Artorius Castus

Tails of Balkan Horror; Dexter’s Odyssey

Posted in Uncategorized by Patrick Truax on November 3, 2007



As posted earlier, we welcomed Dexter the Attack Cat to the security staff Artorius.

After a couple of weeks of tension here at HQ, (refer to the poisoning of the editor,Chronicled Here, and followed up here ),it was obviously a busy couple of weeks for the Security Director. We found some time on Thursday and Friday morning to talk to him about his life in the Balkans, how he became a soldier, and how he finally wound up here at Artorius.

Born Destro Cetanovic in Ploce, Croatia, he lived there until the age of 16. His hamlet was actually 5 kilometers south of Ploce. An ethnically mixed village, Destro cared nothing for the feelings of Nationalism rising in the Balkans. His best friends were a Muslim and an Orthdox Serb. Being Catholic, Destro knew there were differences, but never let them transcend friendship.

After the Fall of Communism, various Balkan states had demanded independence from the Central Control and Planning of Belgrade. The country of Yugoslavia, especially the area around Belgrade, was Serb dominated. While the Croats, Slovenes and Bosnians, were intially only interested in independence, Serbia (Yugoslavia) was moving toward cultural and ethnic domination over all the Balkan States.

But none of this meant anything to Destro and his friends. They still hung out on the beach, played in the woods, and did their chores and studies as required. All of that changed on September 19th, 1991.

By this time Slobodon Milosevic was the defacto leader of Serb forces. Eager to assert Serb hegemony on all the break away republics, ethnic enclaves, and cultural centers, he launched several wars at the time with various Republics-Croatia and Slovenia, and reluctantly, Bosnia joined the fray. Having the largest ethnic mix, Bosnia presented a problem for Serbia. The Yugoslav forces were integrated during communism so that Yugoslav units were as culturally mixed as the locations they were attacking. Tensions in the units led to mutinies and desertions until the Balkans were on fire. The Serbs resorted to using para militaries for their raids. These were more politically reliable than they were soldiers. As a result, they were far more brutal than trained soldiers were.

It was one of these units that rolled in to Destro’s village on the 19th. He was awaiting his friends down at the little dock that served his village, when he heard a large explosion to the north. He turned to see a huge fireball erupting right where his village was. He jumped off the dock and hurried to the village, scared for his family. When he got there, he saw that the big kerosene tank set up for collective use had been blown up, and started several fires in the homes surrounding the tank. But not the Omar’s, the Muslim family that lived behind Destro, and whose son was Destro’s best friend. “Get out, Fire!” he yelled, as he ran toward the house. “The village is on fire!” he yelled again.

When he got to the Omar’s house and was able to see through the window, he saw a scene that was all too common in the Balkans in the ’90s. One of those atrocities that you hear of from a distance, but just can’t fathom the true horror. It was this type of rape and murder that branded most Serb Para-Military units War Criminals. Destro knew a thing or two about the opposite sex, but not much and it wouldn’t be much more if Destro’s devout Catholic family and Priest had any say.

But if Destro was ignorant of the mechanics of sex before his look into the window, what he saw was all the ever education he would ever need. In the ugliest form of human cruelty, four Serb Paras were taking turns with Leila, the Omar’s 14 year old daughter. Destro watched with horror as the last Serb animal climbed off and shot Leila in the head. It was then Destro noticed the rest of the family lying in various positions indicating violent death. His mind snapped back to reality and he immediately turned and ran to his own home. Gunshots rang out and Destro knew he was too late. He arrived around the front of his house just two Paras were tossing a Molotov cocktail through the front door as they were exiting the house.

WHOOOOOOOOSSSHHH!!! The whole house went up like a tinderbox, singeing Destro’s whiskers and ears. He turned to run back to the dock to see if anyone else had escaped. He waited there until dark. No one came. When it was pitch dark, Destro made his way to a secret cave that he and his friends used to play in as kids. After all, there might still be Serbs about.

