The Man Who Played Ross – Chapter 23

The SANU building, completed in 1924
The original uploader was Λατίνος at Greek Wikipedia., Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

While Jarvis was undergoing his rehabilitation to strengthen his legs and rebuild muscle, Edge undertook his last mission for the UK Special Forces.  Jarvis had so much wanted to thank his comrade who had truly lived the maxim: Nobody left behind.  By the time he was discharged from rehab and his career was coming to an end, Edge had gone, Henry Morrison had already retired two years previously.  Cooper was also approaching his discharge date.

But Edge had heard of an operation that was being planned in the Balkan States and he nagged, cajoled and generally made a nuisance of himself to be involved in it.  He knew that it was his last mission for the SAS and this time it was personal.  He prevailed and on a cold morning in November 2011, he caught an Austrian Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Belgrade.  There was another three on the same aircraft, all known to each other, but none of them acknowledging the others’ presence.  They were staying at different hotels and would only meet in the embassy the following evening and prior to executing their mission.  Their equipment and weapons were waiting for them in the British Embassy in Belgrade Resavska 46, along with the SIS Staffer who was their contact in Croatia.  There was also a team from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, which had been in the country for over a week, plying their shadowy, undercover game.

Upon landing, Edge went off mission and booked a hire car at the airport.  He would meet the others in the embassy the next evening, but first, he had an even more personal matter to attend to. He picked up the hire car and drove west across the border into Croatia.  In Zagreb he found a cheap hotel, booked in and drank the best part of two bottles of wine in the hotel bar.

The following morning, the shower did little to curb his thumping head.  Edge drove north and crossed the Sava River and past the University Hospital of Infectious Diseases.  The municipal cemetery was set in the deeply wooded hills and he parked the hire car and headed towards the cemetery’s information kiosk.  The west wall of the cemetery was vast and turreted, like city walls, with an imposing, domed basilica church.

The man in the information kiosk spoke very little English but Edge persevered, showing him the name on a piece of paper.  He went and consulted the Records for that year and gave Edge a map of the cemetery with the grave site marked with a highlighter pen.  He purchased a lovely bunch of flowers from a woman selling flowers from a shop within the cemetery walls and feeling rather self-conscious, he consulted the map.

He eventually found the grave and started to well up. It looked untended apart from the regular grass cutting by the ground keepers, nobody had visited it for months, possibly years.  The grave stone was unusually white in the style of the British War Graves, most of the others being crosses of dark stone.  The engraved words said: U ljubavnom sjećanju na Jozica Marić.  Ljubav koju sam pronašao i izgubio   (In loving memory of Jozica Marić.  The love I found and lost).  Edge had paid for it.  He arranged the flowers in a stone vase, in a typically clumsy man’s way and then stood in silence.  His eyesight was blurred when he finally said:

“Oh Jozica, I’m really so sorry that I killed you through my stupidity.  I hope that you and God will one day forgive me.  I will always love you and I’ll never forget you.  Until we finally meet, God grant you peace.”

Back at his car he finally managed to get himself under control and drove south back into Zagreb, then east along the E70 back towards Serbia.  He was back on mission.


THE British Embassy in Belgrade is a white, two storey building with a red roof, set just off Resavska, behind a low wall and ornate steel fencing.  While the majority of the embassy staff had left as it was nearly 18:00, there were still staffers doing the FCO’s work.  Edge showed his security pass to the Marine guarding the front pedestrian access, and then again to another Marine guarding the entrance of the building.  It was obvious that he was expected and inside the building, a member of staff escorted him to a briefing room.  The door was guarded and Edge’s phone was taken off him and put in a box.

“It’s a high security area and regularly swept for electronic media,” the man on the door told him.  Inside the room was a conference table, a laptop connected to an OHP and a table of tea and coffee, with cups.

Edge nodded to their team leader and noticed that the other three in his team were already there.  There were two other men, the SIS Staffer and a middle-aged man he had never seen before.  It was this man who started the meeting.  The only introduction was from the SIS Staffer who was James Kinkaid.  Captain Hagley was the team leader, Edge was 2IC, Sergeant Galloway and Trooper Redd.  Redd was the most feminine soldier Edge had ever seen.  If you focused on his face, you would be forced to conclude that Trooper Redd resembled “Bob” from the Blackadder TV Sitcom.  And he hated it.  Redd had shorn his hair but still managed to look like Ripley from the third Alien film.

“Good evening everybody,” Kinkaid said, “Seeing as we’re all here, I suggest we kick off the proceedings.  I’ll hand you over to the head of the Watcher team.”

The middle aged man stood up and moved over to the laptop.  He would have been unnoticeable in a crowd as he was so nondescript, but everybody in the room was paying full attention.

“Evening.  This is our man,” he said and a slide of a photograph appeared on screen.  It had been taken from a car about two hundred metres away, but the exposure was perfect.

