#terrorism, Fiction, history, Uncategorized

The Assassin

 

The following is a segment of a novel on German History and Philosophy that I have been writing, off and on, for the better part of a decade. I don’t know when it will be finished (it already runs over 100,000 words) but I thought that in honor the anniversary of the start of The First World War, the Great War, that I would post this episode dealing with the assassination of the heir to the Throne of the now defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand. I have done my best to be as accurate as possible, and all the people mentioned within the story are real, and their motivations real, and I have had them say only what I believe makes sense within the context of the time and situation. Any mistakes are entirely my own. Enjoy.

Prologue: Some Weeks Before Summer

The young man sat on his hands so that the others could not see them shaking. He had never been so nervous before in his. There was nothing he could do to silence the chattering of his teeth though so he kept laughing nervously in a futile attempt to cover up the sound. This only served to draw more attention to Gavrilo Princip, however, and he had to be content with his compatriots thinking him an idiot instead of a coward. The nervous young man (who everyone seemed to agree looked like a dyspeptic ferret) was surrounded by a few other men his own age who nonetheless seemed to be made of sterner stuff than he was. They were joined by two proud looking military types who exuded effortless authority and composure. The group were huddled on old bar stools around a table in a decrepit and humid little basement in the low rent district of Mostar, Herzegovina. The sound of domestic squabbles could be heard over their heads and every once and awhile a tremendous boom shook the whole building as someone or another smashed some piece of furniture onto the floor. It was not the best place to be plotting a terrorist action, but it was at least out of the way of prying eyes and ears.

            The fellow who brought the meeting together was a man by the name of Danilo Ilić. He was a thin and stern looking man with a thin mustache and an air of authority to him. He wore a brown overcoat and black trousers. He was the only one of the group not seated. He was pacing about as though he were unable to contain his nervous energy. He had a scowl on his face and he spoke with a loud but rather high pitched voice.

            “So you are telling me that the police searched the train for contraband and you felt compelled to through all of the weapons out the window? Out the window of moving train? And they didn’t even search you in the end?”

            Ilic was addressing his angry words to a rather pompous looking fellow seated at the head of the table. He was a Muslim Bosnian by the name of Muhamed Mehmedbašić. He was the eldest of the assembled men and he had the look of a man who would broker no disrespect from anyone. He snarled at Ilic and all but spat out his reply.

            “Well it is easy for you to stand there and castigate me, Ilic. I was the one taking all the risk. Perhaps if you had the intestinal fortitude to do the deed yourself perhaps Governor Potiorek would already be dead. I was not going to risk 15 years in a Austrian prison just so I could keep up to you and your dear leader’s ridiculous schedule. How is dear old Apis by the way?”

            Gavarilo and the other youths gasped. Apis was the code name of Dragutin Dimitrijević, a Serbian military officer and leader of the feared Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist group devoted to the idea of a Serbia free of the yoke of Austrian imperialism and cultural hegemony. Apis’ was a name that could strike a sort of awe into even the most jaded sort of revolutionary. Ilic was startled enough to remain standing in place for a few moments, but he ignored the obvious baiting by Mehmedbašić.

            “I would have done it myself if I had not been on urgent business in Toulouse. Things have changed Muhamed. Events are moving faster than either of us could have possibly imagined possible even a few weeks ago. Potiorek is old news, merely the governor of Bosnia district. He was never much of a catch if you ask me. A waste of time.”

            Mehmedbašić laughed. “Well do your blessed higher ups have any other esteemed members of the Austrian Empire in mind? We are all ears Ilic.”

            Gavarilo could feel the tension in the room like a weight on his chest. He could barely breath he was so on edge.

            Ilic grinned and finally took his seat at the other end of the table. He looked like the cat who had caught the songbird. “The governor was a waste of time from the beginning. Who gives a shit if some functionary is killed? They’ll just replace him with someone more hardline. No, we need to send a message, do some real damage, strike a blow for the Slavic people—“

            “For the love of God Ilic just get on with it already! Who did the Black Hand suggest?”

            “The Heir.”

            There was silence like that of a crypt in the winter. No one dared even to breath. Gavrilo could hear the blood pumping in his oddly spaced ears. It was Mehmedbašić who finally broke the quiet.

            The Heir? You mean Ferdinand? The Archduke? You’re kidding? You can’t be serious. He is perhaps the most heavily guarded man this side of the Danube. Surely Apis can’t be serious about this?”