Destro made is way up the winding trail to the cliffs. Alert to any noise or movement, he surprised when there was none. At the opening of the cave, he saw a dim light, and heard murmuring in his native Croat. He never got any further, “Halt!” a voice out of the darkness commanded. Destro’s night vision told him him he staring down the barrel of the Czech made AK-47. It must have been taken from the Serbs during the attack, he thought idly.

“Who are you?” The voice demanded.

“Destro Cetanovic, my family was killed and so were the Omars!” Destro couldnt keep the quaver out his voice when he thought about Leila. “I have no where to go,” he finished.

Out of the cave emerged a man, tall for the cave, he had to duck his head to get out.
“Roman!” cried Destro. This was Destro’s father’s best friend. He had known Destro from the first few minutes of his life. “Im sorry about your family, Destro. We all lost family today. But we live to fight and avenge our families! Will you join us?”

Remembering Leila, there was no other answer, “Yes.” Later he pondered that. Why did he join for Leila, why was she the first he thought of?

Roman proved a good organizer, if not a little demanding. The next two days were spent foraging the countryside for food, weapons, and surviving stragglers. One of these stragglers informed them that the newly declared independent nation of Croatia was at war with the Serbs. “-at least we have a government,” the straggler finished. His name was unrevealed, but he brought news of similar raids from Split and Dubrovnik. “Im heading North,” he said, “to Zagreb, regular Army units are forming up there.” He continued, “If you are not coming, continue the war from the hills, my friend.” He gave a contact number to Roman and was gone.

Roman ducked back into the cave an emerged with a red and white checkered flag. The flag of Croatia. “This is what we fight for now, friends!” Roman declared, holding the flag up. “Avenge your families for Croatia!”

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The next two months past in a whirlwind for Destro. Between sniper training, escape and evasion, and explosives training, he barely had time to remember Ploce, or….Leila. Roman was tough on him, as he was with the other New Partisans, but Roman held the camera that snapped Destro’s arrival into the world, and so had adopted a little tougher stance toward him. Destro was all he had left, and his father was counting on him and trusting Roman with his care. “I will sacrifice my life for Destro,” said Roman, one day at prayer. “I value this trust you have placed in me, old friend.”

The first offensive action planned by the New Partisans was retaking a bridge near the Slovene border at a place called Metlica
View Larger Map. Serb units held this bridge ostensibly to obstruct commerce, but it was working well in controlling the refugees streaming North, as well, after the Serbs had burned their homes. It was a pretty basic plan. Strewn about the cliffs and looking down on the bridge and border post, The New Partisans were to fire simultaneously into the troops guarding the bridge, while Roman and a Serbian Army deserter (a muslim), were to fire two anti-tank rockets into the command APC, and the two tanks guarding the entrance to the bridge.

Destro, who had been laying up for two days in his position, was quite nervous. He didn’t want to let the others down. Using a WWII rifle, it was his job to take the NCO who was in charge of the bridge duty. He had watched the two officers enter the APC. The snipers were awaiting a signal from Roman imitating a birdcall. He was well sighted; he had the Serb sergeant in his cross hairs. In fact, he hadn’t moved much in the last 10 minutes. Roman surmised that the simultaneous attack on the Command APC and troops on the bridge would be disruptive enough for his group to retake the bridge, until regular Croat units could arrive. WHEEET WHEEET!! The signal! Destro sighted the sergeant again, added a little adjustment for wind and fired. The Serb dropped at the same time two privates did. Then Roman and the Serb deserter fired their anti-tank munitions at the APC. Two missiles, into the left side of the armored vehicle flung it upwards and over the side of the cliff, where it fell 100 meters before exploding in an maelstrom of rock, flesh, fabric and cooking off munitions.

