His heart hammered steadily in his chest. The Luger was warm and slick in his hand. He licked his dry, cracked lips. His eye twitched as a spasm of pain rippled up his back. Koop's blood-shot, watery eyes swept the barn in a quick, feverish motion, from safe behind a stack of old wood, hidden in the shadows.
The afternoon sun drifted down in thick sheets of yellow dust from the cracks in the ceiling above. Birds swooped around the rafters, their wings beating tirelessly despite the heat. Rats scampered to and from the hay, their tiny claws tinkling like glass against the wood.
These noises were lost in Koop's head, his mind was a white fog of numbness and buzzing. He wiped a stream of sweat from his forehead with the back of his sleeve, wincing and gritting his teeth as he felt his wounds begin to open up. He swallowed bile.
He stared up at the loft above, knowing Tamar was up there. Transmitting more lies and secrets, no doubt. He knew Dart was no better. Dart was just getting Koop to do the dirty work, and he knew it. As soon as Koop was finished with Tamar, he knew that Dart would be sneaking up behind him with his gun ready and aimed. Well, he wasn't going to give Dart that chance. There was no way in hell Koop was going down that easily. Not after all he'd been through.
Gathering up his strength, Koop pushed himself away from the wood stack and walked slowly, carefully, to the ladder. His boot got caught against a loose floor board, and he stumbled. Quickly regaining his footing, Koop ducked back into the shadows.
"Marjike? Darling, is that you?" Tamar called from above, his voice on the fringe of insanity.
Koop grinned devilishly. He almost laughed, but he knew now what not the time for foolishness. He had to get the job done. Then he could laugh.
Tamar's face appeared over the ladder, looking out into the barn.
Koop aimed and fired twice. The noise shattered the barn's gentle melancholy, filling it with the raucous cries of startled birds and wide-eyed rats, and the sound of a body falling over a ladder.
Tamar fell to the ground, his limbs crashing heavily against the ladder before his body thudded to a halt. He lay there, unmoving. Dust rose into the air like smoke.
Delighted, Koop limped over to Tamar's body and aimed the gun at his face.
Suddenly, Tamar's body jerked to life and he kicked Koop in the hand. Koop let out a foul string of curse words as the gun went sliding under some old barrels. Furiously he turned back to Tamar, arms outstretched to strangle him.
Tamar pulled the gun out of his pocket and immediately shot Koop through the nose. Blood erupted into the sun light behind him, and Koop crumpled like a rag doll at Tamar's feet.
Tamar let out his breath and grabbed the ladder. He pulled himself to his feet and checked himself. He had broken his left arm and perhaps a rib or two in the fall, and he had a bullet lodged deep into his thigh and another in his shoulder, but he felt like he would live.
He swallowed the gritty, irony taste of blood and glanced back up the ladder. He hadn't finished sending his transmission, yet. The mission always comes first...but there might be more of Koop's men hiding around the barn. Or they could be at the house... Tamar's gut wrenched at the thought. What if they had Marjike? Surely he would have known- she would have screamed, or tried to warn him... Surely he would have heard a gun shot? Panic set in. With his gun clinched tightly in his right hand, Tamar limped as fast as he could to the barn doors. A bang and flash of light. Tamar froze, thinking he had been shot. He glanced to the left and saw a pillar inches from his head, splintered and exposed with a fresh bullet scar. His heart resumed beating. Tamar swung the gun around and aimed at the darkness in the corner, firing three quick rounds. Silence.
Tamar hesitated. "Dart?"
Dart stepped out of the shadows, squinting at Tamar.
"Dart!" Tamar cried, stepping towards him. "I'm glad you're here. Koop, you remember him, right? He just came in here and tried to kill me! You haven't seen any more of his men outside, have you?"
"He shot you?" Dart asked curiously, pointing with his gun at the blood soaking into Tamar's pants and shirt.
"Yes, Docter, but I'm all right. Are there any of them at the house?"
"Any of who?" Dart questioned, eyes narrowed hatefully.
"No...No, I believe they are all dead." Dart replied.
"Christ, man." Tamar sighed, stuffing his gun back into his pocket. "I was so worried. I guess it's a good thing you came early. We have to get out of here."
"And where will we go?" Dart asked, running his finger delicately along the barrel of his gun.
"I...I don't know yet, but me and Marjike-"
"Marjike?" Dart bristled. "Don't tell me you've developed a relationship with that Maartans' girl?"
"It's not like that!" Tamar snapped. "I just want her to be safe. She's been through a lot, and I think that if we leave her here, she could get hurt. That's all."
"Everyone we leave gets hurt Tamar, that's why we leave them before it's too late for us!" Dart retorted. "We should just drop the Maartan girl and leave while we still have the chance. Or maybe we should put a bullet in her head, just in case you leaked a secret or two."
"Fine! All right, fine. I... I love her. Okay? I love her. I want to bring her with us, and if I can't do that, then we'll just have to run away together." Tamar said firmly.
"Tamar, I can't let you do that." Dart said bitterly.
"Dart, please don't get in my way. We've become good friends, you and I, and I would hate for it to end just because I wa-"
"I'm in your way?"
"I didn't say that."
"Yes, you did. You think I'm in your way? What about me? Don't you see how much you're in my way?" Dart demanded hotly.
Tamar blinked, then shook his head. "We don't have time for this! Koop probably told the-"
"Don't you think I deserve some sympathy, here? I've spent night after sleepless night in that damn asylum, listening to the crazy bastards screaming and crying all night, hiding in the damn room behind the damn closet while the damn Nazis come raiding the joint, me pretending to be a damn docter nodding and smiling while the damn Nazis talk to me about the damn weather! And you," He jabbed the gun at Tamar. "You've just been sitting up here, safe and sound at the farm house, typing little stories in your stupid transmitter, fucking the Maartan's girl every night-"
"That's enough!" Tamar shouted.
"-Eating roast chicken and potatoes for dinner!" Dart continued viciously, his eyes wild and angry. "And I've been trapped in that God-forsaken nut-house, starving to death, with only my damn pills keeping me sane! Where is the appreciation, Tamar? Where's my happy ending?"
Tamar had nothing to say. He looked down and sighed. After a few moments, he spoke. "Dart, I know it's been hard for you-"
"Don't give me that bull shit." Dart barked. He pointed the gun at Tamar's chest. "I'll just have to make my own ending."
The gun went off. Tamar slumped quietly to the ground.
Silhouetted in the barn doorway, Marjike put her hands to her mouth and screamed.
Startled, Dart jerked the gun towards the sound and pulled the trigger. As Marjike went down, Dart realized who it was. He ran to her and dropped to his knees at her side.
"Marjike! Marjike, my love- speak to me!" He cried frantically.
She reached out towards him, her eyes glistening. "Ernst..." She whispered, blood running out of her mouth.
Dart closed his eyes as her hand brushed against his cheek. "Oh, darling, I'm so sorry."
Her hand found his hand, the hand that was holding the gun. His eyes snapped open. Fiercely, Marjike twisted Dart's hand and pushed the gun into his chest. She dug her bony fingers between his and pulled the trigger. He let out a strangled cry before falling over backwards. Dart died after a few moments of soft panting. Marjike followed soon after, choking to death on her blood.
Soon the only noise was the sound of birds returning to the rafters, their wings fluttering softly as their feet found a perch.