For All Nails #57B: A Serb Bullet
by Johnny Pez
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
28 June 1974
There was a massive hotel called the Kaiserhof almost opposite the Chancellery building on the Wilhelmstrasse. Visiting heads of state were invariably put up there, and it was a rare week in Berlin when there wasn't at least one in residence. Fortunately for Gavril Ducevic, the day he checked into the Kaiserhof the only foreign dignitary staying there was a military officer who had recently made himself President of Angola, so security at the hotel was not terribly strict. Ducevic was able to check in his bag without arousing suspicion, and even tipped the bellboy a fifty pfennig piece when that worthy young man carried it up to his room on the eleventh floor.
The desk clerk had exhibited no surprise when Ducevic asked for a room facing the Wilhelmstrasse; presumably it was a fairly common request. When he was alone, Ducevic drew open the curtains of both windows, and inspected the view from each. Directly west of the Kaiserhof, across the Wilhelmstrasse, was the Tiergarten with its hectares of manicured parklands and storied botanical gardens. Off to the south was the Capitol Building with its great neoclassical dome. Closer at hand to the north was the Chancellery Building with its vast portico opening onto the Tiergarten. There was, Ducevic knew, another equally vast portico on the north side of the Chancellery Building. During the building's construction, the architect, Alois Heidler, kept changing his mind about whether the Chancellery should face south towards the Tiergarten or north towards the Brandenburg Gate. In the end, Heidler had decided that the building ought to face both north and south, and so the two porticoes had been built.
The Chancellor's office had no windows facing out towards the street. Legend had it that Chancellor Bruning lived in perpetual fear of assassination, and had forbidden Heidler to expose him to outside view. However, Ducevic had studied plans of the Chancellery in preparation for this day, and he had discovered that while the office itself had no outward facing windows, an attached restroom with access to the cabinet room did.
Turning back to the hotel room, Ducevic opened his suitcase, tossed the carefully folded shirts and trousers onto the floor, and unsealed the false bottom. Nestled within indentations in the soft, moisture-absorbing cloth were the disassembled components of a high-powered Mauser SLG 66 rifle. Working skillfully, Ducevic had the Mauser assembled and loaded in less than a minute. Returning to the right-hand window, he unlatched it and raised it ten centimeters. The sound of traffic from the Wilhelmstrasse drifted into the room along with a waft of warm air. Next, a carefully positioned chair allowed him to rest the rifle's muzzle on the windowsill while he peered through the mounted scope at the imposing bulk of the Chancellery.
Ducevic found the eastern edge of the portico and counted six windows over. There, that was Chancellor Markstein's restroom. Morning sunlight slanted in to show that the restroom was unoccupied at the moment. That was all right. Ducevic had plenty of time. All the time in the world.
As he waited for his target to appear, Ducevic allowed his mind to wander. Back in Belgrade, the evening news on the vitavision had a story about the turmoil within the revolutionary government of that Caribbean island, Boricua or Puerto Rico or whatever they were calling it these days. Ducevic mentally sneered at the self-proclaimed Jeffersonistas. He wasn't surprised that they kept slaughtering each other over esoteric doctrinal disputes. The very idea of fighting over something as foolish as a two-hundred year old political philosophy was absurd.
He, on the other hand, was fighting for something worthwhile, for the freedom of the noble Serb people. He had no need for an ideology. What ideology could possibly compare with the timeless, sublime majesty of the Orthdox soul of the sons of St. Sava? Through all the centuries of treachery and betrayal, subjugation and oppression, the glory of Stephen Dushan and the memory of his greatness had sustained the Serbs. And soon, he, Gavril Ducevic, would strike a blow at his people's enemy. Soon . . .
Now! Movement within the inverted image of the scope. Switching off the rifle's safety, Ducevic inhaled, took aim, exhaled, squeezed the trigger, felt the rifle buck against his shoulder, heard the flat sound of the shot . . .
(Forward to FAN #57C: Accident.)
(Forward to 28 June 1974: Surprise!.)
(Return to For All Nails.)