Edge immediately recognised the subject, older certainly, florid and affluent looking, dressed in the finest pure wool coat.  He had been photographed leaving a hotel and getting into a BMW car.  There were flunkies flanking him, almost certainly bodyguards and Edge spotted one man’s shoulder holster as he leaned forward to open the door.

“This was taken by one of the Watchers outside the Saint Ten Hotel, which is where the subject is staying.”

“Can we take him in the hotel?” Captain Hagley asked.

“Not unless you want a blood bath on your hands. He has one man permanently guarding the floor where his room is located, and his guards have adjoining rooms.  He also has someone stationed down in the foyer, keeping an eye on who comes in and out of the hotel.”

“It will be too dangerous to take him from his car I suppose,” Hagley asked rhetorically.

“Yes.  His car, a BMW is probably armoured.  The rear glass looks reinforced, but the driver’s side windows appear normal.  We have noticed it sits low on its suspension.”

“OK, what does that leave?  Does he have a regular routine?”

“He dines out almost every night.  We have found out he’s meeting a German businessman tomorrow night and a booking has been made by one of his guards, for two tables.”

“Do we take him outside or inside the restaurant?” Edge asked.

“Outside.  I’ll have operatives inside the restaurant and they can let you know when he starts to move.”

“Who is the businessman he’s meeting?”

“A chap called Klein.  He’s an executive for the DEA Oil Company.  They are finalising a deal for our subject to provide DEA with bio-fuel, from a German lumber company’s intermediary.”

“Do you have photographs of the area surrounding the restaurant?”

The Watcher went through some slides on the Power Point, “View up and down the street and the back of the restaurant.  As you can see it backs onto an open area with no road access.  There’s parking in front, although the subject’s usual MO is to have his car pick him up on the other side of the road, heading northwest and a right to follow the river.  Here’s a picture of the park opposite.  Plenty of cover for a long shot.”

How many operatives will you have inside?” asked Hagley.

“Four.  Two couples to avoid suspicion.”

“And do you have vehicles?”

The watcher produced an aerial photograph from Google Earth, “Yes.  We can block the street here and here.”

Hagley looked at his team, “OK, you’ve got thirty minutes for each of you to produce a scheme of manoeuvre and then we’ll have a character assignation group.”

“How do we extract?” asked Sergeant Galloway.

“By a van that’s in the embassy pound.  You can collect it tomorrow night along with your weapons, then across the border to this airfield at Timisora, a three hour drive.  There’s a Falcon jet waiting there, currently at six hours’ notice to move.  We can move the readiness state up to an hour.  Diplomatic clearances have been submitted to the Romanians.”

“Does the van have a sliding door and if so, which side?” It was an obvious question asked by Redd and the others had missed it.

“Right-hand-side,” Kinkaid affirmed.

“All right fellers, let’s get on with it.”

Within an hour they had all produced broadly similar plans, with Edge’s adding a few additional nuances that caused a chuckle.

“That’s it then.  We’ll go along with Mr Edge’s masterplan and meet back here tomorrow at 14:00.  Go and get an early night and if you think of anything, give me a call.

As they filed out, Redd said to Edge, “You really are a fucking bastard, Edge!”

“Now that is very unladylike language, Gloria.  See you tomorrow at ten for some retail therapy.”


The following morning Edge met Trooper Redd outside the OVS Department Store.

“This is the best place for clothes in Budapest.  Now forget about nice twin sets, go for the younger look and the sluttier the better.  A nice, short skirt.  I’ll get the accessories.  Hat size?”


And what size chest are you?”


“Underwired or push up?”

“Oh do fuck off, Edge.”

“All right, leave the accessories to me.  Go and choose some clothes, but remember the slut look is very much in this year.”

Two shop assistants watched Edge and a very furtive Redd browsing through the ladies department, while Edge picked up a handbag, some knee length boots, size 42, the largest and a handbag.  Redd reluctantly chose a skirt and sleeveless blouse.  He handed them to Edge and scurried away.  Edge took the items up to the counter and gave the two female shop assistants a pleasant smile.  It was terrifying.

“Good morning ladies.  Does either of you speak English?” One of the women nodded, “Do you have a selection of wigs for my friend.”

They stared at him incredulously.

“I know what you’re thinking, but my friend is a magician’s assistant and it requires a man with dexterity and strength to escape from the contraptions the magician uses.  That’s a trade secret by the way.  Unfortunately the airline lost his baggage and we will need it for tonight’s show.”

The shop assistant smiled glacially, “The wigs are next to the ladies hats.”

“Thank you.  Can I interest you in tickets for tonight’s show?”

“Err, no thank you, Mr..?”

“Pringle,” That was the name on the Government credit card, “Could you please bag these while we finish shopping?”

“Certainly, Mr Pringle.”

The two women watched them go over to the wigs.

“Now I think that long bob with a hint of blue is just you.”

“You’re fucking enjoying this aren’t you?”

“There’s a fitting room.  Just open the curtain when you’ve finished.”

Redd disappeared into the changing room and after a minute or so, pulled back the curtain.

“Perfect,” Said Edge, “You look just like Lieutenant Ellis in UFO.”

