The Immigrant Gunman

16 Sep

Bora Drung, though his father was an officer who fell in war defending his new homeland of Bakar, still thought of himself as an immigrant like his parent.

The latter had come over the border to enroll in and attend Officers’ Academy. The ultimate objective was winning the independence and autonomy of the conquered country of Maden from its foreign oppressor.

War had come between Bakar and Subrar, and the latter’s army had defeated that of the former. One of the casualties among the officer corps had been Djex Drung, the nationalized immigrant from smaller Maden. Bora, only a small child at the time, had only a few memories of Colonel Drung, an honored hero of that losing war against Subrar.

His mother had to raise her one child, Bora, in profound poverty, but his academic grades allowed the bright, ambitious boy to qualify for a classical education, then the University in Bakar City.

An extremely popular student majoring in legal subjects, Bora became fast friends with another youth with the ambition of becoming a lawyer, Gavro Vakn, a refugee from Maden. The two discovered that they shared a single, common dream: the liberation of Maden from the harsh rule of Subrar.

One morning, Gavro found Bora at the entrance to the University library and gave him some personal news.

“Guess what? I will be leaving the law program immediately, because I just received an outstanding, amazing appointment. Can you imagine what it is?

“I will be serving the cause of Maden liberation as personal secretary to the Chief Leader, Teld Atlx. My tasks will include managing his correspondence and communications, as well as keeping watch over the movement’s archives. And beyond that, I will be busy as driver of the Chief Leader’s auto sedan, because he does not have the ability to do it himself.

“That makes me part of his official bodyguard, in a way. It is a heavy set of responsibilities I will have on my shoulders. There will be no time for any studies here at the University. Most of my time will be spent out in the field with our Chief Leader

“What do you think, Bora?”

“It is a wonderful opportunity for you to dedicate yourself to Maden’s freedom, my friend. I greatly envy you.”

“I will still be seeing you, when I come back to the city and have some free time on my hands. We must keep in touch. You may be able to help me in my work, because I anticipate being given all sorts of different tasks.”

Bora gave a radiant grin. “There is nothing in the world I would not do for the cause of Maden, Gavro,” he said from his heart.

Whenever the Chief Leader toured the insurgent secret camps along the border with Subrar, it was Gavro who accompanied him and took care of paper work and communications. The driver-secretary learned all the plans and details of the armed liberation movement. He was at the center of all its many projects and affairs. Raids across the border to attack Subrarian forces and installations were at the center of the responsibilities of Teld Atlx.

Gavro attended all the meetings of the Central Committee of the liberation organization, taking and preserving shorthand notes that he wrote down.

But at the same time as one friend became an important actor in a wide political conspiracy with armed bands that crossed over borders, Bora Drung graduated from law school at Bakar University and became a lawyer. But the latter found paying clients to be few and infrequent. He had a difficult time paying the rent on both his office and his tiny, cheap apartment near the center of Bakar City.

Bora often visited the more successful Gavro, who enjoyed a salary from the liberation movement. The latter’s flat was larger, better equipped, and more comfortable.

One evening, Gavro offered his comrade a tempting offer.

“The Chief Leader means to set up a Discipline Committee which will exercise certain quasi-judicial authority over our activists and fighters. A lawyer such as you would be a very valuable member of the group, able to lead it through accusations and charges against delinquent members of the movement. Would you be willing to act as a paid judge, a disciplinarian with power to decide cases brought to it? There would be pay connected to the post, of course.

“What do you say, Bora? It would seem to be an easy duty to fulfill for a certified attorney such as you. I spoke about you with the Chief Leader, and he said that he hoped that you would volunteer for the job.”

Still smiling, Gavro stared fixedly at his close friend.

“Yes, I will do it,” answered Bora. “It sounds interesting to me.”

The Chief Leader planned an early spring tour of all movement camps and stations along the border, where constant crossings of attack squads over into Sabrar-occupied Maden were starting as the weather warmed.

Gavro was at the steering wheel of the command car transporting Teld Atlx to field and mountain sites on rough, unpaved roads and trails.

As they turned sharply on a ridge overlooking a steep, deep gorge, a rifle shot rang out, shaking the entire sedan.

Realizing that the vehicle’s body had been hit, the driver worked both his hand and foot brakes at the same time. The car screeched to a halt as a second shot was audible, striking the interior of the passenger compartment.

Gavro turned his head so he could look at the back seat where the head of the Central Committee sat. What he saw shook and petrified the young man.

The Chief Leader lay prone, fallen down off of the rear seat. The second shot had struck and felled him.

Gavro, realizing he was risking his life, opened the driver’s door and jumped out. He had to examine the precious passenger for any wounds or injuries.

Opening the back door, he stepped in and leaned over the fallen body of Teld Atlx. Blood was spreading over the Chief Leader, staining the entire area under and around the targeted one.

