Broken Pieces

Incitement by David Graham @davidangraham #AmReading #GoodReads #Thriller

Larsen watched the three bodyguards get out of the car and scan the immediate vicinity. Once Bajo, the enormous bodyguard, was satisfied he leant back into the rear of the car to give the all-clear to Dobroshi. The four men entered the lobby of the apartment building and left the driver to start circling the district until the appointed time. Larsen was satisfied after two weeks of surveillance that the information had been solid.

The traffickers lived like kings, enjoying the very best Prague had to offer. The judiciary were in their pocket. They flaunted their extravagant lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that no one could threaten them. It hadn’t been difficult to find a disillusioned narcotics officer who had finally had enough. A generous supplement to a modest salary was all it had taken. Detailed reports of the main traffickers’ movements were produced and, based on them, Larsen had chosen Nisret Dobroshi as the target.

Dobroshi kept a beautiful young Czech girl in the upmarket apartment building and got away to visit her as often as work and domestic arrangements permitted. The two subordinate bodyguards always waited in the lobby while Bajo ascended the stairs with his charge. Larsen knew from previous reconnaissance that Bajo waited in the hallway outside the apartment. He took a deep breath and exhaled, finding a calm center. In many ways this was the pivotal operation, more risky than anything that had gone before, but if he succeeded it would tip the scales. He focused, moving himself to a place where he would be able to do what was required.

“We will train you, harder than you ever believed possible, and teach you all there is to know about weaponry and tactics,” the drill sergeant told them.

The sixteen new recruits stood on the tarmac at Flyvestation Aalborg as the driving rain beat down on them and the incessant wind howled. Although the sergeant spoke loudly, they had to strain to hear him as the gusts whipped his words away. “Many of you have had extensive training already. We will add our experience to help mould you,” he continued. “But all of this will count for nothing, if you lack one thing.”

The recruits stood rock-steady, eyes firmly locked straight ahead.

“Can you tell me what this thing is?” he asked one of them.

An uncomfortable pause then the nervous attempt at an answer. “Courage?”

The sergeant snorted dismissively and turned on his heel, pacing away from them. Coming around to face them he delivered the answer. “Willingness.” The sergeant let it sink in before continuing. “Most individuals will split every challenge they are faced with into three categories. Things they’re happy to do, things they do not want to do but are willing to suffer, and finally those things they would never consider,” he explained. “Like a traffic light, green, yellow and red. If a person is willing to attempt something, really attempt it, with every fiber concentrated on success, this is green. But if he perceives it to be too dangerous, too far beyond his capabilities, or if he merely makes a half-assed attempt to save face, he is in the red zone.” He scanned the line, examining individual recruits.

“Many people will say with total conviction they could not kill another human being. Put these same people in a position where someone is threatening their child and watch what happens. What’s changed? Their willingness to act! Circumstances have conspired to push their green zone far beyond its perceived limits.”

A smile broke across his craggy features.

“We will repeatedly put you in situations where you will become accustomed to diminishing that red zone. We will challenge you, again and again. Most of you will not last. Those that do will understand all about willingness.” He nodded, almost to himself. 

“Those that do will be J√¶gere.

This was green.

Using the key he had obtained, Larsen entered the basement’s laundry room via an exterior door. The internal door to the laundry led to the rear stairway, which converged with the main staircase between the lobby and the first floor. To protect Dobroshi properly, one of the bodyguards should have been positioned on this landing while the other watched the elevator. But months of the same routine, in a city that held no surprises, had bred complacency.

Once he got to the second level, he pressed for the elevator to climb the last couple of floors. The elevator door was an old, trellised affair that ran up the center of the staircase, allowing people on the stairs to see in. He assumed a stooped posture and coughed hoarsely. Combined with the threadbare clothing, white wig, and pale make-up, he looked like one of the many callers to the retired jeweler living across from Dobroshi’s mistress: elderly, decrepit, and unthreatening. Bajo stared intently at the elevator’s occupant through the grille while it ascended. Unlike his subordinates downstairs, he was a veteran with years of hard-earned experience and could not be easily circumvented. Everything depended on overcoming him without alerting Dobroshi. The intelligence Larsen had been given did not specify Bajo’s proficiency with arms, although Larsen assumed he was a rated marksman. 

What Larsen was aware of, though, was the man’s ability in unarmed combat, enhanced by his prodigious size and strength. He was perfectly suited to the role of close-quarter protection. Bajo’s gaze never left the old man as he stepped from the elevator, wrestled to close the door and, still struggling to regain his breath from the effort, shuffled down the hall.

Larsen focused totally on his labored progress, and it took him ten seconds just to cover the short distance to the bodyguard. Once Larsen passed him, he sensed the big man relax ever so slightly, letting some of the tension ease from his frame. The surprise was total when the bent-over figure twisted back fluidly and drove the knife up toward his throat. Years of combat drills enabled Bajo to react quickly enough to prevent a fatal strike, and he managed to deflect the knife’s arc with his extended forearm. The blade lodged painfully in his shoulder inches from his neck. Normally, in this kind of confrontation, he would have drawn the assailant close, where he could use his natural advantages to quickly end matters. But now the risk of the attacker worsening the injury was too great. He struck out at his assailant’s chest with the heel of his left hand in an attempt to drive him back and create some distance between them. Larsen managed to turn his torso enough to prevent the blow from landing with full impact and was only knocked back a half step. Even so, the effect of the partial blow was enough to convince him that he could not survive a protracted struggle in such a confined area. Bringing his left knee up to waist height, he struck out and down with his foot, driving it in viciously just above the bodyguard’s right knee. Bajo’s leg collapsed and he crumpled forwards toward the floor. As the bodyguard fell, Larsen grasped the handle of his knife with both hands, and with all the strength he could muster drove the blade through the heavy muscle across the throat. The blade sliced through the larynx, severing his opponent’s air supply abruptly.

incitement

A brutal conflict unleashed.

Who stands to win?

A bloody massacre at a Mexican heroin refinery; a Miami-bound freight ship hijacked for its cargo of illegal narcotics; the ruthless assassination of a Kosovar drug lord - a war has erupted between two drugs superpowers.

As DEA Agent Diane Mesi investigates she becomes convinced that the conflict is being orchestrated by an unknown third party. But she is marginalised by her colleagues and her judgement is challenged at every turn. Only if she can expose the truth will she be able to stop the violence and save her career.

Michael Larsen is an ex-soldier and hired mercenary who has been contracted to fuel the conflict at every opportunity until it destroys both sides. As he battles his own demons, he hopes that by directing the violence he will attain some measure of redemption.
But neither Mesi nor Larsen know the full extent of the forces at play or of what is truly at stake. As they each pursue their own resolution, the violence escalates and they become increasingly vulnerable to the dangers that stalk them.

Incitement won the John Murray Show / RTE Guide / Kazoo Competition from over 500 entries.

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Genre – Thriller
Rating – R
More details about the author
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