He took the wig back to the counter, “This one is very nice.  Do you have some tape to hold it in place?  He has to get into all kinds of positions, and we don’t want it falling off at a crucial moment.”

With her face almost turned inside out, the shop assistant put the wig and tape in the bag with the clothes, underwear and boots.  Edge took the bags and handed them to Redd.

“Thank you ladies, you’ve been most helpful.”

They watched the two men leave, concluding that the wiry one did look incredibly feminine.

“What did he say?” asked the other shop assistant to her colleague.

“Some cock and bull story about the girlish one being a magician’s assistant.  Rubbish.  They’re just a couple of perverts taking delight in outraging decency.  No wonder the English are so degenerate.”

In the ground floor of the shop Edge said: “I’ll get you some foundation, eye makeup and lipstick.  You can get changed and put on the slap in the embassy this evening.  See you then.  I need to get some clothes for me.”

A few streets away Edge found a charity shop selling clothes.  He purchased a pair of trousers and a jacket that was far too big for him and an old scarf.  As he walked down the street he passed a toy shop that sold novelties and joke shop items.  Something caught his eye and he went inside with a grin.


In Belgrade, the evening was warm and a gentle breeze was coming from the Danube.  Inside the restaurant it wasn’t packed, but most tables were full.  There was the usual assortment of affluent Serbs, two young couples on different tables, two thick-set men watching the front door and the door to the kitchen and two other men who looked just like businessmen the world over.  The elder of the two asked the waiter for the bill, ostentatiously clicking his fingers.

The young couple on a table nearest the businessmen smiled at each other.  The woman leaned forward as though to speak sweet nothings to her companion and she said in a low voice, “They are getting ready to move.  Stand by.”

“Roger,” said a voice in her earpiece.

The man paying the bill asked for another drink from the waiter and he and his dining companion shook hands.  A few pleasantries were exchanged, by which time the two thick-set men moved towards the bar area and the main door onto the street.  One of them was speaking into a mobile phone.

“The subject will be the third man out.  The first two are armed.”


Opposite the park, the Salon 5 restaurant was gaily lit and a hubbub of cheerful noise.  A drunk was lying, passed out amid some large wheelie bins, a spattering of vomit coating the front of his shirt.  A prostitute slunk out of the light and stared at the drunk with contempt, as though his being there was bad for business.

The doors of the Salon 5 opened and a thick-set man in a suit looked up and down the street, before waving for a car.  The black BMW pulled up outside the restaurant and the man hurried over to open the BMW’s rear door.  The restaurant’s doors opened again and two men came out.  One watched the street, staying close to the other man, well dressed in a bespoke suit and Italian shoes.  Jakovljević Milorad felt better than James Brown that evening.  He had eaten well and pulled off a deal with a German lumber firm for bio-fuel.  He even smiled at the prostitute, who sluttishly thrust her hips forward and delved in her handbag.  Milorad smiled indulgently at her and then his eyes widened as she produced a Sig with a silencer and double-tapped the nearest bodyguard in the head.  The bodyguard holding the car door open went for his gun, but the drunk double-tapped him with a silenced Glock and in an easy action, slammed into Jakovljević Milorad, hurling him to the ground.  There was a crack of a high velocity rifle from the park and the BMW driver’s brains were all over the plush, leather interior.

A metallic grey van came up the street, while the drunk and the prostitute cable tied his arms and legs, ball gagged him and dragged a black hood over Milorad’s head.  The drunk peeled the plastic vomit off the front of his shirt.  The van doors open and the drunk and the prostitute rammed him through the side door, “accidently” bashing his head off the door stanchion.  They were joined with a man with a rifle, who got in the front.

“Come on, Gloria, let me help you in.  Beauty before age”

“Fuck off!” said the prettiest trooper in 22 SAS.

The van headed north, preceded by a car that joined them from a side street.  The van flashed its lights to show all had gone well.  They headed north-west to the Romanian border and a remote airfield, where a Falcon executive jet was waiting to transport Jakovljević Milorad to The Hague and his war crimes trials.  Once they had crossed the border, the “drunk” sat on the floor next to the hooded and tied man.

“Good evening, Mr Milorad.  I trust you had a fine meal?”

There were muffled protests from behind the gag and hood.

“Now you probably won’t remember me, and why on earth should you.  But I have made a point of never forgetting you.”

He bent down close to the hooded ear and hissed:You took something that was so very precious to me.  You destroyed my future happiness because of a fucking dog.  And now you’re going to die in prison.  You said to me a long time ago: I will remember your name, Edge.  Well here I am, you bastard and this is for a woman called Jozica Marić.  I want you to know who I am and that I’ve waited for seventeen years to get you.”

Edge reached for the Milorad’s testicles and crushed them.  He screamed and was still groaning with agony as he was dragged onto the aircraft.  Captain Gardner had never told Edge about the note crammed in Jozica’s mouth.  If he had, Edge would have killed Milorad as slowly as he had killed Jozica Marić.

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