            Ilic was so wound up that he forgot he was choosing not acknowledge the existence of the leader of the Black Hand. “Oh he is deadly serious. He has a plan, and he has the weapons, and he is certain it can be done. And I agree with him. Everyone expects a plot against a military man like Potiorek or one of the generals, but no one would even dream of an attempt against Franz Ferdinand. He is beloved and as you said he is well protected. Only a ship of fools would embark on such a mission… which is precisely why it will work. There have been whispers of a possible royal visit to Sarajevo late in the springtime. A sort of moral boosting and face saving trip to the “territories” for the heir. Given the revolutionary activity in the region we can be almost certain that the most powerful man in the empire who is not a doddering old goat (all due respect to his Imperial Majesty) will want to make a show of force. Where better than the center of revolutionary activity? Sarajevo my friends: mark my words it will be before summer comes, I promise you!”

            Mehmedbašić looked as skeptical as ever. “I admire your devotion to the cause of Slavic freedom  Ilic, but I think you and your masters may have bitten off more than you can possibly chew with this scheme. The Habsburgs are doddering and may be weaker than ever before, but they are still a force to be reckoned with. They will not leave the only heir to their power and authority exposed. And besides, who do you plan to use for this sort of mission? We are short on men and supplies as it is and I do not know of any man stupid enough to take up such a suicidal cause.”

            Ilic gestured about the room grandly and Gavrilo could feel his face blush. “These fellows have agreed to take up the banner of Slavic unity. They will gladly fight, die, and kill for a free Yugoslavia! This is Trifko, Gavrilo, and Nadeljko. I selected them for their devotion to our people and the fearless willingness to lay down their lives on a whim. They shall be heroes of the revolution!”

            At the urging of Ilic the young men stood and saluted the still seated Mehmedbašić. He looked less than impressed by what he saw. “I am sure their devotion is beyond reproach but you cannot be serious about these fellows. The one with the ferret-face looks like he is 12!”

            Gavrilo spoke up before he could think better of it. “I am 19 sir! And—and I am ready to—fight and die for—“    

            Mehmedbašić raised a hand to silence him. “Enough. I get the idea. Ilic I can see that there is no talking you out of anything. You are far too proud for that. I will not take part personally in a project so destined for failure, but I will not abandon you totally in this time of urgent need. Tell me what you need procured and I will find a way to smuggle it in for you. I shall pray for you Ilic, but I will not allow myself to hope.”

            Ilic clapped his hands and bowed to his compatriot. “I knew you would come through for me Muhammad! I will require little enough in the way of material support: some short fuse grenades, some pistols, preferably Brownings but anything you can get with such little notice will be fine, and also we shall require some cyanide tablets.”

            “Do you planning on poisoning the Heir? If so may I suggest a better poison—“

            “It is not for the Heir. It is for us. We shall not be taken alive, succeed or fail. If we do not escape we will take the poison. We must not let any member of the revolution fall into Habsburg hands. The torture we would all be subject too would surely break us and cause us to reveal secrets that would be best left unheard.”

            Gavrilo’s eyes went wide. Suicide? Dying in battle was one thing, but taking poison win or lose? His hands once more began to shake. He could only hope that this was bravado on the part of Ilic.

            Mehmedbašić wrote something on a scrap of paper he had pulled from his pocket and then finally stood from the table. He embraced Ilic and grasped his hand. “I wish you all the luck in the world my friend. I fear this will be the last time we meet. One of my associates will contact you soon about the delivery of your supplies. I guarantee this time we will not take the train to deliver them!”

            “Thank you Muhammad. You are a true Slavic hero. I will do my best to prove your fears to be unfounded. Gavrilo! Escort Mehmedbašić back to the street and be sure he is not followed.”

            Gavrilo jumped to his feet with such eagerness that he knocked his knee against the edge of the table. He hobbled over to Mehmedbašić and led him up the stairs and out of the basement and up to the ground floor above. There were people sleeping on the floor and drunks taking sips from hidden flasks sitting up against the crumbling walls. The smell overwhelmed Gavrilo and he held his sleeve over his nose and mouth. He was not used to the scent of poverty. Mehmedbašić was unfazed by it all and merely stepped over the strewn bodies like so much trash. Gavrilo hugged the walls and followed behind as close as he could. When they finally emerged into the fresh air Gavrilo felt like he had been released from a tomb. There was a light drizzle and the air felt pregnant with static electricity.

            Mehmedbašić took a slender cigarillo from his pocket and stuck it on his lip in a haphazard fashion. Gavrilo leaned against the outer wall of the apartment and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible.

