Previous, Next, Numerical Index, Chronological Index.
For All Nails #57a: The Next Stage

Belgrade, Kingdom of Croatia, Outer German Empire
24 June 1974

"The time has come," said Gavril Ducevic, "to move on to the next stage of
the struggle to free the Serb people."

Ducevic's companion, whom he knew only as "Boris", said, "The current stage
seems to be yielding sufficiently positive results.  How many attacks have
you carried out against the Croats?"

"Seventeen," Ducevic said.  "Though only twelve were successful."

"Still, seventeen attacks is a remarkable achievement," Boris pointed out.
"It's sixteen more than most revolutionaries manage.  You've got the Croatian
authorities going mad trying to track you down, and they haven't even come
close.  What's more, you're being emulated by your fellow Serbs.  Three
assassination attempts and six bombings in the last month, and only two of
the bombings were your own doing.  Why change course now?"

"Because when all is said and done, the Croats are only puppets," said
Ducevic.  "When you're trying to kill a snake, you don't aim at the tail, you
aim at the head.  The head of the Croatian snake isn't in Croatia -- it's in
Berlin.  It's time to start taking aim at the head."

Boris frowned.  "That might not be the wisest move.  As long as you confine
yourself to Croatia, you'll only have the Croatians to worry about.  The
Germans would be much more formidable opponents.  Hans Steiner didn't get the
reputation he has by being easygoing.  He got it by being very good at his
job."

Ducevic's face did not show the anger that was beginning to grow within him.
"Why the sudden note of caution, Boris?  You've always encouraged my actions
before."

Although Boris spoke fluent Serbian, Ducevic had always fancied he could
detect a hint of a Swedish accent in the man's pronunciation. [1] It was no
secret that the Scandies had grown circumspect in their dealings with the
Germans since the war scare last year.  "You've always acted sensibly
before," Boris answered.  "If you stop acting sensibly, then naturally I will
stop encouraging you."

"There we disagree, Boris.  I believe I'm being quite sensible.  The Germans
are our enemies, and you can only win a war by beating your enemies."

"You will not allow me to dissuade you, then?" said Boris.

"My course is clear," said Ducevic.  "I intend to pursue it."

"Then you will do so alone," said Boris.  "I cannot allow my organization to
become involved in such a reckless adventure.  I'm afraid our association is
at an end."

"Very well," said Ducevic.  The Serb brought a pistol from his coat pocket
and emptied it into the other man's chest.  As he always did, Ducevic felt a
momentary amusement at the astonished look on his target's face.

Returning the pistol (ironically, one of the Krag-Colts that Boris had
provided him) to his pocket, Ducevic stepped around the growing pool of
blood, picked up the suitcase he had prepared before the meeting, and walked
out of the room.  There was a train leaving Belgrade for Berlin in ninety
minutes, and he intended to be on it.

Notes:

[1] This is just imagination on Ducevic's part.  Although he serves as a
conduit for Scandinavian money and arms, Boris is from Bulgaria, and has
never come within a thousand miles of Sweden.