It took only seconds to determine that life was rapidly departing for the intended victim. The face was a mask of dying agony. No words were possible for silenced movement head. He had just undergone brutal assassination by some enemy of his.

Gavro drove to the nearest mountain village. Using a telephone in the local police station, he called the three members of the Central Committee still alive and informed them of the deadly deed. His message to all of the trio was identical: with his last words, the Chief Leader had ordered him to assume the powers of his own office of committee head and call an immediate meeting of the survivors at movement headquarters in the immigrant quarter of Bakar City.

“I am appointed to take direct part in all decisions by command of our beloved Chief Leader,” lied the young car-driver and secretary to all three members of the top governing body.

Gavro, tears in his eyes, then drove back to the capital, determined to take revenge for what had happened on the mountain road. He suddenly realized that destiny had chosen him to become the next Chief Leader, even at the cost of becoming a liar about imagined last words from the mouth of Teld Atlx, never spoken and never heard by anyone.

The Central Committee was summoned to meet at a secret site in the rear of a coffee shop owned by a movement activist in the immigrant sector of the city.

Gavro Vakn, acting as secretary to the fallen Chief Leader, set up the session and took over the task of presiding.

“Our beloved Teld no longer lives,” began the only one who had been with him at the end. “He instructed me to call together the remaining Central Committee and see to its continuation as a functioning body. His final words assigned me the new post of General Secretary that was to include participation as a working member of this governing organ of the liberation movement.”

Gavro looked at the three others in silence. No one raised any sort of objection to what the young assistant was carrying out, a full take-over of the power and influence of the late Teld Ailx.

It became evident at once who was taking over the real, active role of the Chief Leader. Only one individual claimed to be his direct heir.

_

Gavro saw Bora as a vital cog in the system of personal power forming around himself. The pair met constantly in the days immediately following the assassination.

“The police have no evidence about who the specific shooter may have been,” said the new Secretary of the movement. “We shall have to proceed with our own investigation and then reach an informed judgment. You shall be the person leading that formal inquiry within our own organization, Bora. I and all our followers and fighters will be depending on your ability to probe for the truth and punish the culprits responsible for the crime, whoever they turn out to be.”

Bora gave his friend a look of frustration and desperation.

“This is not at all going to be easy to accomplish,” he said with a moan. “I don’t even know where or how to start. What do you think I should do first?”

Gavro frowned. “I believe that our movement needs a special, elite squad of enforcers to execute any judgment that you make about guilt. They should be completely trustworthy and possess sufficient experience and proficiency with small arms like revolvers. Would you like me to suggest and nominate some of the effective field fighters I have inspected along with the Chief Leader?”

“Thank you,” responded Bora. “That would be of great assistance.”

“I shall write out a list for you at once. They are certain to agree to serve under you as a punishment squad.”

Gavro quickly filled the vacuum left by the absence of the murdered Chief Leader. His own personal followers started to speak of him as the direct successor of the deceased hero he had been assistant to.

Bora found himself called upon to find and execute the enemies who had killed Teld Atlx. Gavro visited his apartment every evening, following the progress and the difficulties faced by the small investigative committee headed by his old comrade.

“We must find and punish the culprits before they are able to strike at our leadership again,” insisted the new member of the movement’s Central Committee. “It is not a secret that I myself could easily become the next target number one of these hidden traitors to the cause.”

“You are certain, then, that the assassins are an internal and not an external factor. That they are within our very own ranks,” suggested Bora.

“I have no doubts that the guilty parties must be individuals that we see with us every day, that we know them and they know us. The aim of the assassination was to take over our organization with a leadership hostile to the methods and strategy of Teld Atlx.

“Because I myself am totally dedicated to continuing the policies of our departed Chief Leader, I will be in enormous danger until we can identify and execute the criminals.

“Everything now depends upon what you can do, Bora.”

Gavro looked at his friend with desperation on his face.

Power within the Maden liberation movement grew more centralized than before in the past, even when Teld Atlx was in charge of the organization and its Central Committee.

The publications of the immigrants in Bakar City called for a probe and purge of the entire structure of the movement. It had to be some internal rival, some concealed foe, who had directed and carried out the vile assassination. These traitors had to be unmasked as soon as possible, or the sacred cause of freedom for Maden would go down in ruin and defeat.

Within a month, Gavro made a definite, specific accusation.

“The origins of the tragedy lie right within the Central Committee itself,” whispered the new Chief Leader. “I accuse Atl Ptorog of being the one who inspired and organized the killing.”

“General Prorog?” reacted Bora with astonishment. “He would dare set up the horrible crime?”

