For All Nails #57b: A Serb Bullet
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
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
. . .