            “You, Gavrilo was it? Do you have a match?”

            Gavrilo was surprised to be addressed by this important man. He hesitated a moment and then searched his pockets. He found a few stray matches still attached to crumpled book he had picked up somewhere or another. Mehmedbašić walked over and leaned in so that Gavrilo could light the end of the cigarillo. The sweet, thick smoke curled around Mehmedbašić’s head and was soon dispersed by the light drizzle still falling on both of their heads.

            “So I suppose you intend to go through with it, this madness with the Archduke I mean?”

            Gavrilo took a deep breath before answering. “Yes, yes I do.”

            Mehmedbašić acted as though Gavrilo had not spoken. “If you do go through with it you must realize that Ilic is not looking for soldiers or even assassins. He is looking for martyrs. He does not care if he succeeds or fails, for making the attempt and dying in the process is victory enough for him. He will not hesitate to sacrifice each and every one of you to the cause. You must know this if you wish to proceed.”

            Gavrilo blanched and looked nervously at his feet.

            Mehmedbašić continued. “I of course would not be at all sanguine about your chances even if Ilic cared enough to make a decent attempt. That being said there is no reason why you should be led blithely and meekly to your demise.” The middle-aged conspirator reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a pistol. He weighed it in his hand and checked the aim down the sight. He tossed the pistol to a surprised Gavrilo who caught it against his chest.

            “It’s a semi-automatic FN Browning model 1910 pistol so all you have to do is load it, aim, and squeeze the trigger. Squeeze it, mind you, do not pull on the trigger. It takes 7 .32ACP rounds and it packs quite a punch if you hit the right areas. By that I mean the head or the chest. Don’t bother with the extremities or the belly. Also, once you start firing never stop until you have emptied the gun or are shot down yourself. Practice shooting one handed at a tin can placed on a stump or a fence rail at 20 meters. If you can hit that can under those conditions you should have no problem hitting a man moving slowly at 10 meters or so. Don’t stick around after you stop firing. You think you can manage that?”

            Gavrilo’s minded was swimming with all that he had been told and he was far from certain he would be able to execute these orders with the skill that Mehmedbašić seemed to be demanding. Gavrilo did not wish to disappoint the man though so he nodded slowly and looked the gun over in his hand.

            “Excellent. You may yet get out of this mess with your hide. But probably not. Don’t tell Ilic we talked. He’ll get jealous and kick you out of the mission. I must be getting back to the train station before this drizzle turns into a real downpour. It was nice chatting. Have a good life Gavrilo.” Mehmedbašić turned his back on the young man and walked away in the direction of the train station. Suddenly the man paused and turned back to look at Gavrilo. “On second thought, what the hell do I have to lose? I am a revolutionary and I have been one my entire life. I have risked my life for my race and my country countless times without any thought given to the odds. If you, little Gavrilo, can muster up the courage to take on this foolish mission then certainly I cannot abandon my cause in this hour of need.”

            The man sighed and then followed up with a hearty laugh. “Not like I have anything else to live for. Tell Ilic that I will take part if he still wants me. I’ll meet up with him again in a few weeks, after I get some affairs in order. I cannot help but think that if I am not around if Ilic finally gets something right I will never be able to live it down. Anyway… goodnight once again, and thank you in advance for taking the message to Ilic.” He turned around once more and headed away with a new lightness to his step.

            Gavrilo watched him until he disappeared out of sight around a corner. He put the pistol into his right jacket pocket and looked around to make sure no one had seen him place it there. Satisfied that he had not been seen, nor Mehmedbašić followed, he headed back into the apartment and closed the door behind him.

June 28th, 1914, Sarajevo

It was a rather unremarkable looking bridge. Gypsum made up most of the span but some rather ugly paved streets were added in deference to traffic patterns. Every one of means had to have an automobile now and so of course the ancient cities of former Roman, then Byzantine, then Ottoman and finally Austrian controlled South Eastern Europe had to be mutilated to accommodate these fossil belching monstrosities. They called it the Latin Bridge for some God only knows why reason in this city that had once been the center of the region that had once been part of the Bosnia Sanjak of the Devlet-i Aliyye-i Osmâniyye. Some Turko-Bosnian tanner made the first bridge out of wood and it had been improved on ever since. Well improved until the automobiles came of course. Sarajevo was an old city of course but it was one that had not stood still, preserved in amber.

