Genre: WWII Drama
Word Count: 600
Littlejohn slipped into the barn. His eyes quickly located his target. As quietly as his large boots allowed, he crept towards the sleeping soldier. Once beside the man, he squat down, kneecaps creaking loudly. “Sarge, you asleep?”
Sgt. Saunders sighed and rolled over to squint in the dawn light at his PFC, who was supposed to be on guard – outside. “Not anymore.”
Littlejohn watched as Saunders used the palm of a hand to rub the sleep from his eyes. The tips of his fingers brushed the rumpled blonde hair from one side of the forehead to the other. Satisfied with the result, the non-com muttered, “Yeah?”
“Can I borrow your field glasses?” Littlejohn hurried on, “We’ll be real careful.”
“What do ‘we’ want them for?”
“Nothing much. Just me and Billy…”
Saunders pushed himself onto his elbows and frowned. “What are you two up to? Aren’t you two on guard duty?”
“Tell what you want ’em for or you won’t get ’em.”
Saunders searched his pockets and lit his first cigarette for the day, while waiting patiently for Littlejohn’s answer. Littlejohn took a minute before whispering, “Bird watching.”
Saunders yelped as his cigarette burnt his hand. He’d let it drop from his mouth in surprise.
“Yeah, me and Billy saw the ma and pa flying around their nest and heard the chicks… in that cliff up behind us.” Littlejohn looked towards the barn door. “They’ll be hunting soon.”
Saunders nodded and threw his blanket aside. He pulled on his boots, quickly lacing and buckling them before standing up. From his pack he drew out the field glasses and handed them to Littlejohn. “Well, don’t just stand there, let’s go.”
Littlejohn led Saunders around the back of the barn to where Billy was leaning against a tree his eyes on the cliff face.
“Billy,” whispered Littlejohn.
The young soldier didn’t turn, but shifted his weapon into his left hand and held out his right. “Did he let you have them?”
“Yes I did.”
Sheepishly, Billy grinned. “Hi, Sarge.”
“What are ya looking at?”
“Near that little bush about halfway up is the nest,” pointed Littlejohn. “I think they’re kestrels.”
As if on cue, a flock of sparrows rose out of the trees below the cliffs. One of the birds of prey swooped down out of the nest, flying parallel to the ground and behind the flock. It struck lethally. A flurry of feathers and it was all over in a matter of seconds. Just as quickly, the bird returned to the nest.
Saunders shook his head. “That’s not a kestrel – or a peregrine.”
Littlejohn lowered the field glasses and stared at his sergeant. “No?”
‘Nah, that’s a Lanner Falcon – Falco biarmicus feldeggi, also called Feldegg’s Falcon. You can tell by the way it hunts its prey, horizontally, not a vertical stoop like most peregrines, and the back head color is reddish. They’re usually mistaken for Saker Falcons.” Saunders looked at his watch and began to saunter towards the barn and breakfast. “You can use ‘em until the change of guard, then I want ‘em back.”
“Close your mouth, Billy, or you’ll catch a fly,” suggested Littlejohn to his equally surprised buddy. Billy closed his mouth and waited until Saunders was out of hearing. “How do you suppose he knew all that?”
Littlejohn shrugged, “Beats me, but that Lanner Falcon is a real killer.”
Billy nodded thoughtfully, still facing the barn. “Yeah, aren’t they?”