Alisic’s opening sentence is a grabber. An adolescent tells you he is going to commit murder. It’s virtually impossible not to keep reading. As you do you are pulled into a stakeout, a hijacking, and a kidnapping all happening in real time. Before you know it, the youth is torturing someone to get information. But you aren’t the only one watching. Authorities are tracking what’s going on as well. They eventually intervene and the young man is faced with a life or death decision—both for the man he kidnapped and himself. This gripping and suspenseful beginning promises an exciting story to come. The writing is taught and tinged with retributive anger. It raises questions of where this puzzle piece fits in. It makes you wonder what’s driven this individual to such desperate measures. Most of all, it creates within you a burning desire to know more, which is one of the best things a good first chapter can do.
My name is Meho, I am fifteen years old, and tonight I ’m going to commit murder. But you have to know that the bastards I’m going to kill are not like you and me. They look like humans, they talk like humans, and they live like humans. But they are not like us. They are monsters capable of committing unspeakable horror. And I ’m not different than any of you. I have a great family who love me unconditionally. I hate going to school, and I have an annoying little brother whom I love to death. I ’e been bullied, assaulted, and called names, but that’s not the reason why I ’m doing this tonight. This is all because of a promise to my little sister.
After a lifetime, I saw him right in front of my house. When I opened the door, my heart ripped out of my chest. The Monster had escaped from my nightmare and came to my reality to finish what he had started long a time ago.
He is over six-feet tall, with a buzz cut, a pointed nose, and a sinister tattoo on his neck that I’ll never forget. Frozen like ice, I stared at him for eternity, horror of images flashing through my mind. Fortunately, he didn’t recognize me. But I knew who he was. Every night I see him in my nightmares.
“I have package for mister Miller,” he said with a heavy Slavic accent.
In roaring silence, I scanned his FedEx shirt, took the package, scribbled something on the paper, and shut the door in his face.
From that moment, my whole life changed, and every second was dedicated to hunting the Monster down. I used my hacking skills and found out all I needed about him. And the most horrific thing I discovered was that he is not alone.
During the past seven weeks, I found out he lives in a single-story house around Bell Road and 14th Street. He drives a late model S-Class and works only Mondays and Fridays. His days are spent from coffee shop to coffee shop, and his nights from strip club to strip club. His last stop of the night is the shady bar on 12th Street and Bell, and that’s where I ’m waiting now.
My heart thunders as I watch drunk patrons stride in and out, chatting mumbling, and laughing. The darkly tinted window of the bar blisters with neon signs of Heineken, Budweiser, and Bud Light. Cars roar down the busy Bell Road, and every once in a while tires scream and horns blare. Next to the bar is a pool hall, and the cracking of the pool balls spills into the chilly night.
I am sitting on the curb about ten yards from his black Benz, my palms getting sweaty Tonight, my wire frame is adorned in Guess jeans, gray turtleneck, and my favorite Jordans. The school backpack is on my back, but tonight it wasn’t packed with books.
My heart stutters when I see him stumble out of the bar with a group of people. They laugh, and after saying farewells, he ambles toward his car. Suddenly, everything grows quiet and the only noise I hear is the melody he whistles. The melody from my nightmare. He stops, takes a deep drag of the cigarette, and its glow illuminates his evil eyes. Clutching the small Taser in my hand, I get up as the blinkers flash and the locks pop open on his car.
“Sir can you take me home?” I ask politely.
He glances at me, then opens the door. After taking his leather jacket off, he collapses in the leather seat. I make a few steps forward, as he slams the door and buzzes the window down. He swings his hairy arm out, cigarette glowing in his thick fingers.
“Why would I give your ride?”
I step to the window and glare at him. An inked two-headed eagle ominously snakes up his neck as the stench of alcohol and cigarettes assails my senses. His dark, snake eyes, drill through me and in them I see myself — a skeletal, harmless-looking boy, with a leather backpack on his shoulders, and a frightened expression on his face.
