The Considerate Killer

By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis

The confessional was empty. Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone in. It was hushed and dim—almost cool after the moist, stinking tropical heat of Manila’s streets—and he could smell the beeswax the women of the congregation used when they polished the dark wooden panels. His right hand moved involuntarily in an ancient pattern—forehead to chest, left shoulder to right shoulder—but he didn’t know how to begin. Then it came, abruptly and without preamble.

“I have to kill someone,” he whispered at the small curtain and the confessional’s empty side. “I’m not sure I can do it. But I can’t not do it. Help me!”

He would have been terrified if there had been an answer. Instead the silence swallowed his words without giving him anything in return, and when after a few minutes he got up and left, he felt neither lighter of heart nor less fearful.

The second blow hit Nina on the back of the neck, right where the skull meets the cervical vertebrae. She fell forward. The cement rose to meet her, and she was already so numb that the abrupt contact didn’t hurt. She lay on the parking garage’s grubby, oil-stinking concrete deck, incapable of creating a connection between her bruised brain and the arms and legs she should have been mobilizing in order to save herself.

She had dropped the SuperBest bags with the first blow. A can of diced tomatoes rolled across the concrete, so close that she could have touched it if her arms and hands were still functioning, and right in the center of her foggy field of vision an object hit the floor with a drawn-out metallic clatter—an iron pipe, dark-brown with rust, as if it had been lying outside for years in some nettle-covered trash heap behind a shed.

Someone dropped to his knees beside her.

“Sorry,” mumbled a soft, stumbling voice in an odd sing-song English. “Sorry. It won’t take long, I promise . . .”

What wouldn’t take long?

“Ama namin,” the voice whispered, in a rapid rush, “Sumsalangi Ka, Sambahin ang ngalan Mo . . .”

Nina had heard the words before. She wasn’t sure where or what they meant, but somewhere in the increasing darkness in her skull, small bubbles of memory rose and burst, small explosions of sensory impressions from the past. Heat. Buzzing flies. The stench of corpses. Distant, inconsolable weeping.

“Mapasaamin ang kaharian Mo . . .”

The Lord’s Prayer, she suddenly thought. That’s the Lord’s Prayer. But she couldn’t remember in what language.

“Sundin ang loob Mo, dito sa lupa, para nang sa langit . . .”

Why was someone kneeling beside her on the damp cold concrete and reciting the Lord’s Prayer?

“Wait . . .” she mumbled. Or tried to, but her tongue was as senseless as the rest of her.

“Sorry, sorry,” repeated the voice. “Amen.”

Something dark and smelling of leather was placed across Nina’s face, shutting out almost all the light. There was the sound of footsteps. An engine started, revving up angrily. The roar receded, then came nearer again. She could hear the sound of the tires rolling across the concrete, closer and closer.

I should move, thought Nina. Crawl away. Do something. Save myself.

She couldn’t.

But instead of the shattering contact with tires, undercarriage and engine power she had expected, there was the scream of metal against metal and a muffled crash. The sound of the engine ceased. Into the sudden stillness came the sound of an agitated voice with a Viborg accent.

“What the hell are you doing? Watch out . . . Hey, I’m talking to you!”

Not to me, thought Nina. Not me. I don’t have to answer.

The other man, the apologetic one, apparently didn’t mean to answer either. There was the sound of a rattling cough from an over-choked engine, then it settled once again into smooth efficiency, and with shrieking tires and screaming brakes a car—the car, thought Nina—left the Saint Mathias Mall.

“What the . . .” Hesitant steps came closer. “Hello . . . Are you okay?”

The external darkness disappeared when someone removed the leather jacket covering her face. Instead, an inner darkness moved in inexorably.

“Fuck . . .” she heard the Viborg voice say, an instant before she ceased to hear anything at all.

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