Stunned, the tank commanders immediatley ordered their tanks to turn, but they had not seen where the wire guided missiles had came from, so they aimed for the part of the woods directly next to the bridge. WHOOSH! CRACK! a Serb T-55 had fired into the woods bringing down the top of two trees which fell onto the road. By now Roman and the Deserter had re-armed and were taking aim at the two tanks looking for targets. WHOOOOOSH! BOOOOOOM! The Deserter’s missile hit the side of the first Russian tanks’s turret throwing it 20 meters in the air. It came back straight down on the top of the T-55 and exploded. Roman’s shot was cleaner. Hitting just between the tread and an opening underneath, it was enough force to blow it off the edge. The second T-55 died like its commander-in a fireball at the bottom of a ravine.

“Good shooting Boys! Now get down there and secure that bridge!” Roman pulled out the bulky satelite phone and waited for the warbling that indicated a secure sat connection Zagreb. Once established, he sent the following message. “Inventory arrived safely and no more obstacles”. He kept the phone on waiting for some code clerk to put it together and transmit a response. Meanwhile, he walked down to the bridge to see the last Serb being tossed over into the ravine, while Destro and the rest went to start pushing the remaining T-55 off the side. When this was finished, they would don Serb uniforms and hold until regular Army units could arrive and relieve them. The units were already on the Zagreb road and heading north. They had insisted, however, on clearing the woods immediatley next to the bridge and on the other side of the ridge. This would require a heavy dose of artillery and a couple of MiG 21 passes.

The last tank was thumping down the cliff when the sat phone buzzed. “Friendly Air saturation coming. They are +5 and will send ‘Mandolin Mandolin Mandolin’, when they are beginning the run. Acknowledge.” Zagreb said tersely. Roman repeated the word of the day and signed off. “Everyone take cover, heavy fire coming. Dig in!” Roman knew if the air cover was five minutes out, the company of Regulars could be no more than an hour away. He wanted every thing mopped up when they got there. He turned to the sound of a truck racing up to his position. “These guys better say the right words, or they are dead,” thought Roman. These were the Regular foward artillery spotters ahead of the company making its way to the bridge now. Dressed in Serb uniforms as well, a guy jumped out of the truck and said, “Bayonet”. Roman breathed a sigh a relief, “Sword” he answered. The sound of safeties being clicked back on all over the woods was reassuring. The spotters fanned out and sent up their comms with the artillery unit 15 klicks back.

Roman fell into Destro’s hastily dug foxhole and pulled the brush and logs back over top of them. He checked his sat phone and grinned at Destro. “Not a bad days work, eh, son?”

“Mandolin, Mandolin, Mandolin!” the sat phone squawked.

“Down, Destro! Arty coming in!” Roman shouted.

The next five minutes were deafening. Explosion after explosion, fused for airburst, rained down on the woods directly adjacent to the bridge. The constant shelling literally sucked the air out of the foxhole and Destro found it difficult to breathe. The tops of the trees were being blown off and were covering the logs in their foxhole, it would be difficult to get out. Finally the shelling abated, and another roar signified the arrival of the MiGs. Spraying the entire area with cannon fire, they were making sure anything that survived the barrage was dead after their passing over. When the MiGs flew off, Destro and Roman started to dig themselves out.
They assembled in front of the bridge, surprisingly unscathed, Destro thought, and counted heads. “All present and accounted for, Sir!” barked Roman’s second in command. The rumble of more trucks heralded the arrival of the Croat regulars. “They are early, Roman,” said Destro. “What do we do now?”

We head back to our headquarters in the west and await orders, was the reply. A three, possibly four day march through hostile territory, ought to help in decompressing, thought Destro bitterly. Roman’s voice broke through his thoughts as if reading them. “No, son, we will be driving back with Regulars on Regular patrolled roads. We will be what passes for home tonight,” he said.