He starts the car and my hand shakes. I n a flash, I press the Taser to his beefy neck, and he starts convulsing in the leather seat. For a brief second, a terrifying shriek roars in the night, which was extinguished by the roar of Benz’s eight cylinders as his cramped foot presses onto the gas pedal. I storm to the passenger side, toss my backpack in the back seat, and hop inside.
“Drive!” I scream.
I see his hand reach to his hip and I quickly press the Taser to his cheek. After he stops dancing, I pull a chrome-plated .45 from the leather holster on his hip and toss it in the back seat.
“Drive!” I scream again, pressing the
Taser to his neck. “I coon’t!” I jump out, open his door, and try to push him to the passenger side. He struggles, and I press the Laser to his groin.
“Okay, okay!” he screams, and like a pine log rolls to the passenger side.
I jump inside and pull three Cimex pills out of my pocket.
His mouth is a gaping hole and I stuff the pills inside, but he turns toward me and spits them out. I give him a quick jolt, pick up the pills and shove them inside his mouth. He tries to spit them again, but I zap him until he gulps.
I yank the car in reverse, back out, and moments later, I am gliding down the busy Bell Road.
“What the hell is going on there?” Special Agent Kirkovsky asked peering through the windshield.
“It seems like the fool is so drunk he can’t even drive,” Agent Corn well responded from the driver ’s seat.
They were inside the blue Impala parked in the back parking lot. The car was littered with empty Red Bull cans and crumpled Wendy’s wrappers. Both of them were in their early forties, tall and athletic, dressed in jeans and polo shirts, and very cramped after sitting for hours observing their target. “Who’s the kid?” Kirkovsky asked. Agent Corn well snapped a few high- resolution photos, hooked the camera to his laptop, and logged onto the FBI ’s Next Generation Identification. A few seconds later the information spilled out.
“Me ho Miller, fifteen years old, lives in Scottsdale, comes from a very affluent family. He was in trouble —”
“They’re leaving, they’re leaving,” Kirkovsky snapped.
Corn well passed the laptop to Kirkovsky , started the car, and slowly rolled out of the parking lot.
I obey all the traffic laws as every cell in my body shakes with fear. My eyes constantly dart between the Monster sitting next to me and the busy traffic ahead of me. One hand is on the steering wheel and another always clutching the Laser in case of an emergency.
“Why’r you doin this?” the Monster lethargically slurs his words, the effect of the triple tranquilizer evident by now.
I keep quiet, and twenty minutes later, I park in front of the empty warehouse on Thunderbird Avenue and shut off the car.
As I open the door, Monster ’s hand glides toward me, way too slow for me not to notice. I quickly get out of the way, and give him a quick zap on his head. He shrieks like a seagull, and seconds later, he struggles out of the car. I pick up my backpack, his gun and cell phone, and lead him inside the warehouse.
The blue Impala rolled inside the murky parking lot across from the deserted warehouse and stopped in the dark corner. From there they had a clear view of the black Benz.
“It looks like he’s so drunk, he can barely walk,” Kirkovsky said. “What the hell is he doing here?” Kirkovsky sipped on his Red Bull, then smacked his lips. “This is definitively out of his daily routine.” “Call the other team.”
Kirkovsky got on the radio and conveyed the location. Ten minutes later, a green Dodge Caravan rolled in and parked on the other side of the parking lot.
Supervisory Agent Adams was alone in his black, bureau-issued Escalade, storms of thoughts ricocheting in his mind. His throat burned from too much cheap coffee, and his stomach ached from too many Big Macs. Tonight was one of those rare nights when all three of them would gather together, and he was personally involved in surveillance. He knew that the connection had been established, and he hoped tonight he’d get closer to the guy he’d been hunting for the past three years.
Since he was assigned to this case, he had neglected his family and friends, but he had always stayed faithful to hunting his nemesis down. He thought about him every moment of the day. He even dreamt about him.
