On a winter night, when they were burying themselves from the Germans, Rybak and Sotnikov circled the fields and copses, having been given the task of procuring food for the partisans. The fisherman went easily and quickly, Sotnikov was behind, he should not have gone to the task at all – he was ill: he had a cough, his head was spinning, he was tormented by weakness. He hardly managed to keep pace with Rybak. The farm to which they were heading was burned. They reached the village, they chose the izba of the elders. “Hello,” Rybak greeted him, trying to be polite, “do you guess who we are?” – “Hello,” – without a shadow of servility or fear, an elderly man, sitting at a table on the Bible, responded. “Do you serve the Germans?” Rybak went on, “are not you ashamed to be an enemy?” “I am not my enemy to my people,” the old man responded calmly. “Are you a beast? Go to the barn.”
They walked across the field to the road and suddenly caught in front of the noise. Someone was driving along the road. “Let’s run,” Rybak commanded. Two carts with people were already visible. There was still hope that these were peasants, then everything would have worked out. “Well, stop!” – An evil cry was heard: “Stop, we’ll shoot!” And Rybak added to the race. Sotnikov fell behind. He fell on the slope – his head began to spin.
And then a cough came down from the attic. “Who do you have there?” The policemen were already climbing upstairs. “Hands up! Gotcha, darlings.”
Bound Sotnikov, Rybak and Demicikhu were taken to a neighboring town by the police. Sotnikov did not doubt that they were gone. He tormented his thought that they were the cause of death for this woman and her children… Sotnikova was the first to interrogate. “Do you think I will tell you the truth?” Sotnikov asked Investigator Portnov. “You will say,” the policeman said in a low voice, “You’ll say everything, we’ll make mincemeat out of you.” Let’s raise all the veins, we’ll break the bones, and then we’ll announce that you gave all away… I’m waking up to me! ” – ordered the investigator, and a buffalo-like child appeared in the room, his huge arms ripped Sotnikov from his chair…
The fisherman also languished in the basement, in which he unexpectedly met the headman. “And what did they put you in for?” “For not having told me about you, I will not have mercy,” the old man replied very calmly. “What obedience,” Rybak thought, “no, I’ll still fight for my life.” And when he was brought in for questioning, Rybak tried to be complaisant, not to irritate the investigator in vain – answered in detail and, as it seemed to him, very cunning. “You’re a guy with a head,” the investigator said, “we’ll check your testimony.” “Perhaps we’ll save your life.” “You’ll still serve the great Germany in the police.” Think about it. ” Returning to the basement and seeing Sotnikov’s broken fingers – with torn fingernails, clotted in blood clots, – Rybak experienced a secret joy that he escaped this. No, he will dodge to the last. In the basement there were already five. They brought the Jewish girl Basya, from whom the names of those who concealed her were demanded, and Demicikhu.
The morning came. Outside, voices were heard. They talked about shovels. “What shovels, why shovels?” – Profoundly ached in the fisherman.
The cellar door opened: “Come out: liquidation!” The policemen were already standing in the courtyard with their weapons ready. On the porch came German officers and police authorities. “I want to make a report,” Sotnikov shouted, “I’m a partisan.” I wounded your policeman, who, “he nodded to Rybak,” was here by chance. ” But the elder just waved his hand: “Lead.” “Mr. Investigator,” rushed Rybak, “you offered me yesterday, I agree.” “Come closer,” they offered from the porch, “do you agree to serve in the police?” “I agree,” Rybak answered with all the sincerity he was capable of. “Bastard,” – as a blow, Sotnikov shouted at the back of his head. Sotnikov was now painfully ashamed of his naive hopes to save people at the cost of his life. Policemen drove them to the place of execution, where the locals had already driven the inhabitants and where five hemp loops were already hanging from above. The condemned were brought to the bench. The fisherman had to help Sotnikov to climb it. “Bastard,” Sotnikov thought again about him, and immediately rebuked himself: where did you get the right to judge… Rybak knocked out the support from under Sotnikov’s feet.
When everything was over and the people dispersed, and the policemen began to build, Rybak stood aside, waiting for what would happen to him. “Well!” Cried the elder, shouting: “It’s time to march in step.” And it was Fisher usually and habitually, he thoughtlessly stepped into tact with others. What’s next? The fisherman glanced along the street: we must run. Just now, let’s say, to plunge into the sleigh passing by, to hit the horse! But, having met with the eyes of the peasant sitting in the sleigh, and having felt how much hatred in these eyes, Rybak understood: this will not work. But who will it be with then? And then he, like a shoe on the head, was deafened by the thought: there was nowhere to go. After the liquidation – nowhere. From this building of the road there was no escape.