The strife raged on for another six months before real international attention was attracted. Finally accepting that ethnic cleansing was occuring on European soil again, the Europeans urged the UN to act. They did by sending a multi national Peacekeeping Force to the Balkans. (I guess European genocide is worse the Rwandan genocide) Most of the heavy lifting fell to the Germans. By ’94-’95, exaustion, attrition, and supply problems were all taking their toll on the warring factions. Sides were talking, but tales of genocide were persisting. As a result, accused Serbs were added to the War Criminals list, and more duities added to the Peacekeepers- that of policemen. The Germans found themselves fighting Serbs, protecting and escorting Muslim and Bosnian refugees, as well as hunting War Criminals. It should also be noted that the German Army in the early ’90s was comprised of both Eastern and Western hardware and tactics. That coupled with an inherent mistrust of the Germans from the East, Ossies, and the Germans had a tough row to hoe.

Captain Heinrich sighed. His position was hopeless. Surrounded by Serbs on two sides, he had no way to move the 100 Bosnian refugees he just acquired. Further, his orders, he snorted at that, were contradictory-escort Bosnian refugees to the makeshift UN camp at Banja Luka while holding his crossroads for relief. “And while surrounded by Serbs!” Heinrich swore. The panty wearers in the UN and Unified Germany were trying to control “Peacekeeping” from New York and Bonn and Berlin. Until they saw the sheer ethnic hatred they were dealing with down here, they would never understand that orders were mere suggestions. The reality was, you didn’t know if the Serb informer was leading you into a trap, or was really a Muslim looking to kill soldiers. “The pretty boys would surely soil their panties on night patrol around here!” He thought. Time to brief the boys.

“Achtung!” His unit came to attention.

“Orders from the All Girls Boarding School, Keptein?” Asked a sergeant derisively. His question brought a few muted chuckles from the assembled men. The “Girls School” was UN High Command.

“Yes, Franz, we are to be in two places at once!” He went on to explain. He waited for the angry responses to die down before raising his hands. “High Command says we can do it with ‘minimum casulaties'” he deadpanned. This brought forth the laughs he had come to expect from these men. They had been fighting in Bosnia for 6 months now, and while some still grumbled about taking orders from an Ossie, he was well liked and respected. He would make a fine battlefield commander one day. “If I get us out of this scheist,” he thought.

“Manfred, you take B Company and escort the refugees, while C Company stays here and dodges 155mm fire. A Company will come with me and attack those arty positions from the rear.” He outlined his plan.

As he gave final orders, gunfire erupted from the hills surrounding the road crossing. Everyone hit the ground. Two loud explosions followed and then silence. Franz and Heirich slowly raised their heads to see a lone soldier in a uniform that looked mismatched coming toward him with a white flag.

Franz jumped up and frisked the man while throwing him to the ground and drawing his utility knife out. “No, Franz! Let’s see what he has to say!” Heinrich was more curious than anything, where did he come from? Why did the firing stop?

“I am Roman *********, of the Croatian First Brigade, and my men have just wiped out an entire company of Serbs dug in and firing on your position,”. He held up a map case written in cyrillic and adorned with the seal of the Serb Military command. “The pig holding this died to keep me from it,” he went on.

Heinrich and the others got up and looked at the map case. Serb battle plans! “And just what can the 27th Panzergreadiers do for you my Partisan friend?”

“I ask for my wounded to be moved to the UN camp with the refugees over there. I will provide an additional Rifle Company for protection, but I must have a written guarantee from UN High Command, allowing safe passage back into Croatia with my men. Further, my men are hungry, a little food, and drink would go along way.”

Capt Heinrich nodded to Sergeant Franz, who ran off to look after the partisans food, while he grabbed the arm of the lead Partisan. “Come, my friend. Lets look over those plans, while we await word from High Command,” he said solicitously. Roman, the Deserter, and Destro had already seen them, of course. They were already developing a plan based on some of the contents in the case, and were going far enough along to get fed, and their wounded moved. Roman and the others had no intention of returning to Croatia. But Captain Henrich’s job was to see warring combatants returned to their respective countries. So the request for safe passage made the German captain’s job easier, and bought precious time for Roman to conduct his own operation, one based solely on revenge. By going over the maps for awhile, then eating and resting, Roman, Destro and the Deserter would be able to slip away, while guaranteeing the rest of the injured Croats’ safe passage. Roman’s company escorting the refugees were to meet up at a secret location in 2 days time for the operation gleaned from the retreived map case. “Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold,” Roman thought, as signaled Destro and the Deserter to prepare to “wander off”.
“We will be seeing Mr. Karadzic in Hell”, he thought as he slowly drifted into the woods following Destro and the Deserter.