Agent Adams was one of the very few people who understood the sheer power of the weapon he was capable of unleashing. The weapon mankind had never seen. The weapon capable of systematically targeting specifically chosen people. You could hide from snipers and missiles. Even from a nuclear attack. But you could not hide from this weapon.
That’s why only a few highest officials were fully appraised of this case. The Director of FBI was one of them. Adams picked up the phone and speed dialed a secure line.
“Any news?” the Director asked.
“He j just arrived at the dark warehouse with some kid.”
“Who’s the kid?”
“I ’m not sure. As far as I ’m concerned he could be Milosevic’s messenger.”
“You believe Milojević would come here to meet them personally?”
“I don’t know what to believe,” Adams said, observing the hefty man stumble out of the black Benz. A moment later, the skinny kid scurried around, put a backpack over his shoulder, and trailed behind the man who drunkenly trudged toward the warehouse. “But by the recordings I heard, he’s desperate to get his samples. He wants them by any means necessary.”
“Okay, stay in the shadows and keep me posted.”
“Yes sir.” Adams hung up and got on the radio. “Team one, get closer and see if there’s anybody else inside that warehouse.”
The moment I step inside the warehouse, all of my senses are attacked by the pungent stench of mold. The squealing and scratching of rats radiates in the darkness. Pools of yellow light spill through the cracked windows. I find a light switch and the half-lit flickering lights come alive. The cracked wooden pallets lay scattered across the dusty floor. Three chairs and an overturned rusty desk poke out under the pile of empty boxes.
I quickly clear out the boxes, turn over the desk and chairs, then toss my backpack on the ground.
Monster confusingly swivels his head to the left, then to the right, then makes a step forward and crashes on the metal chair. His arms, are hanging by his sides like heavy ropes, his shoulders slouch forward. The big, golden cross on a thick chain around his neck clatters on the rusty table in front of him. Eyes, dark like death, pierce forward.
From the backpack, I pull a pair of stainless-steel handcuffs and a handful of zip ties that had been rubber- banded together, then toss them on the table. I quickly slap one cuff on his left hand, and another around the chair he was sitting. After pulling the rubber band from around the zip ties, I grab his right ankle, slam it against the right metal leg of the chair, then wrap the zip ties around both. I did the same with his left ankle.
“Who are you?”
I toss his iPhone on the table. “Call them.”
“This is som good shit.”
He lifts his right arm and lifelessly slams it on the table. The loud thump resonates as he stares at his arm. With his right index finger, he pokes his cheek.
“I can’ feel shit.”
Maybe I should have given him only y one pill, I thought, picking the Monster ’s phone and dialing the number. “Tell them to come to this address,” I point to the piece of paper in front of him, then press the phone to his ear.
I press the end button, toss the cell on the desk and stride toward my backpack on the ground. From there I grab a big, razor-sharp hunting knife and turn to him. “I’ll ask you politely
one more time. Call them.”
“Tomorrow, when I feel good, I find you, find your family, and then kill you in most horrible manner.”
Poisons of rage explode through my veins and my whole body shakes. Darkness falls over my eyes as I step forward, grab his right ear, pull it out, and in one swift motion cut it off. The blood gushes from the side of his head, painting his brown sweatshirt in red. The wet slap resonates in the flickering silence as I toss the bloody ear on the table in front of him. Monster ’s eyes widen at the sight of it. He then lifts his hand and presses it to the side of his head. Within seconds, his hairy arm is soaked with blood. He pulls his hand in front of his face and looks at it. The shock floods over his face, and a high- pitch shriek emits from his mouth.
I extinguish his scream with another quick zap to his face, and then the only noise in the warehouse is the loud, uneven breathing of the Monster. I gaze at him for a few seconds, then dial a number.