No one really knew why the Archduke-Heir Apparent had chosen Serbia as the site of his yearly parade/inspection of the forces. Perhaps he wanted to be seen as strong in the face of violent Bosnian nationalism? Or he wanted an excuse to drive around in his gaudy black Double Paeton? Maybe he just liked the coffee?

The reason, perhaps, was more personal. He had decided to take his wife Sophie, a woman who was gorgeous and far more attractive a persona than her gawky square faced husband. No one really liked him but everyone loved the Duchess of Hohenberg. Even their host, Provincial Governor Oskar Potiorek, was more popular than the next Emperor of Austria-Hungary.

Maybe he wanted to make a statement? It was widely known that subject of the heir’s marriage was a sore one for the monarchy, and especially for Franz Ferdinand. Sophie, a woman the aloof but hopelessly romantic Archduke truly loved, was not the sort who would normally be allowed much respect or deference. She was of noble birth, from an ancient line, but she was not of royal blood. The Emperor was not about to let some Bohemian petty aristocrat carry the title of Empress, so he had initially forbid the union. The stubborn Archduke would not relent. He truly loved this woman and he was willing to gum up the gears of succession in order to have her. To complicate matters further, Franz Ferdinand was the favorite of the formidable Archduchess Maria Theresia, the Emperor’s sister in law and the all but acknowledged head of the family. Everyone was terrified of this strong willed and intelligent woman, not least the Emperor. Franz Joseph had been unable to control this woman during the peak of his long reign and he certainly was not going to try and overrule her now that he was teetering on the brink of his dotage. The marriage was approved, though the happy groom’s joy was tempered a bit by the condition that he must declare that his beloved, and any children from their union, would never wear the crown of Austria-Hungary. It had only been recently that Sophie was granted the title of Princess and Franz Ferdinand was not in the mood to appease his uncle by leaving her behind during his trip. Sophie would get the reception, the respect, she deserved in Sarajevo.

The whole visit had a slapdash feel to it, like no one was really taking the whole thing seriously. The Austrian military bureaucracy warned against the particular trip at this particular time; there were too many known militants who had disappeared into the ether as of late and there were rumblings from within the Serbian establishment that the 28th had far too much local and national significance to risk a display of imperial authority. It was St. Vitus’ day, a holiday honoring a saint brutally martyred by an Imperial oppressor. The day also marked the anniversary of the end of Serbian autonomy and the beginning of a long and humiliating subjugation to Ottoman rule after the bloody battle of Kosovo. Overall it was a bad day to be a foreign potentate in Serbia. It did not help matters that the city of Sarajevo was the center of activity for anarchist madmen, nationalist zealots, pro-Ottoman types and even Russians, the latter because everything within 5000km of Moscow is considered part of the Russian domestic sphere of influence.

The ugly car left the local city garrison barracks with the Governor and the royal couple. The Duchess, her still ample figure obscured by a painfully tasteful frilly white gown, smiled and waved at the surprisingly receptive, and much larger than anticipated, crowd as the motorcade made its way towards its destination. Franz Ferdinand leaned over to whisper in his wife’s ear, his hushed voice nonetheless full of pride. “Listen to them, Sophie, they love you!” Sophie kissed her husband on the cheek. They were headed to a reception in their honor at the town hall, hosted by the mayor. They would have to run a gauntlet to get there. Arrayed all along the road running adjacent to the ancient river Milijacka, something they called the Apple Quay, were the seven would-be assassins, including the ringleader Ilic, stood at their preappointed places. Somewhere a clock-tower, one of the many built by the city’s former Ottoman overlords, stuck 10am. The car came within sight of the first assassin, Mehmedbasic, who had the choice of shooting or bombing the parade. He chose neither. He simply lost his nerve. There were far more people than he had anticipated. Trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible, Mehmedbasic dropped the gun and pulled the fuse from the bomb. He disappeared into the crowd. The man who had built his image around revolution and Serbian Nationalism, the man who had helped recruit half a dozen men into an all but suicide mission, had proven himself a coward at the one moment in his life he had to be brave. Ilic had planned for this eventuality, or at least he had tried his best to. The best was not what Vaso Čubrilović was prepared to offer; upon seeing a police officer with a rather impressive saber at his side he dropped his gun and ran as well. He panted as he ducked and weaved through the excited, and oblivious, crowd, leaving an unnoticed trail of urine in his wake.