The Deserter, whose real name was still unknown to Roman and Destro, had lived a life not disimilar to Destro’s. The only difference being he was Muslim. As long as Croat and Bosnian Muslims were fighting Serbs, so would he. After watching his wife being carried off by drunken Serb Paras, he ran upstairs to his 4 year old daughter’s room. Blank, unseeing eyes stared at the ceiling. The Deserter, who was in his Serb military uniform when the Paras attacked, swore an oath: an enemy of the Serbs is a friend of mine. Quiet and reserved, the Deserter was the one of the major components of Roman’s Partisans. A brilliant planner, absolutley fearless, and bloodthirsty for Serbs, he had proven time and again that Croatia would not be under Serb domination much longer. But now Croat Muslims were making noises about an autonomous region for themselves within Croatia itself. While this subject had never come up directly when the Deserter was around, it was murmured in his shadow as he passed. How long until he turned on the Partisans? To whom was his allegiance stronger, an Independent Croatia, or the Prophet? He had never demonstrated the traits of a true Muslim, at least not in the presence of the Partisans, who really knew, Destro wondered. The three of them were looking over the final plans for the attack on Karadzic’s HQ. Over the years it had been learned that Ratko Karadzic had ordered the Par units together to attack Croatian and Bosnian villages in ’91 and ’92. For that he earned the title of the UN’s Most Wanted, and the Deserter’s, Roman’s and Destro’s as well.

The information gleaned from the map case and not shared with Heinrich’s Panzergrenadiers, was the location of Karadzic’s HQ. Further intelligence ferreted out by the Deserter had revealed he had been at this location as early as 25 hours ago. Where had the Deserter gotten this information, both Roman and Destro wondered. If it was real, it was worth its weight in gold. Set up in a still-functioning kindergarten, the HQ would be an easy target. The approaches couldn’t be guarded, and when the kids were on playtime, they were at least 600 meters from the closest Serb office in the school. Yes, it was dynamite information, they thought, and if valid, they could take out Karadzic and turn his body over to Heirich and collect the UN reward-money that would go a long way to helping Croatia embrace democracy.

One last thing remained. In order to ensure the informaion found in the mapcase was still valid, the three had to ensure the guard cycle set up at the kindergarten HQ was still the same one denoted in the mapcase. To do this, The Deserter and Roman would be across the street and down the block from the HQ to verify the markings on the APC that relieved the swing shift of guards at 2200. If they matched what was found in the case, the op would proceed the following morning, knowing what units would be on guard and what time the children would be outside and furthest from the building. When the the two returned well after midnight with not only photos of the relieving APC and subsequent guard change, but also a pic of a soldier inside the building with the unmistakeable “worm” pattern fatigues of the Serb Para Military.

“We go at 0830,” Roman stated. “The children will be in the field out back and the guard rotation will be on the opposite side of the building. Let’s get some rest, tomorrow we capture Karadzic.”

The morning dawned bright and clear, and from Destro’s spot under a dumpster (he was a cat, after all), he could just make out the outline of the Deserter on the roof with an RPG. Destro checked his watch, The Deserter would fire into the main office at precisely 0835, giving time for Destro to emerge and toss a hand grenade into the open top of the APC. Roman and his troops would then storm the building, grab Karadzic and using the Deserter and Destro as cover, make their escape to an APC of their own, idling just around the block. Destro and the Deserter would be picked up on the way out.