“Tell them you’re drunk and to come and pick you up at this address.” I press the Laser to Monster ’s neck and a cell phone to his good ear. The phone rings three times before a deep, accented voice answers.
Ethnic music mixed with clinging glasses resonates in the background.
“Mamma jebem —”
I yank the phone and squeak into it. “Hey, Zlatan’s drunk. Can you came and pick him up?”
“Who’s this?” the voice asked suspiciously.
“Son of Zlatan’s friend. They’re drunk, and Zlatan needs a ride home.”
“Let me talk to him,” the voice roars.
I flash the Laser in front of Monster ’s face, then press the cell to his ear.
“Bratko, pills, struja, wisky... I see my bloody ear on table in front —”
I pull the phone and press it to my ear. “He’s drunk, as you can —”
“Drunk fool! Give me that address again.”
I rattle the address and hang up. With a quick stride, I reach the cracked window overlooking the parking lot and peek outside. The Benz blends with the dark night, and everything seems peaceful. The full moon shines in the dark sky, and a few stars flicker on it. A car buzzes by on Thunderbird, its noise growing more distant. I trot back to my backpack, pull out a nine- millimeter Glock and stuff it in my jeans. Then I take out a highly- flammable hairspray and clatter it on the table.
“Now,” I say, “tell me everything.”
I could not believe how calm I am. I n the beginning of the night, I was trembling like a spring leaf. But with every Monster ’s scream, and with every drop of his blood, my fear seems to subside, and my rage dies down. This is much easier than I thought.
Monster glares at me with a murderous expression, his eyes blazing with hate. The fountain of blood from his ear has stopped, and now it only trickles out. “Whach you wan?”
“Tell me about Bosnia.”
“Can you see anything from out there?” Kirkovsky ’s voice cracked over the earpiece.
After hearing the screams, Corn well stepped out to get a better look inside. He was crouching behind the Benz, and trying to peek through the window.
“You’re not going to believe this shit!” Corn well snapped.
“What’s going on?”
“The kid’s circling around him and spraying his hair with the hairspray. I t seems like he’s getting a haircut.”
“I told you something is shady with this guy.”
I clatter the empty hairspray on the desk and gaze at the Monster. His hair glistens under the flickering lights and a few drops of hairspray trickle down his face. Blood from his ear stopped trickling, and some of it has already started congealing. His right hand lies lifelessly in a pool of blood, and there is nothing but emptiness behind his dark eyes. Intoxicating chemical stench
lingers in the air.
“Would you like a cigarette?” I ask politely.
After a few moments, he nods. I stuff the cigarette in his mouth, and light up the Zippo.
“Holy fuck!” Corn well whispered over the earpiece. “You gotta see this!”
“What?” Kirkovsky snapped. “What do you see?”
“The kid is sitting behind the table and I think he’s talking to our guy. And our guy... our guy is calmly smoking a cigarette, and I think his head’s on fire —”
“Hold on, hold on,” Kirkovsky snapped over the radio. After a few moment he came back again and spoke in urgent voice. “Get back to the car! We have —” “But I think our guy’s on fire and —” “This is an emergency. Right now.” Corn well recognized the urgency in his partner ’s voice and sneaked back to the car. He passed by the green Caravan with two anxious faces peering behind the windshield.
“It seems like other boys are headed this way,” Kirkovsky said the moment Corn well crashed inside the car. “Adams just called me. They’re only a few miles away.”
“Hey man, I think this guy’s head was on fire,” Corn well said trying to catch his breath.
“I think I’ve seen him smoke a cigarette, while his head was burning.”
Kirkovsky gazed at him, then shook his head. “And I think you had too many Red Bulls.”