Nedeljko Čabrinović was made of sterner stuff. He stood on the opposite side of the road from the two cowards, holding a timed bomb. He had refused the pistol offered him by Illic, his thought being that if he hit his target on the first try he would be killed soon after. He had the heart of a martyr and he welcomed death in the service of his nation. He waited until the motorcade came into view and seeing that his target was in the second of the four vehicles he whispered a hurried prayer and pitched the bomb at the slow moving vehicle. The bomb was thrown well and it looked like it would hit its target…but instead it hit the convertible cover of the Graf & Stift automobile and bounced onto the street. The next car in the motorcade rolled over the bomb and a moment later it went off with an impressive bang. The car was lifted a good half-meter off its tires and the explosion peppered the horrified, screaming crowd with shrapnel and dislodged pavement. The two lead cars took no chances and sped off at full speed down the road and away from the scene of the crime. The cars sped by three assassins, Illic, Grabez, and Popovic, who could only look on in shock as their well laid plans fell apart right before their eyes. The three men retreated into the still panicked crowd.

Popovic turned to face Illic who was pale as a freshly washed sheet. “Are we just going to let them get away? All this planning? For nothing?”

Illic snarled and tried his best to look composed and confident. “We’ll get another chance. Have you noticed how few gendarmes they have posted? We’ll just wait for the next chance.”

“The next chance? They probably have Nedeljko in custody! They’re probably torturing him for information as we speak! And where was Mehmedbasic? And that little shit Cubrilovic?”

“Shut up! They’ll overhear us. We’ll split up and and meet near the train depot, assess our options…”

Grabez laughed. “Our options? What options? Do you really think our friends in the special services are going to risk their hides to come and save a bunch of failed Brutus’?”

“Enough! Do you want to just stand here and wait for the gendarmes to grab us? Do you have any better ideas? I expected we would all be dead at this point!”

Popovic hung his head. “We are disgraces…we are traitors to the Serbian people…”

Illic rolled his eyes but deep down he could not help but agree with his fellow militant. “Let’s not waste any more time. Go now!”

Grabez looked around, confused, for a moment before he departed the scene. “Where is that pup Princip?”

***

 

The great part of the crowd surged forward into the street, people jumping over the prone bodies of the wounded in a desperate attempt to escape the area. The police un-holstered their weapons and began running about looking for anyone suspicious. Čabrinović, his hand shaking with shame and disappointment after missing his intended target, reached into his pocket and withdrew the small cyanide tablet. He bit down on the glass tablet and the poison ran down his throat. The pill did not have the desired effect; instead of killing Čabrinović the poison merely made him violently ill. He vomited dramatically onto the shoes of a nearby reveler, who shoved him away in disgust. A nearby police officer noticed the commotion and ran over to investigate. Čabrinović panicked and, still vomiting all over himself, jumped from the nearby bridge, hoping to drown himself in the waters of the Miljacka. Unfortunately, the water reached only to his shins. The officer grabbed ahold of the would be Serbian hero and dragged him kicking and choking back onto the street. The officer realized he had probably captured a wannabe regicide and he screamed out as much to the crowd still milling about the scene. The enraged Sarajevans rushed forward, some still covered in cuts and bruises from the explosion and subsequent panic.

A woman stepped forward and spit in Čabrinović’s face. “He threw the bomb! I saw him! Anarchist filth!” She spit at him again and the police officer stepped back. He sensed that the crowd had decided to administer some extra-judicial punishment and he did not want to get in the way of their mindless wrath. The crowd ran forward, taking the woman’s expectoration as a cue, and began to kick and pummel the helpless would be assassin. He howled in pain and did the best to protect his head. Blood spilled from cuts that formed on his hands and scalp. He was soon completely covered by angry men and women unable even to see the sky above him.This went on for a good couple of minutes before the officer summoned more police over to break up the beating. The now nearly unrecognizable Čabrinović was dragged by his limp arms away towards a nearby cafe, where he was shackled to a drain pipe while the officers decided what to do with him.

***

 

“Well, Governor, that was quite a warm reception you had planned for us.”

“I do not know what to say. I am going to have a stern word or two with the captain of police. I am so ashamed, your highness.”

The motorcade had reached the town hall, where an excited delegation of local dignitaries and military officers. The assembled people had not yet heard of the incident by the river and they applauded as the motorcade deposited its passengers at the foot of the stairway, complete with red red carpet, leading into the building. The Archduke was not pleased.

“My wife was in that car, Potiorek. The mother of my children. You’d think there would be more than a token force of gendarmes on the route.”

“You are absolutely right of course, your highness. I promise, heads will roll over this outrage.”