At 0834, Destro braced himself; one shot from the RPG, the grenade, the snatch and it would be over. A noise to Destro’s left attracted his attention. He peered up into the window and saw the children filing back into the classrooms. WTF?? The kids were supposed to be on the field, what was going-Whoooosh!the Deserter fired his RPG. Destro jerked his head back to see the Deserter and several others standing up and firing RPGs at random into the building! Who were these other shooters? Small arms fire from down the street caused Destro to look in time to see Roman and his troops being cut down from the windows of the building next to the school. It was a set up! The Partisans had been set up to kill schoolchildren! Who had betrayed them? A sickening rumble told Destro the school was collapsing. He darted out into the street to where Roman lay dying.
“We were betrayed, my son,” he said gasping for breath. “It is over for us now, make your way to the safe house, I have left documents for you. Take the night train to Trieste and never look back. You fought well my son, your father and I are proud of you. Croatia is proud of you. But, because of this betrayal, you are a War Criminal. You must do as I say, get the documents and run! You have made me very proud.” Roman drifted back into unconsciousness.

Destro stood there dazed for a minute until he remembered the Deserter. He looked up to see the man staring down at him from the roof. He held his gaze for few more moments before slowly turning way out of sight. The sound of gunfire spurred him on and Destro took off for the safe house. He was sick of war, sick of the treachery, the dying, all of it. He was even sick of Croatia. Strangely, he just couldn’t muster up the remorse for the schoolchildren. He knew he would later, but for now all he could do was run. He thought of Leila, the girl he loved, but never knew, he thought of his cause, convinced of its righteousness, but with creeping twinges of doubt. He thought of Roman, and how he had taken him in that night the village burned, and he thought of the Deserter. Oh, yes, the Deserter. “Our paths will across again someday, my friend.” Destro thought bitterly.

He grabbed his bag with the documents and headed for the railroad siding. Yes, it was time to go, first Trieste, then who knew? Probably the West. He had heard many things about America, he wondered if they were true, while hiding in some bushes waiting for an APC to pass. Could it be any worse than Balkans?

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12 Responses

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  1. Patrick Truax said, on November 4, 2007 at 2:31 am

    He’s lived a tough life. Now he protects the kids, and I keep him shielded from the War Crimes Tribunal..

  2. Elizabeth said, on November 4, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Cetanovic? Does he have a brother named Sergio?

  3. Patrick Truax said, on November 4, 2007 at 3:28 am

    Im not sure, Ill have to ask….

  4. Catty Ax Lady said, on November 4, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Such a wonderful spirit to have been through so much. I’m glad he’s here to keep watch over us.

  5. Patrick Truax said, on November 4, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    He is quite an animal. We should all be born with the courage and bravery that Dexter has..

  6. Patrick Truax said, on November 4, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Cetanovic, I remember why you asked, Elizabeth. No, no relation. If Dexter was related to the one you are asking about, he would have never made it out of Bosnia..

  7. Steve said, on November 4, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    This is a cat we are talking about, right?

  8. axe said, on November 4, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Apparently it could get worse. Latest reports reaching THIS HQS have Destro deplaning at JFK where he was met by UN Officials in a limo. He was then taken to UN HQS where he would be taking up his new position as the UN’s first Diversity Director. Kofi Annan was rumored to be rehired as a paid consultant to Destro.

  9. Patrick Truax said, on November 4, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Those rumors are absolutley false. After the bungling the UN displayed in the Balkans, Dexter would never work for them. I’ll be posting the rest of his story when he is ready. (He was on Mids last night, so he is still asleep).
    Plus Kofi didnt really exist, he was a holographic images controlled by the Clintons and Jacques Chirac..

  10. Patrick Truax said, on November 4, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Steve said: This is a cat we are talking about, right?Indeed he is, what of it?

  11. Steve said, on November 4, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Nothing of it. All my cat does is lay around and do nothing. I can’t even get him to take out the trash!

  12. Anonymous said, on November 12, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Im sure he is a brave and true cat with a spirt of gold but they still steel the breath of unbaptised newborn and worst of all they lick the butter


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