The moment he found out who I was, the fear flooded his empty eyes. Now he motionlessly gazes at me, half- smoked cigarette dangling in his mouth. The pungent stench of hair and skin crackle with the embers of blue flame. I guess the powerful mix of Cimex, alcohol, and zapping has numbed all of his senses. He swivels his burning head to the right, to the left, then starts sniffing the air. His eyes roll up, almost touching his fiery eyebrows, and then almost pop out of their sockets. His mouth produces a weak wail, and then he starts shaking his head left and right, trying to extinguish the blazing flames. The wailing is replaced by soft moans, and for a few minutes I watch him in silence.
Headlights flash through the window, and I race toward it. A late model Cherokee parks next to Benz, and two ominous shadows march out. I rush back to my backpack, yank out a big, black canister and a full-face respirator, pocket the Laser, then sprint toward the door and hide behind the stack of pallets. One last time I glance at him. His face now looks like erupting volcanoes, red like raw meat, his head lifelessly leaning on the side. The stench emitting from him is as if all the people he had murdered had clawed their way out of his skin. Now he really looks like a monster.
“I ’m telling you what I saw!” Corn well snapped. “He was sitting and smoking a cigarette, talking to the kid, and I think his head was on fire.”
“And I think you should have stayed home last night.”
Headlights flickered as the silver Jeep Cherokee pulled into the parking lot. All the conversation ceased, and they receded into their seats.
The door squeaks open and I observe two large men carefully sneak inside the gloomy warehouse. The moment they step inside, they cover their mouths and noses with the inside of their leather jackets.
“Jesus Christ!” one of them says. “What is this smell?”
Steps click in the flickering darkness as the stench of burnt skin hangs heavy in the moldy air. A rat squeals from the pile of boxes. My heart pulses in my ears, and with shaky hands, I strap the full-face respirator over my head.
The moment the men saw the Monster lifelessly slouched over the table, they shift into alert mode, yank their guns, and with the steps of professional killers shuffle forward. They reach the table, and the first man — I recognize him right away as Monster ’s brother — shakes the shoulder of lifeless Monster.
The voice. I’ll never forget that voice. Another man crosses himself from right to left, in a traditional Serb- Orthodox manner.
“Let’s get outta here,” the second man said, his frightened eyes scanning across the warehouse.
The other man gazes left and right, takes a deep breath and leans in to unclip the chain across his brother ’s neck. After pocketing the chain, he looks one last time at the Monster ’s unrecognizable face.
“Drago, whoever did this to you, I promise I’ll make them pay.”
They turn around, and with the guns in front of them trudge toward the door. Their heads swivel left and right, wide eyes scanning across the murky place. I wait for them to come closer, and once they are about twenty feet away, I spray a powerful blast of pepper spray in their direction. Violent coughs mix with the hissing of the spray canister. They jerk around, then the silence is shattered when they blindly start shooting. A bullet explodes a few inches away from my head, and I duck down behind the pallets. Bullets echo for a few seconds, and then the only noise is the empty metallic clicking of their guns. Both men spin around frantically, coughing and flinching at even slightest move.
I emerge from my hiding place and step into the faint orange cloud of pepper-spray which engulfed the two men. I glare into the squinting eyes of the first man, pull out my Glock, and with the three rapid shots shatter his right knee cap.
“What the hell was that?” Kirkovsky snapped, turning off the radio.
“That seemed awfully similar to gun shots.”
They waited in the silence straining their ears, until Agent Adams’ voice crackled over the radio. “You guys heard that?”
“They could be gun shots,” Kirkovsky responded. “Sir we gotta go inside —”
“Kirkovsky ,” Adams said. “As you know, this is strictly surveillance mission —”
Three rapid pops echoed from the warehouse, and he stopped in mid- sentence.
“Sir, we can get close and check what’s happening inside,” Kirkovsky said.
“Okay, you and Corn well check it out. Make sure you’re out of sight.”
A moment later, two shadows exited the car, gently shut the doors, and quietly blended with the dark night.
“Sit down next to him!” I say to the other man, my voice muffled under the face mask.
He glares at me, his face flooded with horror. A moment later, he quietly sits down.
