves. She used to be the hunter, and now she was the prey.
So hide, she thought. Hide in the shadows until they pass you by.
She rose, walking aimlessly along the lake. It reminded her painfully of Lake Rusalka, her haven in Poland, now ruined and lost to her. She made herself keep moving, putting one foot after the other. She did not know where she was going, only that she refused to huddle here paralyzed by fear until she was scooped onto the scales of their false justice. Step by step the resolve hardened inside her.
BY IAN GRAHAM
She fired six times on the shore of Lake Rusalka, not attempting to hide what she did. Why would she? Hitler’s dream of empire had yet to crumble and send her fleeing for the shadows. That night under a Polish moon, she could do whatever she wanted—and she murdered six souls in cold blood.
Six shots, six bullets, six bodies falling into the dark water of the lake.
They had been hiding by the water, shivering, eyes huge with fear—Jewish escapees from one of the eastbound trains, perhaps, or survivors fleeing one of the region’s periodic purges. The dark-haired woman found them, comforted them, told them they were safe. She took them into her house by the lake and fed them a meal, smiling.