“They had better. My Uncle will not be pleased.”

Governor Potiorek swallowed. “I-I imagine not, your highness.”

“You imagine correctly, Governor.” He turned to his wife, who had just exited the auto. “Sopherl,” he cooed pleasantly, using his favorite pet-name for his wife, “My darling, are you ok? Are you hurt?”

The Duchess smiled and shook her head. “Not at all, my dear, I am fine. It was quite exciting actually, driving about at that ungodly speed through the streets! The children would have loved it all!”

The Archduke sigh and then forced a strained smiled on his face. “I am sure they would have. I am overjoyed that you are ok. Governor Potiorek?” His tone changed instantly from one of affection to one of commanding condescension.

“Yes, your highness?”

“Let’s get this over with.”

“Of course your highness. Follow me.”

The governor took the Duchess’ gloved hand and led her up the stairs. The Archduke paused a moment and reached into his breast pocket. He withdrew the speech he had written for the occasion and was alarmed to find it stained with fresh blood. It took him a moment to realize it was his own, from a cut on his hand right at the base of this thumb. It was a small cut, but a deep one, and it was still bleeding freely. He pulled a pair of black driving gloves from his back pocket and pulled them over his hands. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed his wound. It seemed no one had. He took a deep breath before mounting the staircase behind his wife. He waved to the crowd less out of a desire to be magnanamous than to hide the fact that his hands were shaking like an infant’s rattle.

 

***

 

Where was the motorcade? Good God, had he missed it entirely? Was he not in his appointed place? Princip broke out in a cold sweat. He was the youngest in the group, the greenest of them all, and he had cocked up so royally that he did not even get a shot at his sworn mortal enemy WHILE HE WAS PARADING right by him! shame caused his face to flush crimson and he sauntered away in no particular direction

 

The convertable sputtered a but, the exhaust coughed and belched. clearly the suspension was off kilter. The Governor bowed. “I am sure the car meets your requirements my–

Franz Ferdinand grabbed Sophia and roughly brushed by the Governor on the way to the auto. The fucking car was hit with a bomb. Get me and my wife someplace were they are not trying to kill me. I need to wire the Emperor immediately. I can’t let this news cause any sort of disturbance. too delicate.” the car pulled off, and the Governor had to dab the perspiration from his heavy brow.

 

the auto sputtered along towards the apple quay parallel to the Milkacka River on the right. “I am unbelievably sorry, Sophia my pet. I am humiliated…I cannot even protect you from this rabble.

Sophia squeezed his arm. “You are a good man, and I love you dearly. That is all I need from you.”

“Unbelievably sorry.” Franz Ferdinand slapped the back of driver’s seat. “Can you PLEASE try to not to take the streets so fast. the body of the car is shot to hell.

The driver blanched. “I am so sorry, My Lord Archduke.” he turned onto a lane leading to Franz Joseph street. Maybe if he switched out a tire it would look like he was doing something about the car…He pulled up to the curb in front of a delicatessen.

Princip slouched down into a chair on the patio of some deli belonging to a Schiller. The irony of this fact was lost on the school-aged Bosnian Serb who could not be expected to have an understanding of German literary conventions. He wondered if the pastrami was any good? He could at least get a good meal in before he shot himself in the head—my god that was him sitting in the car. His heart skipped a beat while he lept from his chair, gun drawn, cocked, and pointed at the Archduke and, oh no, his wife not his wife too—

 

the lead slug tore through the Franz Ferdinand’s neck, causing the poor man to gargle horribly with his own blood. His wife screamed out in horror and bravely threw her body onto her best friend. Another slug punched its way into her gut, knocking her nearly senseless with pain. both jerked about like fish on the end of a line as the life drained from them. Gavrilo dropped the gun and ran like the scared boy he was. The bystanders, and there were at least a dozen or more, were stunned into inaction for a moment by the sudden outbreak of death in front of them, but they soon focused their fear and rage on the snotty little serb who had done the deed. A Gendarme materialized from around the corner, having heard the gun reports, and he chased the poor boy down into the gutter, kicking him and beating him with the broad side of his sword.

But the boy felt no pain. He was invincible, even as the crowd rained blows down upon him and the gendarmes dragged him away. He was a hero of the Serbian people at last. He was! bullheaded Gavrilo who got kicked out of school, just killed the only direct blood heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire! He was a hero! He deserved a golden prize! God, how he wished he had a beer to drink or a woman to make love to.

 

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