"You have backup disks. Where do you keep them?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"As it stands right now, you'll be able to walk with the use of a cane." He raised the gun. "If I shoot you in the other knee, you'll spend the rest of your life on crutches."
The professor was slipping from consciousness. His jaw was trembling. "Don't shiver, damn you! Don't give him the pleasure of seeing your fear!" "In the refrigerator."
"In case"-a burst of pain shot through him-"of a fire."
The intruder raised an eyebrow. "Clever boy." He'd brought a bag along with him, a black nylon duffel, about three feet in length. He reached inside and withdrew a cylindrical object: a can of spray paint. He removed the cap, and with a skilled hand he began to paint symbols on the wall of the study. Symbols of violence. Symbols of hate. Ludicrously, the professor found himself wondering what Frau Ratzinger would say when she saw this. In his delirium, he must have murmured something aloud, because the intruder paused for a moment to examine him with a vacant stare.
When he was finished with his graffiti, the intruder returned the spray can to his duffel, then stood over the professor. The pain from the shattered bones was making Benjamin Stern hot with fever. Blackness was closing in at the edges of his vision, so that the intruder seemed to be standing at the end of a tunnel. The professor searched the ashen eyes for some sign of lunacy, but he found nothing at all but cool intelligence. This man was no racist fanatic, he thought. He was a professional.
The intruder stooped over him. "Would you like to make a last confession, Professor Stern?"
"What are you", he grimaced in pain, "talking about?"
"It's very simple. Do you wish to confess your sins?"
"You're the murderer," Benjamin Stern said deliriously.
The assassin smiled. The gun swung up again, and he fired two shots into the professor's chest. Benjamin Stern felt his body convulse but was spared further pain. He remained conscious for a few seconds, long enough to see his killer kneel down at his side and to feel the cool touch of his thumb against his damp forehead. He was mumbling something. Latin? Yes, the professor was certain of it.
"Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen."
The professor looked into his killer's eyes. "But I'm a Jew," he murmured.
"It doesn't matter," the assassin said.
Then he placed the Stechkin against the side of Benjamin Stern's head and fired one last shot.
From The Confessor by Daniel Silva, Copyright © 2003 Daniel Silva, Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) , Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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