“He convinced the other two members to turn and strike against the Chief Leader, in order to remove him from any authority or influence. The ultimate goal has been to reach an accommodation with the Subrarian occupiers of Maden. That is what Teld Atlx prevented, as long as he was alive and in charge of the entire movement.

“Isn’t that the most logical explanation of motive for the murder?”

“What am I and my committee to do, though?” asked the stunned Bora.

Gavro gave an enigmatic grin. “You shall have to apply the most drastic remedy imaginable, my friend.”

The first execution carried out was that of General Atl Prorog of the Bakarian First Army. Since he was also the most senior member of the Central Committee of the Madan liberation organization, his demise was a ground-shattering event upon the political scene of several countries.

A platoon of four gunmen under the command of Bora Drung succeeded in cornering their target as he left his apartment in central Bakar City for an early evening walk about a small district park. A continuous rain of bullets made certain that the attack was successful in ending the General’s existence.

The gang of killers disappeared in the sidewalk crowd panicked by the hale of shocking gunfire.

Bora and his chosen associates made a complete escape, with no witnesses able to identify any of the assailants at all.

“You did it very well,” Gavro said in congratulation to the head of the investigation and punishment committee.

Bora thanked the friend who had made himself the new Chief Leader.

“But our campaign of purification is not finished,” continued Gavro. “There are the other Central Committee traitors who connived in the murder of Teld Atlx. We must eliminate all of the gang before they can take any action to reverse the situation that faces them.”

Bora seemed stunned. “There will be more sentences for me to carry out?” he asked the one now in charge.

The Chief Leader answered by nodding his head. “All of the others must go,” he muttered darkly.

The newspapers of Bakar City for days on end carried headline stories about the decimation of the liberation movement’s Central Committee.

General Prorog was the first one to be gunned down. But then followed the same sentence of death for Naut Krust and Goga Bader.

The appointment of new members of the highest body in the organization happened at once, including the promotion of Bora Drung for his ghastly services, supposedly to the cause.

“I have chosen you to assist me on the Central Committee,” the new Chief Leader informed his gunsel. “We shall forever be thankful to you for cleaning out our ranks, old pal.”

The pair smiled and beamed at each other. Bora wondered whether he would ever again receive commands like those he had recently fulfilled.

The purge performed by the investigation and punishment committee continued for about six months. Overnight, the Chief Leader put an end to its operations and existence.

“We have rid our ranks of every known troublemaker,” he told his enforcer-executioner one evening at a coffee shop adjacent to his own large apartment.

“I am amazed at how successful my committee has been at its mission,” admitted the head gunman. “It was not difficult at all. My men and I became accustomed and skilled at what we were doing. We did our jobs quickly and efficiently, with a minimum of pain or suffering, I believe.”

Gavro grimaced. “It had to be done. Maden and its people will be forever beholden to you, my friend.”

Bora married and began a family within the next several years.

But the movement to which he had dedicated his all fell and was destroyed.

A military coup seized power in Bakar. The liberation movement was banned and suppressed. Both Gavro and Bora, among hundreds of others, were arrested and interned.

What were the generals and colonels going to do with the Chief Leader they held in custody?

Both of them were exiled, forbidden to return to Bakar.

Gavro fled to the south, where Bora soon joined him in the large port city of Kutun.

The expelled Chief Leader leased a luxurious manor overlooking the busy bay of the place of exile.

Bora, living down by the wharf, saw his old comrade infrequently. He received an invitation from Gavro to make a visit on the anniversary of the Bakarian coup that resulted in the collapse of the liberation movement.

The two sat on a small balcony high above the harbor below.

As the sun set, the former leader began to reminisce.

“I often wonder about what I might have done to avert the final collapse of the enterprise to free our Maden. Did I make some important errors that I failed to see and recognize at the moment? Such questions linger in my mind. Did I let affairs go too far? I ask myself whether I should have erased my competitors like General Prorog and the other members of the Central Committee.

“Perhaps I should have attempted to work with them and find compromises, if possible. There may have been alternatives to what I did to them.”

“But weren’t they guilty of disloyalty, of treason?” softly said Bora. “Wasn’t it a series of just judgments that I carried out?”

Gavro made a grin of cynical irony.

“Didn’t you realize, Bora, that it was all a charade? That none of the accusations or sentences that we made were true or proven?”

The two stared at each other a considerable time.

Then, Bora excused himself and left his Chief Leader of the past.

The following evening, a single question dominated the news, on radio, television, and the daily press.

Why did the political exile from Bakar, the immigrant from Maden named Bora Drung, commit suicide with a small personal gat?

Did this man who was a gunman sense terrible guilt over his actions back in Bakar? Did he regret his participation in the well-known campaign of internal slaughter within the organization he belonged to and served?

Gavro Vakn came to realize that his candor in speaking to the assassinator may have sparked the final act of self-destruction that his old friend carried out.

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