Mio stood on the Ada Ciganlija dock, watching the Sava River as it flowed past the island and through the city to meet with the Danube. The official’s boat had left the Fortress already and the president would be passing the Belgrade fairgrounds and into Mio’s view within minutes. He raced to make his final decision; he weighed every choice, advocated every devil and still came to the same conclusion. There had been enough bloodshed; the war was beyond the borders of purpose and into the realm of genocide. The president must be removed.
Surely others were thinking the same, others within the homeland, even the party. But no one had the access of the president’s personal bodyguards; no one would ever get closer to the butcher but the butcher’s wife. And the butcher’s wife idolized her shouting shopkeeper; there would be no relief delivered from her hand.
He’d thought to wait. In fact he’d thought to wait for a year now, hoping that someone could squeeze a single bullet through the walls of flesh that Radovan surrounded himself with daily. But it was fruitless; those that didn’t agree with city hall were crushed under its bricks and mortar, those that had attempted to use politics or even currency to sway an assassin to the task were rooted out by shadow police and stripped of their skin.
He’d loved his work, he had always been ruthless and cold, considering death to be a remarkably fair arbiter between those that have and those that desire. But he’d always felt comfortable within the boundaries of hell, where evil men plotted against evil men to pilfer ill gotten gains. His duties had begun in that style four years past, but things were different now; the war had changed everything including Mio’s view of the bigger picture. He’d never noticed there was such a thing, until he’d watched a grieving mother lifted from her eight year old son’s grave by a 50 caliber bullet, and flung two yards across the freshly turned soil; until he’d delivered a message from his employer to a general in the field, and there watched as 30 children’s bodies were pushed into a ditch by a tractor bearing a snow plow, all to be drowned in diesel fuel and set on fire.
Mio checked his gun one last time as the cruiser maneuvered into its slip and the dignitaries on board prepared to disembark. The right moment would come, he would know it, and he would be quick about it. Perhaps his act would have no consequence; no one could be sure what kind of leader would follow this one, it could well be an even more brutal megalomaniac. But the odds were even that there would be an uprising of those Serbs of good conscience were this monster to be silenced, and even odds were better than guaranteed loss.
The ride to the island’s shooting range was pleasant enough, Mio took his position in the front passenger seat and the president and his 5 cronies filled the rear, busily telling jokes and drinking bourbon throughout the fifteen minute drive.
The parking area in front of the range office was filled with soldiers, just as the docks had been. Security was very tight always, but during the conflict it had become nearly impenetrable; there were more soldiers assigned to the country’s politicians than serving in any single unit in the field. It is difficult to prosecute a war when so many of your own population would like to see you dead.
Were it any other man, the show of force would have stopped him. But Mio had already accepted his fate. He would die, there was no doubt; and perhaps in his act he would have atoned for his past. But either way he would be a martyr to a more civilized Serbia, a free and strong Serbia wherein the stains of centuries of bloodletting could be washed from its foundations at last.
The governmental party prepared to take their positions for the competition, clay pigeons had been stacked, springs oiled, shells loaded and boxed. For nearly an hour the six men blew earthen plates into chalk, toasted each other’s fine abilities and boasted of tournament’s won. And then Mio found his moment.
“Another bottle Mio” Karadzic had called to him. “Bring me another quickly!”
The case of American whiskey lay open against a wall beyond the president. To reach the box, Mio would pass directly behind his target and within three feet or less of the back of his head. This was his time; he took a deep breath and held it as he strode confidently toward his boss while waving his acknowledgement. Three steps hence he pulled his automatic from its holster and swung to his right as all hell broke loose.
Csilla knelt over her son Mio's casket and touched the splintered wood at the place behind which his face might be hiding. She blew him a kiss through the river of her tears, and her husband Gabor squeezed her shoulder more firmly as he too spent his grief.
“Your son was a traitor” Karadzic spat as he lifted his Ruger to the head of the weeping man. “I knew it all along; I could see his weakness in his eyes. He’d lost his will to hate.”