There was only one other person at the grave – an old man, very old. Perhaps a friend? He didn't seem to be praying or reflecting; he didn't even seem to have any flowers. Margaret got the idea, actually, that he was watching her out of the corner of his eye.
Eventually she spoke up. "Sir? Excuse me... did you know Mr.-... Landa well?" She stumbled over the name; it wasn't the one she knew him by.
"Well as I cared to."
Odd. "Did you know him a long time?"
It was a moment before he answered. "Yep. Damn long time. You his daughter?"
"His-? Oh. No."
"No. I'm just a friend. Neighbor, really. He lives-… lived, I guess… across the street. When I was little he bought Girl Scout cookies from me. And helped me find my dog when she ran away."
Finally the old man turned to look at her. He let out a dry old-man's chuckle. "Now ain't that sweet." She glared, but before she could answer he went on: "What did you think about-?" and tapped himself on the forehead.
Her breath caught. "His scar."
"So it was a scar. I was so little I thought maybe I-... I mean, I only saw it once or twice – he always wore hats – and in my head it almost looked like..." She swallowed and tried to form up a complete sentence. "Sir, if you know about it, would you please tell me?"
"Know about it?" He sounded almost jolly. "I ought to know about it. I gave it to him."
"Story time." He turned to face her square, drew himself up, licked his lips. "I expect you're too young for the name to mean anything to you, but I'm Aldo Raine, head honcho of the Inglourious Basterds. We was troop of what you might call special forces, durin the War."
Her head spun. So it was true. "Yes, I… I read about them. I mean… about you." She thought of the old grainy picture in her textbook and realized that he did, actually, have the same smile.
"Well ain't that nice."
She looked back at the tombstone. It was true. The crazy story she'd concocted when History class got too boring was true. She simultaneously felt like it couldn't be, and like she had known all along that it was. "So he was..."
"A Jew-hatin Nazi bastard who I was forbid by the government from killin, or else I damn sure woulda done it," he confirmed. "Best I could do was mark him so's everybody who saw him would know what he is." He looked around the empty cemetery and nodded. "Looks like I did a damn good job; cept for you it appears he don't have many friends."
He was practically glowing with righteous disdain, and she felt compelled to justify herself. "I didn't know."
"Nobody's blamin you, little sister. Though now that you do know, I wouldn't leave those flowers here if I was you." Raine moved closer to the tombstone and slowly, stiffly, went down on his knees. "In fact, I think it'd be best if we go ahead and pay respects my way instead."
She watched as he took out a hammer and chisel and got to work defacing the stone. As the swastika took shape she tried to reconcile her neighbor with everything she'd read, but she could barely imagine him into a uniform – let alone imagine him in a uniform doing evil. Eventually she gave up trying. All she could think of was his smile and his eyes – she could hardly even remember what the scar had looked like. And this frail and panting old man had put it there, some time when he was young and cocky and just as disdainful. Put it there. She began flinching with every blow of the hammer and every chip of the stone, rubbing her own forehead with her fingers to get rid of the tingling.
When Raine was finally finished, she found she couldn't even meet his eyes. People were cruel and inexplicable and she willed him to go away without even nodding a farewell.
Once he was gone she put her flowers down anyway.
My first and probably last time writing in this fandom. Let me know what you think.