“Whatcha you wan?” other Monster says squinting his eyes and whirling in pain.
He is on the concrete floor, his arm propping his body, dark blood bubbling from his shattered knee. This Monster looks older than the first one, but the similarity is unmistakable. His bald head glistens under the blinking lights and his dark eyes blaze with hate. A red scar shines on his left cheek. Gold flickers on his fingers.
The other man is in his forties, clean- shaven, with a long, greasy pony-tail, dressed in a black button up, and Levi’s. My eyes stop on his forearm, and seeing an inked two-headed eagle, the snapshots of images storm through my mind. I glare at his face, and even though it was a lifetime ago, those faces are embedded in the mug shot gallery of my mind until the day I die. But with this monster there is nothing personal.
“Boy you got wrong people,” Greasy Pony-tail says and stands up.
“No, I got the right guys,” I say, point the gun to his head and pull the trigger.
Pink mist fills the air, as the back of his head explodes. His body catapults a few yards back, and like a discarded rag-doll, he crashes among the pile of empty boxes.
“Stop, please stop,” the Monster
screams. “I give you anything you wanna. Tell me whatcha ya wanna. Money? Anything?”
“I just want to talk.”
“Just tell me whatcha ya wanna —”
I take the Laser from my pocket, step forward, and zap him on his cheek. As he whirls in pain, I empty his pockets. The necklace he took from other Monster a few minutes ago clatters on the concrete floor, and I grab it and stuff it in my pocket. I take his wallet and inspect his I D.
“Listen son, I give you anything. Just tell me. I have money, I give you everything.”
I point the Glock to his leg, and his other knee cap explodes in a spray of blood and bone.
“AAAHHHHH!” Monster ’s scream reverberates around the warehouse. “Please stop! Please!”
I snap my mask off and toss it on the ground. “As I said, I just want to talk,” I said in perfect Bosnian.
Agony on his face is replaced with fear, and he responds in his native language. “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you everything.”
I kneel next to him and gaze into his squinting eyes. “Talk.”
“Adams,” Kirkovsky whispered into his earpiece. “I think I heard some screams from the warehouse.” He was on one end of the building, while Corn well was on the other side, but neither of them had any success figuring out what was happening inside. He could only see a small room with many broken pallets in it and nothing else.
“I’ll need to approach the building from the front and try to peek through that window facing the front street.”
“Go ahead,” Adams’ voice crackled in his ear. “But be careful.”
Kirkovsky crept around the building, and a few moments later, he could see the flickering light spilling from the side of the building. He crouched, then inched closer to the window, and for a brief moment listened for any noise. After not hearing anything, he slowly straightened up and peered through the cracked, dust-covered window.
“You see anything?” Adams’ anxious voice rung in his ear.
“One of the guys is slouched behind the table. And... Shit! The other one’s splattered on the floor. And the kid has a gun! The kid has a gun!” he said with a terrified whisper. “We gotta go inside. The kid’s gonna kill him!”
“Everybody move in!” Adams screamed over the radio.
Moments later, a stampede of FBI agents rushed toward the dark warehouse.
I tower above the Monster, Glock in my hand. In his evil eyes I see defeat. A moment ago, he accepted his destiny and stopped talking. Now he remembers who I am.
Suddenly, the door bursts open and a swarm of armed shadows storms inside.
"Drop your gun!" several of them scream simultaneously.
"Please help me," Monster pleads weakly. "Please save me."
Armed shadows advance toward me, their guns ready to shoot. There are screams, blood, and chaos all around me, but I feel so peaceful. Finally, I will fulfill the promise. My heart beats steadily as I glance around and absorb my surroundings. I count six guns pointed at me, and I know very well what's going to happen after I pull the trigger. Staring into Monster's eyes, I silently say "la ilaha illa Allah," squeeze the trigger, and for a brief moment, I watch his head explode into tiny particles of blood and brain, before darkness swallows me whole.