Laughter rolled out of the house and stole across the land.
I had taken a canoe and paddled out before dawn, and I am glad I did so. There are soldiers patrolling this part of the Hollow, and I would rather not have my attack interrupted.
I am well-armed. I have my pruning knife tucked into the small of my back, both Colts and the Garand. These men and women have sought to bring my mother into Cross, and so I am bringing war to them.
The soldiers patrol in twos, with alternating patterns. First clockwise, then counterclockwise, and back again.
It is a rhythm and one that they should not have picked up.
Only a fool establishes a pattern.
It took me an hour to crawl forward to within several hundred yards of the house, and I have settled into a small gulch half-filled with deadfall and briars. The Garand is sighted, and the sun, thankfully, is at my back.
Whether it will be there once the fighting starts is another matter entirely and something I have no control over.
Watching the soldiers, I see that there are only four on patrol. Every sixth rotation, they pass each other by the overgrown front porch.
I let my breath slow down and move as it will. All I can do is look down the iron sights of the Garand and wait.
The soldiers have made their fifth rotation, and I begin to count.
When I reach one hundred thirty-eight, both patrols are in front of the porch, and they do what they have done all morning.
They pause and say hello. They shoulder their rifles and light cigarettes, silhouetted perfectly against the house.
I breathe and pull the trigger.
The fourth man is dead before the first crashes into the ground.
The laughter in the house stops, and more soldiers rush out. They are half-dressed, concerned as they rush down the steps.
Whatever training they might have had, it is forgotten in this moment of panic.
I fire the Garand until the clip is ejected, and I slide another home. In a matter of moments, there are three more dead and two wounded.
No one else attempts to leave the house, and so I kill the wounded.
I will take no prisoners.